Former city council candidate Ed Garren may well be considering a run for congress should Earl Blumenauer be appointed Obama's Secretary of Transportation. But he's not too busy to do what's really important, this time of year, which is send out some fantastic recipes to everyone who knows him. Including us, here at the Mercury!

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I like Ed Garren. He has character. He was the only openly gay city council candidate last time around, apart from Sam Adams (although Jim Middaugh may have winked at me once, but I'd be making a leap...), he's lived all over the United States and brings some Southern perspective and flair to public life. Reading his recipes is a pleasure...they all have a provenance that dates back to friends and neighbors he's met over the years in different places. And having just returned from a vacation on the Gulf Coast I'm all about its influence on cooking (although so is my considerably expanded gut, today). Here's what Garren has to say about his background and how it has informed his cooking tastes:

The central Gulf Coast of Florida, specifically Tampa, has been a culinary "hot spot" for over a century. The texture of its varied peoples, Caribbean Islanders, mixed with Southerners, Greeks, Italians, Spanish from Spain, all contributed to its own brand of "Fusion" cooking, long before the concept was coined. Anyone who ever attended one of the New Year's Pig Roasts at the Garren house quickly learned that everyone in this family loves to cook. Mother Edna, an accomplished baker of cakes and cookies, as well as her famous Holiday Fruitcake soaked in Cognac for two months, loved to create in the kitchen. "Miss Edna" made her own Guava Jelly, Orange and Kumquat Marmalade (from trees in the yard), as well as Boleche Asado (a roasted flank steak with a Chorizo inside to flavor it), Ropa Vieja (shredded flank steak simmered in "sofrito", a spicy sauce), as well as traditional southern favorites like cornbread and sweet potato pie.

My father was a skilled "Camp Chef", a talent fostered from cooking on camping trips, and backyard barbecues. His smoked Mullet (a delicately flavored vegetarian fish found in the brackish waters of the Florida West coast) was legendary. An invitation to come to the Garren home for smoked Mullet, cornbread and other delights was never passed up, with guests coming from as far away as 50 miles to partake. Always health conscious, Pappa Ed would make lemonade with brown sugar, and corn bread with whole-wheat flour.

My older brother Gene moved to San Francisco in the 1970s, where he learned Asian lifestyles and cuisine. Gene's abilities with soybeans and squid, as well as his own renderings of smoked fish, are always a delight. At our holiday pig roasts, he held court carving the pig with his hunting knife and a large spoon.

I took all of this in, and embellished it with skills learned from the bayous of the northern Gulf Coast, Cuba, Jamaica, Puerto Rico and Haiti, all of which have made their way into the lexicon of a Florida chef. In today's times, we tend to place so much emphasis on the latest fashion in food. All of it is good, but holidays, particularly like Thanksgiving, tend to be the days we revert to what is most familiar. There are few identified "southerners" in the west outside of African American neighborhoods. Most white southerners in the west tend to quickly shed any attributes that are overtly southern. While it is possible to find this cusine at barbecue places, it is virtually impossible to find Florida cuisine in the region. It's sort of like crossing Pambiche with Yam Yam's. That is the essence of Florida cooking.

I've put Garren's emailed recipes for Cornbread Almond Stuffing, Turkey Cooked In A Paper Bag, Cold Cranberry Relish, Sweet Potato Pie, Golden Baked Macaroni & Cheese, Miss Edna's Corn Pudding, Rich Egg Nog, Black Eyed Peas, Corn Waffles, Hermits (cookies), Pumpkin Pie Cake, Pecan Pralines, Brisket & Beans and Barbecue Sauce, after the jump. I hope he finds a niche in public life, soon, because it would be nice to have a politician in Oregon who might even ask a journalist round for a good dinner occasionally. Yes Ed, that is a hint. The news team is hungry. And not just for news.

Most people like food, and the art of preparing delicious food is one of the mainstays of Portland. My passion for great food is one of the things that I love about Portland. I hope you enjoy these recipes.

It's almost Thanksgiving, and then we will have the December Holidays.

So, in the spirit of "sharing a good thing", I offer these recipes. They are some of the best examples of regional cuisine that I've found, and I hope you enjoy them. The stuffing recipe and the sweet potato pie recipe have received particular multiple accolades from persons as diverse as Korean to African American, all of whom agree that they are outstanding.

A larger "back story" on the evolution of these recipes is at the end of them, for those of you who enjoy culinary history, and other thoughts on how cuisine evolves from pure regional cooking to "fusion" adventures. And yes, you really CAN cook that turkey in the paper bag, and it will come out moist and tender and perfectly brown, with no basting or bother. And yes, there WILL be drippings for the gravy. That said, enjoy!!!

