Virginia Willis Blog

Fall Vegetable Recipes and a Dip into Poole’s Diner

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It’s Fall, Y’all!

Yep, well someone forgot to tell Mother Nature because it hit 90° yesterday in Atlanta. Fall officially starts today and yes, it is a bit cooler in some parts of the country. Autumn is perhaps my favorite season. I love the change to cooler weather — and how it changes things up in the kitchen. As okra and tomatoes disappear from the farmer’s market I yearn to cook root vegetables and winter greens. I have yet to meet a collard green I don’t like. Fall vegetables need a bit more attention than summer ones. Summer vegetables hardly need cooking. A flash in the pan, a quick dip in boiling water, or even sliced and served raw — summer vegetables are simple. Fall vegetables need a tad more work. Fall vegetable recipes use braising, roasting, and a little more cooking effort to bring out their full, rich flavors.  (more…)

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Salmon Recipes for Weeknight Cooking

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Salmon Recipes

Shrimp, salmon, and tuna are the big three when it comes to seafood consumed in the US. The term “Salmon Recipes” consistently ranks in the top recipe searches on Google. It’s easy to see why. Salmon is not too fishy, but  just fishy enough for most people. It’s good and good for you; we need to eat less meat, more fish. It’s widely available and folks aren’t too scared to cook it. Sorry, Charlie, but truth is that salmon has become the “chicken of the sea.” However, all salmon is not the same. There’s a big difference in the farm-raised and wild salmon.  Although some farm-raised salmon gets a good ranking by Seafood Watch the truth is that it’s pretty complicated, even for chefs and educators. (And, that includes the cases upon cases of filets at Costco, too.) My advice? Best practice is to look for wild Alaska salmon. (more…)

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Potato Salad Recipes for Labor Day


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Picnic Side Dishes

Ah, potato salad. The absolute wonders of potato salad. So many choices, so many styles! Different kinds of potatoes. Different drippy dressings. Different shapes. Wildly different potato salad flavors include the pungent pop of vinegar; creamy concoctions comprised of mayonnaise, hard-cooked egg, and sour cream; the salty, smoky kiss of bacon; and the crispy, crunchy bite of finely chopped onion and celery. All very different — and all very, very delicious. (more…)

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Barbecue Ribs: Five Great Recipes

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Barbecue Ribs

Barbecue ribs are one of the great recipes of summer. I cook them on the gas grill, the Big Green Egg, and I even roast them in the oven when it’s a rainy day. Barbecue ribs are always a big hit. First of all, being from Georgia, when I say Barbecue Ribs, I mean pork. And, when it comes to deciding what type of pork ribs to barbecue, there are essentially three choices –  baby-back ribs, spareribs, and country-style ribs. (more…)

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Peachy Keen Chicken Salad

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Chicken Salad Days

A few weeks ago Julia Moskin wrote an article in the New York Times about chicken salad and Southern luncheons. I love chicken salad — as do many Southerners. It most often contains mayonnaise, which is not merely a condiment in the South. Mayonnaise is more like a food group for my people. However, I got the feeling while reading the article that some folks outside of the South have perhaps forgotten about just how great chicken salad can be, that there’s a slight retro vibe to chicken salad.

I’ve been on blog hiatus for a bit working on the photography for the Secrets of the Southern Table cookbook with Angie Mosier. She and I were driving in South Louisiana to see a rice harvest (check out this short video on my Instagram page) when we started up a conversation about our mutual love for chicken salad. We both travel a lot both together and separately and try to stay away from fast food. Grocery store-bought chicken salad and a handful of saltines or a few spears of Romaine as a scooper often saves the day. (more…)

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