Citiscapes Eats

Wonder Woman of the High South - Paula Jo Henry

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Who; Paula Jo Henry

Where: Crepes Paulette, Bentonville

What: Pumpkin Cheesecake (Fausse) Mousse

Dighero’s Insights: Paula Jo Henry might be the hardest-working woman in the food biz of Arkansas – first, as owner and operator of the Crepes Paulette food truck, undeniably the most coveted culinary experience of its time at the Bentonville Farmers Market, and now, guiding that success into the award-winning brick and mortar paradigm of the same name, also located in Bentonville. 

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Pumpkin Cheesecake (Fausse) Mousse

Pumpkin butter ingredients:

3 ½ cups steamed, pureed sugar pumpkin (or canned pumpkin)

½ cup sugar

½ teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground ginger

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

¼ teaspoon allspice

¼ cup fresh lemon juice

Pinch of salt

1 ½  to 2 cups water



Preheat oven to 450. Mix all ingredients until smooth (mixture should be “soupy”). • Pour into greased 8” x 8” pan. • Bake for 20 minutes. • Remove from oven and stir. • Repeat this step two more times, until liquid has evaporated, leaving a creamy, smooth paste. • Let cool.


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Mousse ingredients:

2 cups heavy whipping cream (cold)

1/3 cup powdered sugar

½ teaspoon cream of tartar

½ cup cream cheese

¾ cup pumpkin butter


Speculaas cookies (or other buttery, crisp cookie), crushed


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Combine the cream, powdered sugar and cream of tartar in a pre-chilled bowl and whip to hard peaks (1 to 2 minutes on high with electric mixer). • Place in refrigerator. • Gently warm the cream cheese in double boiler or microwave and whip until smooth. • Add the pumpkin butter and mix until fully incorporated. • Retrieve the whipped cream from the refrigerator and fold in the pumpkin mixture with a large rubber scraper until just uniform. Do not overmix. • Keep in the refrigerator until serving. • Serve topped with a little cinnamon and a generous sprinkling of fine cookie crumbs.

  Makes 10 half-cup servings.

 Paula says to load mousse into a piping bag or Ziploc with a frosting tip of your choice and “pipe” into stemmed champagne or wine glasses.

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Wonder Woman of the High South - Crescent Dragonwagon

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Who: Crescent Dragonwagon

What: A Salad for Fall

Dighero’s Insights: There are those in life who inspire by merely breathing the same air as we do. Crescent Dragonwagon is one of those people. Her positive, sincere energy has been a welcome addition to the High South food scene since her recent move to Fayetteville from Vermont. Her reputation as award-winning cookbook author and owner of the iconic Dairy Hollow House Inn in Eureka Springs precedes her. And, we’re thrilled to have her in the folds of our community, teaching at Brightwater, sipping tea at the Fayetteville Public Library and even leading fierce writing workshops in her home. Her recipes are delicious, smart and narrative in nature – guaranteed to make you a better person when you make them this holiday season.

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A Salad for Fall


4 to 5 small, or 2 to 3 large, fresh beets (ideally, mixed varieties), scrubbed
1 recipe Sesame-Raisin Vinaigrette, recipe follows
1 head red leaf lettuce, leaves separated, washed and dried

1 head romaine lettuce, base removed, washed and dried, sliced crosswise with a very sharp knife no more than an hour before serving
1 small red onion, sliced paper thin
3 ounces good-quality blue or Roquefort cheese (we used Maytag at the inn), crumbled; optional, may be omitted or served on the side for vegans

½ cup toasted walnuts

1 crisp, tart apple, cored but unpeeled, cut into small matchstick-size pieces

1. Up to four days in advance, cook the beets – fold them into a piece of foil, sealing tightly, and bake at 350 for 45 minutes or until tender-crisp. (Alternatively, you may steam the beets, or slice them and roast the slices; in any case, you want them cooked but not watery, and still with texture). Peel the cooked, cooled beets; dice into ¼-inch cubes.
2. Up to four hours before serving, toss the diced beets with 2 to 3 tablespoons Sesame-Raisin Vinaigrette.
3. Compose the salad as follows: line a platter, or individual plates, with the red leaf lettuce leaves. Top with the sliced romaine. Scatter the beets, onion, blue cheese, walnuts and apple pieces over the salad. Drizzle with some of the remaining dressing, passing additional at table.

Sesame-Raisin Vinaigrette

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½ cup cider vinegar
¼ cup agave syrup or honey

1/3 cup dark raisins, preferably Manuka
¼ cup toasted sesame seeds
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
¾ cup peanut oil
¼ cup toasted sesame oil


Note: Must be prepared in a food processor. Make sure toasted sesame oil is nice and fresh; if it has been sitting on the shelf, it is likely rancid and should not be used.

