About cnobles390@aol.com

Food Writer and columnist for the BATON ROUGE ADVOCATE newspaper. Author of the THE DELTA QUEEN COOKBOOK. Member of the Newcomb College Culinary History Writers Group.

The Herbalist’s Kitchen


Recipes from the Herbalist’s Kitchen
Author, Brittany Wood Nickerson
Storey Publishing, 2017
ISBN: 9781612126906

Bravo to Brittany Wood Nickerson for writing an herb-centered cookbook that appeals to the average home cook.

Recipes from The Herbalist’s Kitchen mainly use herbs that just about everyone has heard of – mint, oregano, sage, cilantro – stuff that’s easy to find in grocery stores, or that typically grows in an herb lover’s home garden. The most uncommon herb I found was turmeric root, a rhizome that’s getting lots of attention lately, and that’s getting easier and easier to find.

Although Herbalist’s Kitchen is geared toward eating for health, the recipes are for things you’d want to cook. Burgers, for example, are topped with a fresh salsa that eases digestion. For detoxification, try Apple and Parsley Salad. There’s recipes for gut-friendly fermented foods, such as purple sauerkraut and kimchi, and also for more filling dishes, such as Baked Ricotta and Sweet Potato Rice. I’m especially thrilled that the author calls for using oils such as real butter, olive oil, and coconut oil. It seems health researchers are just learning that natural oils are the way to go, and Nickerson’s recipes reflect this forward thinking.

Beginners of the “eat for healing” movement will enjoy recipe headers and sidebars, which explain nutritional significance. This information compliments the book’s introductory material, fifty-eight pages that highlight scholarly research on the culinary and medicinal uses of herbs. (Big bonus – the Introduction is written in a way that doesn’t put the reader to sleep.)

My only complaint is that there are relatively few recipes for beef, chicken, and fish. But with all the fantastic vegetarian soups, entrees, sides, and even desserts, I doubt I’ll miss them.

The Fonville Winans Cookbook: Recipes and Photographs from a Louisiana Artist

My co-author, Melinda Winans, and I are excited to announce that The Fonville Winans Cookbook: Recipes and Photographs from a Louisiana Artist will be released by LSU Press September, 2017.

As many art-lovers know, Fonville Winans was the Depression-era photographer who befriended the Cajuns who fished the waters of Grand Isle, Louisiana. Through Fonville’s black-and-white pictures of this isolated population, we have vivid documentation of a hardscrabble way of life that no longer exists.

What many don’t know is that Fonville was an excellent cook. He was also meticulous about writing down everything he did in the kitchen, and when he passed away, Melinda found herself the owner of over 300 of her father-in-law’s recipes.

Our cookbook is a combination of Fonville’s biography, his recipes, and his photographs, many of which have never been published. Even if you don’t like to cook, you’ll learn the fascinating story of a man who was a photographic genius, and whose work is celebrated throughout the world.





Brooke Dojny

Storey Publishing, May 2015

144 pages, $14.95

ISBN 978-1-61212-375-2

I love cookbooks that teach me something, and Brooke Dojny’s Chowderland did just that. Specifically, I, a cook from south Louisiana, did not know that there were so many styles of chowder. And chowder is a favorite meal of political marching societies? Who knew?

Dojny does an excellent job with chowder history, and she even includes the provenance and importance of chowder crackers. She also explains the differences in regional chowders, and includes basic recipes for Maine-style Haddock Chowder, Rhode Island Clear Clam Chowder, and a farmhouse Parsnip Chowder popular in Vermont. There’s also chowders from the west coast, along with a good selection of vegetable chowders, something that most folks outside the Northeast don’t know exist.

I was a little surprised to see a recipe for Creole Seafood Gumbo. I certainly don’t consider gumbo a chowder, but she slipped in a chapter titled Splendid Seafood Stews and Bisque, so I suppose gumbo can fit in. And the gumbo recipe is authentic — to New Orleans.