CORNBREAD ALMOND STUFFING (from the Gasparilla Cookbook)
3.5 cups chopped celery 8 cups white bread cubes
5 Tbs minced onion 4 cups whole wheat bread cubes
1.5 cups butter 4 cups corn bread cubes
1 Tbs poultry seasoning 2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tsps savor salt 1 cup slivered toasted almonds
1/2 tsps salt 4 chicken bouillon cubes
1/2 tsps black pepper 2 cups water
(2 cups of chicken broth may be substituted for the water and
bouillon cubes)

Saute celery and onion in butter. Sprinkle poultry dressing, savor salt, salt and pepper over bread cubes. To celery and onion mixture add eggs and almonds. Toss this mixture. Dissolve bouillon cubes in water and pour over bread mixture, tossing lightly until blended. Stuff bird and put remaining stuffing in casserole and bake, covered, at 300 for 40 minutes. Remove cover and let brown. Stuffs 10 to 12 pound turkey plus extra casserole.

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If you are roasting the turkey this year, do it in a paper bag (yes, it really works, no the bag does not catch on fire or even smolder).

You can roast the turkey this way stuffed or not stuffed, it works every time. Get two "virgin" bags from the grocery store. Coat the bird (stuffed or unstuffed) with butter, margarine, oil, etc. then sprinkle it with paprika (lightly, this gives it a magnificent color), then put it in a bag (grocery store brown paper), flat side down, in a pan at least three inches deep. Then cut the bottom 8" of the other bag to make a "cap" for the open end. Put this into thepreheated oven, 350 f, and roast for however many minutes per pound (instructions usually on the turkey). THAT'S IT!!!

No basting, no turning, no worrying, just pull it out (about 30 minutes before time to serve) cut off the bag and enjoy a marvelously roasted turkey with moist breast meat and a beautiful color. I have cooked about 45 turkeys this way and they have all come out perfect. (from Kay Jackson of Miami Beach)

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COLD CRANBERRY RELISH (Ed Garren)
1 package cranberries 3/4 cup sugar
1 can crushed pineapple (juice pack) 1 (small) package lemon =gelatin
3/4 cup water 1 cup walnuts

Grind cranberries; let sit overnight in sugar. Add nuts and pineapple. Dissolve gelatin in hot water and mix in thoroughly. Refrigerate and allow eight hours to set.

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Cranberry Sauce

Boil two bags of cranberries and one bag of chopped dried apricots in two quarts of canned apple juice, sweeten to taste with sugar. Let it cook down. You can add some Walnuts or Pecans to it after it is cooked and cooled.

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SWEET POTATO PIE Makes 2 deep dish pies (from Taste of Georgia)

This is absolutely the best sweet potato pie recipe ever, and I've tried many. Everyone who has made it agrees with me on this, try it, you will too. *(You can reduce the sugar and butter if you want a "lighter" pie, use the amounts in parenthesis)

1.5 cups sugar *(or 1 cup) 1 stick butter, melted *(or 3/4 cup)
3 eggs 1/2 cup milk
1.5 cups cooked sweet potatoes or canned yams mashed
1 tsps of Vanilla extract* 2 regular 9 inch pie shell(s), unbaked

* Captain Morgan Spiced rum, Amaretto or bourbon may be substituted.

Beat together sugar and eggs, add potatoes/yams, vanilla extract and melted butter. Mix, then add milk. Pour into pie shell(s) and bake at 350 for about an hour. DO NOT USE ANY SPICES.

VARIATION: Put pecans on top, plain, or sauted in butter and sugar.

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GOLDEN BAKED MACARONI & CHEESE
(Morrison's Cafeteria's recipe, from the Gasparilla Cookbook)
1/2 pound macaroni 1 tablespoon butter
3 eggs, beaten 1 teaspoon dry mustard (or to taste)
1 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon pepper (or to taste)
1 cup milk
3 cups grated cheese (Monterey Jack, Gouda, Sharp Cheddar or any combination of hard cheeses)

Preheat oven to 350 F. Boil macaroni until tender; drain. Add butter to macaroni and stir to melt butter and coat macaroni. In separate bowl, mix mustard, salt, pepper, milk and eggs, add to macaroni/butter mixture. Add most of the cheese and mix well. Pour into lightly greased casserole dish, sprinkle with reserved cheese. Bake until the custard is set and crusty, about 45 minutes. Make eight servings **The secret of this recipe is the use of the mustard, which gives the zip. You can use prepared mustard if necessary, use to taste.

