Cooks Corner

Southern biscuits, Peruvian ‘Causa’ and a quick chocolate treat

On a biscuit: Roast turkey on a sour cream and chive biscuit, from the new cookbook “Biscuits.”
On a biscuit: Roast turkey on a sour cream and chive biscuit, from the new cookbook “Biscuits.” Skyhorse Publishing

Unless you’re Southern by birth — or by choice — you might not understand how an entire cookbook could be devoted to biscuits.

But if you’ve ever sat on a front porch shelling peas and popped one into your mouth, or bitten into a sun-warmed tomato fresh off the vine, you understand the appeal of simple tastes. And how a perfectly made biscuit — fluffy and buttery and just a tad crunchy on the edges — can transcend its simple ingredients.

Jackie Garvin, who grew up in the Deep South but now lives outside Tampa, once abandoned Southern cooking, lured by shiny magazines to the nouvelle and gourmet and unpronounceable. But once she realized that the recipes handed down to her were just as appealing, she returned to her roots.

Her new cookbook, Biscuits, is full of enticing recipes for everything from breakfast biscuits to strawberry shortcake. I found the recipe here perfect for sandwiches made from leftover roasts of beef or ham. The sour cream adds a tang, and the whisper of chives is a perfect accent.

Peruvian Causa

Reader L.P. wanted to make causa, which she described as a potato cake, for her Peruvian boyfriend, who wanted a taste of home. We received two hypotheses for the name of the dish:

“It translates as The Cause and celebrates the 1821 war of independence against Spain,” said Paul.

“The name comes from the Incan Quechuan word ‘Kausaq,’ meaning ‘that which gives life,’” according to Ana.

Causa is a beautiful and delicious loaf sure to make raves at any gathering. You start with a layer of chile-spiced mashed potatoes and add layers of flavor: sliced avocados; shredded cooked crab, chicken, tuna or shrimp; multiple vegetables; and a topping of hard-boiled eggs and salty cured olives. It’s usually served cold, but there are some recipes that call for layering hot chicken or crab onto hot potatoes.

Thanks to Kathy Allsworth, Ellen R., Marianne Turco and others who pointed me to causa recipes and resources. I used all the recipes I received to come up with the version here.

Tried and New

OK, we get it. We need to cut back on meat. Happily, there is an ever-increasing variety of alternatives out there. One of the best I’ve tasted recently is the new black-bean Smart Pattie from Lightlife, known by vegetarians for its Smart Dogs and Smart deli “meats” found in the refrigerated section of the supermarket.

The pattie has just 100 calories, only 20 from fat, is vegan, and packs in 10 grams of protein. My tasters — one vegan and one carnivore — thought it tasted first-rate. I served it grilled the first time, but it even got high marks when simply nuked. Perfect with a slice of avocado and tomato.

Two other new additions: Original with Quinoa Pattie and Harvest Apple Sausage. The tasters thought the sausage flavor was good, but the texture did not fool anyone into thinking it was meat. Available at Publix, Winn-Dixie and Whole Foods.

Chocolate Emergency

I saw your recipe for the caramel turtles, and it made me think of another easy microwave recipe. Thought you’d get a kick out of it. My sister gave me the recipe for any time I had a chocolate emergency and no chocolate goodies in the house. You make it in a coffee mug and it is ready in about 5 minutes.


Send questions and responses to or Food, The Miami Herald, 3511 NW 91st Ave., Doral, FL 33172.

Peruvian Causa

3 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, cooked and peeled

2 tablespoons mashed Peruvian yellow chilies (aji amarillo), or substitute any mildly hot chili

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper

2 cups shredded cooked crab, shrimp, chicken or tuna

3 tablespoons mayonnaise

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion

1 avocado, sliced thin

1/2 cup frozen sweet peas, defrosted

1/2 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels, cooked if desired

2 medium carrots, chopped fine

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

1/2 cup cured black olives, such as Kalamata

2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and cut into eighths

Lettuce leaves

Mash the potatoes with the chilies until nearly smooth, then add the salt and white pepper and whip until smooth. Pack about half of the potatoes into a mold or mound into a rectangle on a serving platter. In a bowl, mix together the chicken, mayonnaise and lime juice and onion. Spread on top of the potatoes. Add the avocados in a layer, then add the peas, corn and carrots. Top with the remaining potatoes.

Chill at least one hour. To serve, garnish top of causa with parsley, olives and egg. Cut into squares and place on lettuce leaves. Makes 8 servings.

Source: Developed by Linda Cicero from reader recipe contributions.

Per serving: 320 calories (28 percent from fat), 10 g fat (1.7 g saturated, 3.9 g monounsaturated), 106 mg cholesterol, 17.2 g protein, 42 g carbohydrate, 5.6 g fiber, 581 mg sodium.

Emergency Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Cake for One

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

2 tablespoons sugar

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 cup milk, at room temperature

2 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled

Drop of vanilla, optional

1 tablespoon peanut butter

1 tablespoon mini chocolate chips, optional

Use a fork to whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, sugar and baking powder in a large (at least 14-ounce) mug. Add the milk and stir just until there are no lumps. Add the oil and the drop of vanilla if you have it. Stir in half the chocolate chips if using. Drop in the peanut butter, then top off with the remaining chocolate chips. Push down with the fork to make sure it is all covered with batter. Microwave on high for 1 minute. It will rise up over the top and then when you take it out it will sink. Let it cool for a couple of minutes before eating. Makes 1 serving.

Note: I used a soup mug for the photo and coated the inside with vegetable oil spray so I could serve it like an upside-down cake. Perfect if you want to add a scoop of ice cream!

Source: Reader recipe adapted by Linda Cicero for Cook’s Corner.

Per serving: 572 calories (52 percent from fat), 34.8 g fat (18.3 g saturated, 10.8 g monounsaturated), 67 mg cholesterol, 11.5 g protein, 61.7 g carbohydrate, 5.4 g fiber, 350 mg sodium.

Sour Cream and Chive Drop Biscuits

2 cups soft winter wheat self-rising flour (see note)

1 tablespoon sugar

1/2 cup unsalted butter, diced and chilled

3 tablespoons chives, chopped

8 ounces sour cream

1 cup buttermilk

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Place flour and sugar in a bowl. Cut or rub in butter until flour resembles coarse meal. Add remaining ingredients and stir until mixed. Using a 1/3 cup ice cream scoop, drop even amounts of dough onto an oiled baking sheet. Bake 15 to 18 minutes or until tops are golden brown. Makes 12.

Note: The author specifically calls for Dixie Lily self-rising flour, which any baker who has spent time in the South will recognize.

Source: “Biscuits: Sweet and Savory Southern Recipes for the All-American Kitchen” by Jackie Garvin (Skyhorse Publishing, $19.99).

Per serving: 201 calories (54 percent from fat), 12.4 g fat (7.4 g saturated, 3.1 g monounsaturated), 32 mg cholesterol, 3.8 g protein, 20 g carbohydrate, 0 g fiber, 31mg sodium.

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