This book is fairly slim, with only about 60 recipes. And the last few chapters are on breads and sweets. But if you don’t know much about chowder, this is a good book to start with. The recipes are well written, the photographs make everything look irresistible, and you’ll learn something.


‘Confederacy of Dunces Cookbook’ Media Reviews

New York Times Book Review: “Cooking for Dunces,” (John Williams, December 18, 2015)

NPR Radio and The Salt: “‘A Confederacy of Dunces Cookbook’: A Classic Revisited in Recipes,” (Steve Inskeep, December 4, 2015)
Parade Magazine: “A Bite of the Bayou,” (Alison Ashton, February 7,, 2016)
Boston Metro: “‘Juicy Wine Cakes and Other Dunces Delights’: Author Cynthia Nobles eats her way through the Pulitzer Prize-winning Novel,” (Rachel Raczka, December 8, 2015)
The Picayune: “‘Confederacy of Dunces Cookbook’ is More Than Recipes,” (Judy Walker, October 6, 2015)
The Advocate: “‘A Confederacy of Dunces Cookbook’ Imagines the Food of New Orleans’ Favorite Malcontent,” (Cheramie Sonnier, October 7, 2015)
Houston Chronicle: Author Cooks Up ‘A Confederacy of Dunces,” (Greg Morago, January 25, 2016)
Charlotte Observer: “‘A Confederacy of Dunces Cookbook,” (Dannye Romine Powell, December 16, 2015.
The Advertiser: “Inside Look at ‘Confederacy of Dunces Cookbook,'” (Chere Coen, November 6, 2015)
225 Magazine: “‘A Confederacy of Dunces Cookbook,'” (Maggie Heyn Richardson, December 2015)

Country Roads Magazine: ‘Three Pounds of Turtle Meat and A Can-Do Attitude,'” (Chris Turner-Neal)

Guess What’s Growing at Burden!


(LSU AgCenter Photo)

This post is not about a book — it’s about a horticultural treasure that sits smack dab in the middle of Baton Rouge.

In case you didn’t know, the 420-acre Burden Center is home to a research facility that conducts trials to evaluate various varieties of tomatoes, sweet potatoes, strawberries, mayhaws, figs, peaches, and pawpaws, along with many other commercial and home garden vegetables and fruits.

Part of the LSU AgCenter, Burden also has an outstanding fig breeding and selection program that recently released the new varieties O’Rourke, Champagne, and Tiger. Other fruit research is investigating low-chill peaches for coastal areas and pawpaws for fruit production and landscape use. Too, they’re experimenting with organic vegetables and summer and winter cover crops. All of this is right there for you to see, and if you plan your trip right, you can even get in on an LSU Extension Service demonstration project.

If you’re not into the latest fads in crop production, you’ll certainly be interested in Burden’s herb and rose gardens, woodlands, wetlands, arboretum, and the Rural Life Museum.

Every time I go to Burden I’m amazed that something that lies in the heart of such a sprawling urban area can be so quiet and unspoiled. But perpetual serenity and a natural landscape is exactly what the land’s donors wanted.

The original land was acquired in the mid-nineteenth century by John Charles Burden, and he called his home Windrush Plantation. In 1966, Burden’s heirs donated 50 acres to LSU. Over the succeeding years, they donated additional acreage, and the final parcel with given in 1992.

Admission is free, and you’re not going to find a prettier place in town to get in your daily jog. And while you’re there, stop by and check on the progress of those figs and sweet potatoes.

The LSU AgCenter Botanic Gardens, LSU Rural LIfe Museum, and Windrush Gardens. Located at 4560 Essen Lane, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, 225-763-3990. www.discoverBurden.com.

Cooking Up A Storm: Recipes Lost and Found from The Times-Picayune of New Orleans

imageEditors: Marcelle Bienvenu and Judy Walker
Chronicle Books, hardcover, reprint edition, August 18, 2015
Pages: 368
ISBN: 978-1-4521-4400-9
Retail price: $30.00

When Hurricane Katrina washed away the possessions of a large chunk of the population of New Orleans in 2005, treasured cookbooks were among the casualties. As refugees returned and started rebuilding and resuming routines, they naturally longed to cook the way they had pre-Katrina. But what to do about those drowned recipes?