 Place all ingredients except the oils in the processor, and buzz until the raisins are pureed to a dark, evil-looking paste. Then, with the machine running, gradually drizzle in the oils until the whole is emulsified. Taste for salt and sweetness, possibly adding a bit more agave or salt.

To toast sesame seeds:
In a small heavy skillet, watching constantly, toast the sesame seeds over medium heat until they begin to pop, are golden-brown, and give off fragrance. Shake the pan and stir as they toast; they burn if left unattended. Toasting should take 2 to 4 minutes, max.

 The dressing can be made up to a week in advance; the vegetables can be prepped as noted in recipe. But don’t assemble the salad until just before serving.

 Crescent says that this dish was a regular on the Thanksgiving menu back when she and her late husband owned Dairy Hollow House Inn – a country inn and restaurant that brought “nouveau’zarks” to the Eureka Springs area back in the late ‘80s.

Wonder Woman of the High South - Chef Maudie Schmitt

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Who:  Maudie Schmitt

Where:  Café Rue Orleans

What:  Crab and Shrimp Mirliton Stuffing

Insights from the Metro-billy:  Chef Maudie Schmitt is the godmother of authentic, comfort food in Northwest Arkansas as owner, chef of Café Rue Orleans, one of the most successful, longest running restaurants around.  She graced the pages of Citiscapes nearly 15 years ago with her famed Deep Fried Turkey technique, and hasn’t missed a beat with this classic Louisiana Chayote stuffing recipe that is certain to become a favorite for your family, friends this Holiday season. 

Crab and Shrimp Mirliton Stuffing

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6 Mirlitons, chopped

1 pound Jumbo Lump Crabmeat

1 pound (70–90 count) Shrimp, peeled and deveined

¼ pound Butter

1 cup yellow Onion, diced

1 cup Celery, diced

½ cup Red Bell Peppers, diced

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¼ cup Garlic, minced

Salt and Black Pepper, to taste

Louisiana Hot Sauce, to taste

¼ cup chopped Parsley

2 cups Italian Bread Crumbs

1/2 pound Butter


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Pre-heat oven to 375°F. Boil mirlitons in lightly-salted water 30–40 minutes or until tender. Remove from water and cool. In 12-inch cast iron skillet, melt butter over medium-high heat. Sauté mirliton, onions, celery, bell peppers, garlic in butter for three to five minutes, or until vegetables are wilted.

Add shrimp and cook two to three minutes or until pink and curled. Cook additional fifteen to twenty minutes, stirring until flavors develop. After most of liquid has evaporated, remove from heat, then season with salt, pepper, hot sauce and parsley. Fold in crabmeat, being careful not to break lumps.

Sprinkle in approximately 1½ cups of bread crumbs to absorb excess liquid and to hold stuffing. Place mixture in baking pan and sprinkle with remaining bread crumbs. Bake 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Eat Your Cabbage Patch, Kids! {aka Charred Brussels Sprouts with Marcona Almonds}

People either love or hate Brussels sprouts - and more times than not they're the only side dish remaining after holiday gatherings and dinner parties; until now.  I've devised a delicious way to prepare these "cabbage patch kids" for even the most discriminating, close minded dinner guest.  This charred, nutty technique give the small bundles a new flavor and presentation completely different from what we've experienced, tasted in the past, and they're the easiest dish to prepare at your next alfresco, grill party. 

Al Fresco Designs, Snacks with Daniel Keeley | Photo Cred:  Kerri McMahon

Al Fresco Designs, Snacks with Daniel Keeley | Photo Cred:  Kerri McMahon

For the most recent June issue of Citiscapes magazine I teamed up with Thrill of the Grill alum Daniel Keeley of DK Outdoor Design at the immaculate home of Chris Goddard to create a delicious, sublime dinner party for some of our closest friends.  The end result was a beautifully designed environment ideally structured for an al fresco gathering that featured a menu entirely prepared from the grill; a fun, interesting way to engage guests while they chat, imbibe.


Our Charred Brussels Sprouts with Marcona Almonds are a perfect accompaniment to our Herb Crusted Lamb with Grilled Grapes and Charred Baby Octopus with Olives and Pickled Peppers and can be prepared in a matter of just a few minutes. 

