Book filled with ‘Passalong’ recipes, garden tips

Cheramie Sonnier

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNISLSU Hilltop Arboretum's Hodge Podge Nursery volunteer Susie Cortello looks over the group's fundraiser cookbook,
Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNISLSU Hilltop Arboretum's Hodge Podge Nursery volunteer Susie Cortello looks over the group's fundraiser cookbook, "Passalong Recipes From the Podge." She took some of the book's photographs.MAGS OUT / INTERNET OUT/ONLINE OUT/NO SALES/TV OUT/FOREIGN OUT/ LOUISIANA BUSINESS INC OUT/GREATER BATON ROUGE BUSINESS REPORT OUT/225 OUT/10/12 OUT/IN REGISTER OUT/LBI CUSTOM PUBLICATIONS OUT/

LSU Hilltop Arboretum’s Hodge Podge Nursery volunteers are more than enthusiastic gardeners. They are pretty good cooks, too, and it’s that skill that shines in their new self-published, fundraiser cookbook, “Passalong Recipes From the Podge” ($20 including tax, paperback).

On Wednesdays, the volunteers show up early to work at Hilltop’s on-site nursery at 11855 Highland Road, Baton Rouge, then break for a potluck lunch. “There is always something different,” volunteer Marion Drummond said at a recent lunch. “But when there’s no dessert, you’ve never heard such crying,” laughed Helen Levy. “So the next time, everyone will bring desserts and there are no vegetables.”

The 176-page cookbook, edited by Lisa Parker, with help from Pam Sulzer, Maradee Cryer, Susie Cortello, Janet Forbes and Paula Dillemuth, grew out of those lunches, said Peggy Davis Coates, also a cookbook committee member. The book is the brainchild of Parker, who also formatted the book’s layout while in the process of moving to California, Coates said.

The book features a collection of the volunteers’ favorite recipes for appetizers, soups, sandwiches, salads, main dishes, vegetables, sweets of all types, breads and beverages. It includes color photographs, quotes, garden tips and stories passed along by Hodge Podge Nursey fans.

Among the recipes are Nutty Party Mix; Shrimp and Corn Soup; Spinach Tuscan Torta; Yehudi Menuhin’s Eggplant Casserole; Corn, Poblanos & Onions; Denise’s Blueberry Buckle; Donna’s Pumpkin Pecan Pie; Baklava; Santa Fe Squares; and Bourbon St. Milkshake.

Each chapter opens with a typical plant label used for plant sales and features the favorite flowering plants of Emory Smith, a retired postal worker with a passion for native Louisiana plants who in 1981 donated the 14-acre Hilltop nature preserve to LSU. Smith always encouraged the sharing of plants, and Hilltop’s on-site nursery is an outgrowth of Smith’s philosophy, the book says.

Hodge Podge has grown to an all-volunteer, small, nursery operation with more than 6,000 plants representing more than 600 species.

The cookbook will be on sale at Hilltop’s PlantFest! Oct. 6-7 and during its Fall Garden Tour from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 28. It also is available by calling the Hilltop Garden Book and Nature Shop at (225) 767-6916 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday or by emailing hilltop@tigers.lsu.edu or checking the website htt://www.lsu.edu/hilltop.

Book signing, dinner in N.O.

The Link Restaurant Group will host a book signing and dinner Oct. 10 at its private event facility, Calcasieu, 930 Tchoupitoulas St., New Orleans, to benefit the nonprofit St. Bernard Project.

Chef Stephen Stryjewski, of Cochon and Cochon Butcher in New Orleans and Cochon Lafayette, will host the event to introduce the new edition of John Martin Taylor’s “Hoppin’ John’s Lowcountry Cooking.” Tickets to the dinner are $100 per person and include a signed copy of the cookbook and a bag of Hoppin’ John’s stone-ground grits. For reservations, call (504) 588-2188.

In celebration of the cookbook’s 20th anniversary, the University of North Carolina Press has released a new edition with 250 updated recipes. Taylor, a founding member of the Southern Foodways Alliance, is considered an authority on the culinary history of the South and the cooking of the coastal plain that surrounds Charleston, S.C., and Savannah, Ga. Stryjewski will prepare a three-course meal featuring recipes from Taylor’s cookbook; Taylor will discuss his book, travels and most memorable meals.

The St. Bernard Project is a rebuilding, nonprofit organization with a mission “to remove physical, mental and emotional barriers for vulnerable families, senior citizens and disabled residents who are struggling to recover from the devastation and trauma caused by Hurricane Katrina and the oil spill,” a press release said. For more information about the project, go to http://www.stbernardproject.org.

Cheramie Sonnier is The Advocate’s Food editor. Her email address is csonnier@theadvocate.com.