Readers of the Times-Picayune started using the Food Section of the newspaper as a lifeline to their old ways of cooking. A few even requested that someone write a cookbook. And that idea sat just fine with food editor, Judy Walker, and Marcelle Bienvenu, one of the Picayune’s long-time food columnists.

To find the city’s cherished recipes, the two dug deep into the newspaper’s archives. They also put out a call to local chefs, restaurants, and the newspaper’s readers. The result was the accumulation of over 225 authentic recipes, along with stories of how they were created and what they meant to those who lost everything.

First released in paperback in October 2008, Cooking Up a Storm is chockfull of dishes that might seem foreign to anyone outside of New Orleans. Kolb’s Sauerbraten, for example, was popular at the iconic restaurant that operated on St. Charles Avenue from 1899 until 1994. Let-Um Have it Eggplant, a dish of fried eggplant topped with a seafood sauce, was the concoction of John Unger, a “tall, strapping, tattooed man from the Irish Channel neighborhood.” The beloved dish known as Lasserre’s Magic Crawfish was one of the most requested dishes for this book, and it was created by Beinvenu’s husband, Rock Lasserre.

There are, of course, many outstanding traditional recipes, including those for beignets, chicken salad, hummingbird cake, a few omelets, and a slew of casseroles. But this book’s strength is its documentation of unusual local creations. It’s not every day that you find a recipe called Halloween Cookies Like McKenzie’s.

The cookbook’s one minor weakness is the lack of photographs. But the wealth of heartwarming stories and those unique recipes more than make up for that flaw. Even if Hurricane Katrina had not zapped away so many of the city’s recipes, this book would have still been a good idea, just the way it is.

Praise the Pig: Loin to Belly, Shoulder to Ham – Pork-Inspired recipes for Every Meal

imageAuthor: Jennifer L. S. Pearsall

Skyhorse Publishing, November 3, 2015
Paperback, 232 pages
ISBN: 978-1-63450-435-5
Price: $19.99

Blogger, photographer, and home cook Jennifer Pearsall has created over fifty recipes that can be the answer to the question: What can I do that’s different with this hunk of pork? Pearsall’s first book was The Big Book of Bacon, and she explains how branching out to make dishes that revolve around other parts of the pig “just seemed a natural route” from her inaugural work.

Recipes are made with common ingredients and techniques, and they do not call for the off-the-wall implements required by so many charcuterie cookbooks. But the dishes are anything but boring. Pearsall stuffs poblano peppers with pulled pork, and she tosses pancetta and ground pork into Porkestrone, her “everybody in the pool” Italian-inspired soup. She also makes chili out of tenderloin, and she crumbles breakfast sausage into smashed potatoes and tops it all with a pulled leftover pork chop.

A few downsides: I was thrown by the success and failure stories that appear as the last step of many of the already chatty recipes. The biggest drawback, however, is the lack of an index. The Table of Contents does list every recipe by chapter. But suppose I have a fridge full of ground pork — how will I know which recipes are contenders?

Even so, this book’s scrumptous photographs and mouthwatering ingredient lists make me want to cook. And it’s finally cold here in Louisiana, so excuse me while I go whip up a Roasted Tomato Stew with Italian Sausage and Tortellini.


Are We Having Any Fun Yet? The Cooking & Partying Handbook

Author: Sammy Hagar with Josh Sens

Dey Street Books, September 15, 2015
Hardcover: 9780062370006, (320 pages) $29.99
E-Book: 9780062370013, $23.99

imageYes, this lifestyle cookbook is the brainchild of THE Sammy Hagar, the high-energy rocker who found success as a kickin’ solo act, and was frontman for the bands Montrose and Van Halen. Over the years, the Red Rocker developed the reputation of party host extraordinaire, which helped bolster the image of his Cabo Wabo Tequila, Sammy’s Beach Bar Rum brands, and Sammy’s Beach Bar and Grill franchises.