Cast Iron of Cabbage Patch Kids | Photo Cred:  Kerri McMahon

Cast Iron of Cabbage Patch Kids | Photo Cred:  Kerri McMahon

We simply begin by heating a large cast iron skillet over high heat, adding butter, olive oil until sizzling, then hitting the skillet with cleaned Brussel sprouts, mixing and turning every few minutes to coat and heat.  After about five minutes, the sprouts should start to char a bit, so now we add a handful of Marcona almonds, available at Wholefoods, which will toast as we near the end of the cooking process.  Marcona almonds, also known as the “Queen of Almonds,” are imported from Spain. We eat them as snacks at home on a daily basis; they are shorter, rounder, softer, and exponentially more delicious than domestic almonds. We particularly love the blanched Marcona almonds that are roasted in olive oil and then sprinkled with sea salt; a completely different almond than most Americans are used to - give 'em a try.

Spanish Marcona Almonds Elevate Brussels Sprouts | Photo Cred:  Kerri McMahon

Spanish Marcona Almonds Elevate Brussels Sprouts | Photo Cred:  Kerri McMahon

Once the Brussels sprouts are charred and the almonds are toasted we finish with salt, pepper, grated lemon zest, and a whisper of extra virgin olive oil.  Simple, sublime, delicious.  Thump thump!  

Eat Your Cabbage Patch, Kids! | Photo Cred:  Kerri McMahon

Eat Your Cabbage Patch, Kids! | Photo Cred:  Kerri McMahon

Charred Brussels Sprouts with Marcona Almonds and Lemon Zest

Prep Time:  15 Minutes | Cook Time:  20 Minutes

Author:  Case Dighero | Recipe Type:  Side Dish | Serves:  8


  • 1 Pound Brussels Sprouts (Washed)
  • 1 Cup Marcona Almonds
  • 1/4 Cup, plus 1 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 Tablespoons Butter
  • 1 Lemon - Zested
  • Salt and Pepper


-Heat large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat; add olive oil and butter, once butter is melted incorporate Brussels sprouts to pan, then cook until lightly charred.  Next, add Marcona almonds to the pan of sprouts and cook until toasted; remove Brussels sprouts and almonds onto a platter, then finish with salt, pepper, grated lemon zest, and final tablespoon of olive oil.  Devour!

SHEEP Thrills {aka Grilled Herb Crusted Lamb Skewers}

"A Toast to Sheep Thrills!" | Photo Cred:  Kerri McMahon

"A Toast to Sheep Thrills!" | Photo Cred:  Kerri McMahon

It's easy to dismiss, forget the virtues of lamb during the non-holiday months, focusing our attention on more traditional items such as chicken, steak, and fish; but really, lamb is as versatile and delicious on the grill as it is braised, roasted or when pulled from the oven.  Lamb has a b-a-a-a-a-d reputation for being too gamey, overpowering for certain palates; yet cooking it over an open flame or gill has a brilliant way of tempering the gaminess, making it exponentially more appealing to even the most discriminating, finicky diner. 

So, of course I enthusiastically added lamb to the menu of our annual Thrill of the Grill al fresco dinner party for Citiscapes magazine, and it was the surprise hit of the party.  

Not to mention, the main course for the party was also the easiest to prepare; Fresh Herb Crusted Lamb Skewers with Grilled Grapes can actually be prepped and completed in under 30 minutes. 

We start with three pounds of boneless leg of lamb from Richard’s Meat Market, then once home, sliced the rich meat into small 3 to 5 inch slivers that went into a medium sized mixing bowl.  I then embellished with syrupy extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper, and a myriad fresh chopped herbs that included basil, thyme, rosemary, mint, and chives. 

"SIZZLE...Repeat" | Phto Cred:  Kerri McMahon

"SIZZLE...Repeat" | Phto Cred:  Kerri McMahon

After 10 minutes of lamb, herb collusion I then skewered the meat, alternating the marinaded pieces between rough chopped green onions.  Once skewered, the lamb hit a high heat grill for about three minutes on each side, a bit shorter or longer depending on your preference, but a total of six minutes will yield a nice medium rare temperature. 

Lamb-a Dama-Ding-Dong | Photo Cred:  Kerri McMahon

Lamb-a Dama-Ding-Dong | Photo Cred:  Kerri McMahon

After reaching desired temperature, it's critical to allow the lamb to rest for five to seven minutes, this ensures that we lose less juice when we cut into it, thus, allowing a juicier, more delicious bite for our guests. 

While the lamb rests comfortably, we then coat small clusters of red and green grapes with olive oil, salt, and pepper before applying to the high temperature grill; just until the grapes begin to turn smoky and gently split.

Helping Lamb Achieve GRAPEness | Photo Cred:  Kerri McMahon

Helping Lamb Achieve GRAPEness | Photo Cred:  Kerri McMahon

Then simply serve both the skewered lamb and grapes on the same platter, garnished with a drizzle of olive oil and rough chopped basil, chives.  Please note how the sexy, slightly come hither split grapes seem to temper the stylized, gamey flavor of the lamb making it the perfect dish to serve at your next outdoor party.

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