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Miss Edna's CORN PUDDING (side dish, NOT a dessert) (Edna Garren)
1 (16 ounce) can of cream style corn 2 Tablespoons cornstarch
2 Tablespoons butter, melted 2 Tablespoons sugar
1 Cup of whole milk 1/2 Teaspoon salt
3 eggs, beaten Dash of nutmeg

Preheat oven to 300 F. Combine dry ingredients, add milk and beat together until completely dissolved. Add eggs, corn and butter. Mix well, pour into a two quart casserole and bake at 300 until the custard sets, about 45 - 60 minutes.

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RICH EGG NOG (from the Gasparilla Cookbook)
1 pint heavy cream 3/4 cup whiskey
1.25 cups sugar 1/3 cup light rum
6 eggs, separated 1 quart milk

Whip cream until stiff, adding 1/4 cup sugar. Separate eggs, whip whites very stiff, adding 1/2 cup sugar. Whip yolks until creamy, adding 1/2 cup sugar; continue beating until all sugar is dissolved. Add the liquors to the yolk-sugar mixture, mix well. Stir in the milk, fold in the egg whites thoroughly, then the whipped cream. Makes 2 to 3 quarts. This recipe can be doubled, but it becomes unwieldy if you try to triple or more.

The ingredients can be mixed the day before and folded in together just before serving. The taste is smoother if you let the liquor soak the egg yolks for a while before adding the milk.

It can also be made without the liquor and/or sugar, just soak the eggs in vanilla extract, use about a half cup, and/or substitute Splenda for the sugar, sweeten to taste.

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BLACK EYED PEAS (for New Year's Day) (Ed Garren)

Black Eyed Peas and Greens are part of a traditional Southern New Years Day meal. The peas and greens are eaten for good luck, health and prosperity.

2 pounds of dried Black Eyed Peas (soak overnight) 1 pound of bacon
3 large yellow onions, peeled and diced 3 Green Peppers, ditto
Approximately a teaspoon each of Salt, Oregano, Basil, Rosemary
3-5 Bay leaves
Cayenne Pepper or Tabasco to taste.

Take bacon, cut it into little squares, fry it in the pot. Cut up onions and green peppers and fry them in the bacon grease. Pour off the excess grease. Put in the soaked or frozen or fresh or canned (if you're in a real hurry) black eyed peas. Fill with water to cover peas (unless using canned peas). Add, Oregano, Basil, Rosemary, Bay Leaf, Salt, a dash of Cayenne Pepper or Tabasco. Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer, cover and cook until soft.

May be eaten solo or over Steamed Rice.

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CORN WAFFLES (From Sunset Magazine, March 1929)
2 cups flour 1 cup whole milk
3 1/2 tsps baking powder 2 eggs, separate and beat the whites stiff
1/2 tsps salt 1 cup corn kernels
1/4 cup butter, melted

Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Stir in milk and egg yolks. Add corn and butter, fold in egg whites. Bake in in a hot waffle iron. Makes about 4 large waffles.

Note: Thawed frozen corn, or canned corn without liquid such as Nibblets may be used.

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Miss Edna's Hermits (Edna Garren)
(those wonderful cookies that my mother has made for years, chewy and good)

2 Eggs 1 Tablespoon Syrup
1 1/2 Cup Sugar 2/3 cup Oil
2 Tablespoons Orange Marmalade

Cream the eggs, sugar and oil, add the syrup and Marmalade
3 Cups Flour
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1/2 Teaspoon Nutmeg
1/2 Teaspoon Allspice
1/2 Teaspoon Ginger
1 Cup seedless Raisins
1 Cup chopped nuts (Walnuts/Pecans, can be mixed)
Mix together the above DRY
Then fold in the eggs, etc from above, add
1 Teaspoon Baking SODA dissolved in 1 Tablespoon Water
Drop with a teaspoon onto greased cookie sheets and bake at 375 F until medium brown.
Yield 5 doz.

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PUMPKIN PIE CAKE
My friend John Burnett got this recipe from a neighbor, Mary Ellen Reed of Sylmar California in 1979. It is stunningly delicious.

1 large can of Pumpkin pie mix 2 cups of chopped pecans
1 box of Duncan Heinz Butter Recipe cake mix
1 small Pkg of pecan halves 1 can of evaporated milk
1 stick of butter or margarine (melted)

Prepare Pumpkin Pie Mix according to directions on can using evaporated milk. Grease or spray with Pam, a 9 X 11" Pyrex rectangular glass dish or equivalent pan. Pour Pumpkin Mix into dish. Remove cake mix from box while still in its plastic wrap. Before opening mash out all lumps in the mix.

