Christiana Roussel joins us today to share her experience hosting a Gather Event aimed at raising funds for Jones Valley Teaching Farm and shares with us some fabulous recipes from some of the year’s best cook books to try at your next gathering!


We’re all more than a little harried at this time of year. Pulled in different directions, wanting to do it all. I have a running list with me these days – of folks I want to tell how much I appreciate them and their friendship. And because I love to spend time in the kitchen, I want to feed all of these people. But, in lacking a commercial kitchen, I have to focus on doing the most with my present resources.


As a freelance food and lifestyle writer, I often receive review copies of cookbooks from publishers looking for favorable press. Some of these are terrific and I love telling people about great new releases. Others … well, I remember what my mom said to do if I didn’t have anything nice to say. At a recent gathering at my home, I was able to use this cookbook largesse, sharing more than just good food and good friendship. I made recipes from several new cookbooks, doubling or tripling them so that friends could take home portions of what I’d made. Many received copies of the cookbooks too, as an additional thank you.

The gathering was in honor of Jones Valley Teaching Farm, where I am a board member, and the menu reflected the season and took full advantage of what is currently growing. It felt great to share the work of this fine organization with dear friends AND share great food. I hope you feel inspired to make some of these recipes at your next holiday gathering. Make sure you make a little extra – your friends will love you even more!

Gather for Change Menu

pickled grapes

Pickled Grapes

Pickled Grapes


  • 6 cups mixed red and green seedless grapes
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup light brown sugar
  • 2 ½ cups apple cider vinegar
  • ¾ cup white wine
  • 2 tablespoons coriander seeds, crushed
  • 2 tablespoons mustard seeds, toasted
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 7 whole cloves
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons peeled and thinly sliced fresh ginger
  • 2 jalapeño peppers, finely diced, seeds included


Remove the stems from the grapes and barely slice off the top of each grape with a sharp paring knife.

Combine the granulated and brown sugars, vinegar, wine, coriander and mustard seeds, cinnamon, cloves, slat, ginger, and jalapeños in a large nonreactive saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Decrease the heat to maintain a simmer for 5 minutes and then remove from heat.

Place the grapes in pint- or quart-sized jars, and pour the liquid over them to cover the grapes completely. The jars should be filled to just below the necks of the jars. Let cool to room temperature ad screw on the lids. Refrigerate. These will keep, refrigerated, for 5 to 6 months.

From Pickles, Pigs and Whiskey: Recipes from My Three Favorite Food Groups (and then some) by John Currence.

rabbit prep

Rabbit Rilletes

Rabbit Rilletes

Makes four 8-ounce jars


  • 2 whole rabbits, quartered
  • kosher salt
  • 4 cups rendered duck fat, homemade or store-bought
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • Directions:
  • Preheat oven to 250*F.

Season the quartered rabbits with salt and pepper. In a large ovenproof stockpot or skillet with a tight-fitting lid, melt 1 tablespoon of the duck fat over high heat. Sear the rabbit until light browned on all sides. Reduce the heat to medium and add the garlic. Add the rest of the duck fat, covering the meat. Place the lid on the pan, or place a sheet of parchment paper on the surface then crimp a sheet of aluminum foil on top of that to seal the pan.

Place the pan in the oven and cook until the meat falls off the bone, 3 to 4 hours. Let the meat cool to room temperature in the cooking liquid. Remove the rabbit from the cooking liquid and pick through the meat to remove and discard the bones.

Strain the cooking liquid and duck fat through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl. Reserve 4 tablespoons if the duck fat for sealing the top of the rillettes jars. (Save any leftover fat; it is delicious used to sauté potatoes.)

In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix the rabbit meat, slowly adding about 2 cups of the room-temperature cooking liquid and fat to the desired consistency. It should be like a thick spread such as pate or room temperature butter. Spoon the mixture into glass canning jars and pack down, leaving about 1-inch of space at the top. Refrigerate until chilled.

Once cool, we add a spoonful of melted duck fat to the top of each jar to keep the rillettes moist and prevent them from oxidizing. (The rillettes will keep for 3 to 4 weeks in the refrigerator.) Serve rillettes at room temperature with crusty bread.

From Summerland: Recipes for Celebrating with Southern Hospitality by Anne Quatrano. Written with Sara Camp Arnold.

four season blend

Four Seasons Blend

Four Seasons Blend

Makes about 1 cup


  • 1 cup sea or kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons garlic salt
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper


Combine the salt, black pepper, garlic salt, and cayenne in a small bowl. Transfer to a spice grinder or clean coffee grinder and pulse to the consistency of sand. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 month.

From Charred and Scruffed: Bold new techniques for explosive flavor on and off the grill by Adam Perry Lang.


Thanks, Christiana! We can’t wait to try these recipes!

christiana head shot

Southern food and lifestyle writer Christiana Roussel lives in Crestline. When not enjoying the occasional biscuit festival or bourbon tasting, there are four chickens, three dogs, two children and one husband who keep her very busy. You can follow her culinary adventures on-line at

Jones Valley Teaching Farm is growing the next generation of hungry minds, through the power of food. Educating 10,000 students annually, JVTF’s focus is to empower future generations with an education to eat smarter, think healthier and live better.