BELDEN – Paige Scruggs didn't cook much while growing up, but once she got to law school in Vermont, that all changed.

"In Vermont, if you wanted to go out to eat, you had to drive, like, 20 minutes, so that's when I really started to use cookbooks," said Scruggs, 42. "I even learned to make ravioli from scratch, and I still like to do that."

Scruggs, a real estate attorney with Harris-Leech and Scruggs, which has offices in both Tupelo and Amory, grew up in Waynesboro and finished high school in Jasper, Alabama.

"My mother and grandmothers and my stepmother all taught me how to cook, but I didn't really have to because they did all the cooking," she said. "When I went to college, there was nobody to cook for me, so I had to call my mom to get recipes."

The first meal she called her mom about was country fried steak, mashed potatoes and fried squash.

"I'd ask her how to make simple things, like field peas," she said. "She was a country cook. She didn't make anything out of a can."

Scruggs and her husband, Jeremy, moved from Chicago to Tupelo in 2003. They have two children, Savannah, 13, and Charlie, 11.

"My husband would like me to cook country fried steak or meatloaf and mashed potatoes and vegetables every night, but now that I'm in my 40s, I can't eat like that anymore," she said. "I try to eat a little healthier."

Scruggs cooks about six nights a week and most of the time the meals are simple: ground turkey sliders with sweet potato fries, tacos with guacamole and chips, a pork loin in a slow cooker with Mexican rice.

"On Saturdays is when I like to spend two to three hours in the kitchen on something like a bolognese or beef bourguignonne," she said. "I just like to spend hours piddling in the kitchen."

One of Scruggs' talents is to recreate delicious meals she's had in restaurants. She can successfully replicate a beef fillet sauce from the old Yocona River Inn in Abbeville, and a sweet potato and lima bean succotash that's no longer on the menu at Park Heights in Tupelo.

"In Chicago, we would go to this restaurant called Angelina's and I'd get his dish – Italian sausage with a balsamic reduction and golden raisins served over polenta," she said. "After we moved here, I wanted it and I couldn't get it so I tried to recreate it. I think I got pretty close. I've been back there since and had it and didn't change the way I make it at home."

DO YOU KNOW A GOOD COOK? Send your nominations to Ginna Parsons, Cook of the Week, P.O. Box 909, Tupelo, MS 38802. Or you can call Ginna at (662) 678-1581 or email them to ginna.parsons@journalinc.com.

GRANDMOTHER'S CORNBREAD

1 3/4 cups cornmeal

1 1/4 cup milk

3 large tablespoons mayonnaise

1 large tablespoon sugar

1 egg

1 tablespoon canola oil

Heat oven to 425 degrees and place cast iron skillet in oven to heat. In a bowl, combine cornmeal, milk, mayonnaise, sugar and egg. Remove skillet from oven, pour in oil, swirl it around and up the sides and pour out excess. Pour in batter and bake until golden brown, about 20 to 25 minutes.

PISTACHIO PESTO WITH CHEESE TORTELLINI

3 cups lightly packed fresh basil leaves

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

1/3 cup shelled pistachios

Salt and pepper

1/2 cup light olive oil

1 package fresh cheese tortellini

In a food processor or blender, pulse the basil, Parmesan, pistachios, salt and pepper together until finely chopped. With the food processor or blender still running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil until it is completely combined. Scrape down the sides, then pulse again until the mixture is smooth.

Cook tortellini according to package directions. When al dente, toss with pesto and serve with a little extra Parmesan.

ITALIAN DRESSING

1/4 cup light olive oil

2 tablespoons white wine or champagne vinegar

1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

3 garlic cloves, pressed

Salt and pepper

Mix all ingredients above together. Let sit for at least 10 minutes. Toss with salad ingredients, such as fresh romaine lettuce, chopped tomatoes and kalamata olives. Will keep for a week in the fridge.

CHICKEN PICCATA

2 skinless and boneless chicken breasts, butterflied and cut in half

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

All-purpose flour, for dredging

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1/3 cup fresh lemon juice

1/2 cup chicken stock

1/4 cup brined capers, rinsed

1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped

Season chicken with salt and pepper. Dredge chicken in flour and shake off excess.

In a large skillet over medium high heat, melt 2 tablespoons of butter with 3 tablespoons olive oil. When butter and oil start to sizzle, add 2 pieces of chicken and cook for 3 minutes. When chicken is browned, flip and cook other side for 3 minutes. Remove and transfer to plate. Melt 2 more tablespoons butter and add remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. When butter and oil start to sizzle, add the other 2 pieces of chicken and brown both sides in same manner. Remove pan from heat and add chicken to the plate.

Add the lemon juice, stock and capers to the pan. Return to stove and bring to boil, scraping up brown bits. Check for seasoning. Return all the chicken to the pan and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove chicken to platter. Add remaining 2 tablespoons butter to sauce and whisk vigorously. Pour sauce over chicken.

ITALIAN SAUSAGE WITH GOLDEN RAISINS AND GRITS

2 tablespoons light olive oil

1 pound mild or hot Italian sausage links

4 cups water

1 cup grits

1 (16-ounce) bottle balsamic vinegar

1 cup golden raisins

2 to 4 tablespoons heavy cream

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add sausages and cook, turning as needed, until deep golden brown. While sausage is cooking, bring water to a boil in a saucepan. Add grits and cook, stirring occasionally. Once sausage is cooked, remove from pan and drain grease. Pour in balsamic vinegar and reduce by half. When bubbly and thickened, add raisins, then return sausages to pan. When grits are done, add cream and stir until smooth. Serve sausages, raisins and sauce over grits.

PASTA DOUGH

1 1/2 cups semolina flour

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

4 eggs, room temperature and lightly beaten

4 tablespoons olive oil

4 tablespoons water

1 teaspoon salt

If making by hand: Combine semolina, flour, eggs, oil, water and salt and mix to make a stiff dough. Knead 10 minutes by hand.

If using a stand mixer, combine semolina, flour, eggs, oil, water and salt in stand mixer bowl. Knead on medium speed with a dough hook.

If dough is too sticky, sprinkle on additional semolina until it comes together. If dough is too dry, sprinkle water until you get the right consistency. Slice into the dough with a paring knife; if you see lots of air bubbles, keep kneading. The dough is kneaded when it forms a smooth elastic ball and has very few air bubbles when cut. Test by pressing your knuckle into the dough; if it starts to bounce back then it's ready.

Wrap dough in plastic wrap or place in a covered bowl and let rest for at least 30 minutes.

On a lightly floured surface roll out dough to desired thickness and cut as desired. Alternatively, cut into small chunks, flour it, and roll it through a pasta roller. For this process, send through on thickness of 0. Fold in thirds and rotate so that straight edges are on the side and send it through again. Fold in thirds once more, again with straight edges on sides, and then send it through thickness 0 for a third pass. Then, change thickness to 1 and send dough through once. Continue process stepping through thicknesses 2, 3, 4 and end with 5. Give dough sheet one last dip in flour and then run it through the fettuccine cutting side.

Place pasta on a cookie sheet until ready to cook or dry pasta on a drying rack.

To cook, bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until tender, about 3 to 5 minutes. When making lasagna, no need to boil noodles. Add directly to your recipe.

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