Dribble cake mix (dry) over entire top of Pumpkin Mix. Spread evenly with a fork. Next dribble chopped pecans on top of cake mix. Dribble melted butter over top. It will not cover every area -- Just dribble it over as much as possible. Reserve Pecan Halves and arrange them on top of the cake ten minutes before end of cooking time. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. This cake may also be done with sweet potato pie mix. Add spices if you prefer.

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Pecan Pralines (Krista Bryars)

While visiting the Bryars in Mobile, Krista gave us this wonderful recipe for Pecan Pralines, and a bag full for the road. They were wonderful, hope you enjoy the recipe. It was a little tricky the first time, depending on the speed of your microwave. I'm sure it can be made on top of the stove as well.

3/4 Cup Buttermilk
2 Cups Sugar
2 Cups Pecan Halves
1/8 teaspoon Salt
2 tablespoons Butter
1 teaspoon (Baking) Soda
1 teaspoon Vanilla

In a large microwave safe bowl, stir together Buttermilk, Sugar, Pecans, Salt and Butter. Cook on high 10 1/2 minutes, stirring every 3 minutes. Stir in Baking Soda until foamy. Cook 1 minute. Add Vanilla. Beat until tacky and drop on foil to cool.

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Marti Kolker's Brisket & Beans

Martha Lynn Beirnbaum-Kolker (Marti) was a wonderful friend in Miami. Her father was in the hotel business after WWII on Miami Beach, at one point owning more hotel rooms than Conrad Hilton. He made his fortune on Miami Beach, and received an award from the Miami Jewish Federation for libertating hotels (opening them up to Jewish guests) on Miami Beach. Her mother was from Macon Georgia, from a Jewish family in Georgia that came before the Revolutionary War (and helped finance it). Many have asked for this recipe, here it is.

1 small package of dried Baby Lima Beans
1 Brisket (up to 6 Pound)
2 onions, chopped
1 Pint Barbecue Sauce (best to use Marti & Amelia's sauce recipe, which is next).

Soak the Lima Beans overnight until they swell up. Boil them about 15 minutes, until they start to get tender, but not soft (sort of "aldente"). Drain off excess water. Place the Brisket in an enamel roasting pan (or similar that can be covered tightly). Pour the wet (but drained) beans on top. Add the chopped onion and the Barbecue Sauce.

Cover tightly and roast at 350 F for 30 minutes per pound of brisket. If the Brisket is larger than 6 pounds, pre roast it for 30 minutes per pound over 6. The beans cook in about 2 hours, so a 4 - 5 pound brisket works best. You can also add a small can of baby carrots (drained) the last 45 minutes of cooking for both extra flavor and color.

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Marti & Amelia's Barbecue Sauce

After years of experimentation, Marti and her mother came up with this recipe, which is perhaps the best tomato based barbecue sauce I've ever had.

2 large (barrel) bottles of Ketchup
2 large bottles of A-1 Sauce
1 Bottle of Wostershire Sauce
1 bottle of barbecue sauce, regular size, for spice blend.
1 jar of molasses
1/2 bottle of "Liquid Smoke"
1/2 bottle of sesame seed oil (optional)
1/2 bottle of vinegar
1 cup of Olive Oil
1/2 cup of Lemon Juice
4 onions, chopped
3 (or more) cloves of garlic, chopped pepper to taste
hot sauce (or cayanne pepper) to taste.

Makes a large kettle of sauce. Simmer all day, with the top off so that it cooks down to proper consistency. May be thickened with an additional bottle of ketchup, or corn starch. Cook until thick, about 4 hours.

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MAURY CALVERT'S BARBECUE SAUCE (from=Tampa Treasures cookbook)

This is the finest Mustard based barbecue sauce I've ever tasted.

1 pound butter or margarine 1 (10 ounce) bottle Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons Tabasco 1 cup prepared mustard
1 pint vinegar 3 lemons (include juice and grated rind)
salt, black pepper to taste
cayenne or red pepper to taste.

Melt butter; add remaining ingredients; cook until blended thoroughly.

This Sauce is great if you are roasting pork or ham. You can slow roast the meat by covering it in this sauce, wrapping it tightly in foil and roasting it at 275 for about double the usual time. Serve with rolls for mini sandwiches.

Have extra sauce as a side to the meat on the table.

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Thanks, Ed! [Is so hungry now].