But can he cook? At first I was skeptical. Then I read a few pages of this cookbook and realized that the most remarkable thing about it is that the guy is genuinely passionate about food.

Are We Having Any Fun Yet starts with a foreword by none other than Emeril Lagasse, Hagar’s true-to-life partner in culinary crime. Hagar goes on to tell us he learned to appreciate the good life from his namesake, his idolized Italian grandfather, Sam, whose favorite hobbies were “hunting, fishing, lying, and stealing.”

The bulk of the book is divided into chapters titled after Hagar’s favorite party cities. Cabo San Lucas is the inspiration for Lobster Burrito, Epazote Quesadilla, Quick and Easy Guacamole, and Sammy’s Wabo Shrimp. Maui spurred recipes for Vegetable Frittata, Papaya-Marinated Chicken, Vegetable Sitr-Fry, and Spaghetti with Black Olives and Orange Zest. Hagar’s home in California’s Mill Valley is the place where he whips up down-home favorites, such as Beet and Strawberry Salad, Homemade Stock, White Beans with Serrano Ham Hock, Chorizzo and Pork Loin Paella, and Braised Lamb Shanks.

And let’s not forget the cocktails. Heralded for his love and appreciation for a well-crafted adult beverage, after dark, of course, Hagar gives numerous recipes for his own creations. This impressive selection includes the tequila-based Red Rocker, Bloody Maria, and Waborita. There’s a vodka cocktail or two, and rum drinks, including his most famous of all, the passionfruit-tinged PMS.

I had a hard time putting this book down, not only because of the fifty well-written recipes, but also because of the narrative. Taking up at least as much page space as the recipes are Hagar’s food and party stories, along with personal photographs, which all revolve around his life on stage, his family, and his friends. The language in these sections is sometimes coarse. But you just can’t help but connect with a guy who makes his own coconut cream, practically worships perfect mushrooms, gives generously to charities, and plans to consume all ten thousand bottles of wine in his cellar before he checks out.

The book’s main weakness is its lack of any type of dessert. But we’re not throwing a tea party, here. So mix yourself up a Sammy’s Rockin’ Picasso or whip up something simple and familiar like Potato and Leek Soup. It’s time to have fun with Sammy Hagar.

Confederacy of Dunces Cookbook Launch Party

Confed Dunces CoverPlease join me for the release of  A Confederacy of Dunces Cookbook, Tuesday, October 13, 6:00 p.m., Garden District Book Shop, 2727 Prytania Street, New Orleans. I’ll be signing books and you can enjoy Fortuna’s Black-eyed Pea Hummus, Coconut and Macadamia Macaroons, Dr. Talc’s Bloody Marys, and Lucky Dogs, served by Jerry Strahan, the real-life Mr. Clyde.

A Confederacy of Dunces Cookbook

Ignatius J. Reilly on the cover of 'A Confederacy of Dunces.'

Ignatius J. Reilly on the cover of A Confederacy of Dunces

Anyone who’s read John Kennedy Toole’s satirical masterpiece A Confederacy of Dunces knows that the book’s main character Ignatius J. Reilly likes to eat. And so does just about every other character in this Pulitzer Prize winner. So for the past few months I’ve been hammering away at the computer and the stove developing recipes for a cookbook based on the foods that became such an important part of Dunces, and which includes everything from Miss Trixie’s longed-for ham to Darlene’s “juicy” wine cakes.

LSU Press will publish my manuscript, and has given me a deadline of December 31, 2014. Until then, I’ll be writing and cooking, doing research in New Orleans, posting to Twitter and Pinterest, and hoping that my finished manuscript shapes into something more coherent than the disorganized, but promising mess it is now.

So stay tuned. Santa Battaglia’s recipe for Daube and Spaghettis is coming your way. Now — back to work.