If you have ever ridden the ferry over to Ocracoke, walked the surf line at Nags Head, driven the beach past Corolla or caught wind in your sails at the Canadian Hole, you probably love the Outer Banks as much as I do. Just conjure up the salt in the wind and the salty flavor of oysters, clams, shrimp and all kinds of seafood from the waters of the Graveyard of the Atlantic.
In my new book, THE OUTER BANKS COOKBOOK: Recipes & Traditions from NC's Barrier Islands there are recipes, almost 200. Some from long-time residents who recall what the "Banks" were like before the tourists came, some from contemporary chefs with their new takes on local and seasonal foods, and some of my own from 35 years of chasing fish and dreams on the coast of North Carolina.
Good books, including cookbooks, tell good stories. I had the privilege of talking with the son of one of the last OBX lighthouse keepers who recalls an isolated but wonderful life as a boy on Bodie Island, scouring the waters for their evening meal. Miss Jeanie, 94, still cooks in her Manteo home and shared her favorite recipes, as did other older folks who have remained or returned to their beloved OBX. I also have historic tidbits and local legends. It's a good read.
Plus, learn how to pick seafood from the market to guarantee its freshness, and then store it when you get it home....and of course, what to do with it, with easy, practical recipes that allow you more time to spend at the beach or sailing or fishing.
I had a blast getting all the information together, interviewing chefs, residents and fishermen. The Outer Banks has a hodgepodge of independent folks who love where they live.
I'll be doing book signings, cooking demos and just about anything else legal to promote this book. Send me ideas!
Available May 1st, 08 at major bookstores, independents and online
Here's a taste of one of my favorite recipes:
OCRACOKE FIG CAKE
Figs grow profusely in Ocracoke village, perhaps due to the moist, salty air. Residents tend to place oyster shells around the base of their trees, or add a fish to the soil around them. Although figs were grown on most Southern homesteads, they are not native to the New World but rather to Asia Minor. They probably migrated with the Spanish via the West Indies, but perhaps it was a pirate, like Blackbeard, who frequented the port of Ocracoke and left this treasure.
The ladies of Ocracoke are known for their fig cakes, using the preserves they "put up" from all the figs that ripen during the summer. Some use a cream cheese frosting between the layers, others make a tube cake.
Dale Mutro's grandmother, Mrs. Ollie Styron Mutro, taught him how to make this version, which uses twice as much fig preserves as the standard Ocracoke recipe. Dale claims this one is so moist it needs no frosting.
2 cups flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda dissolved in 2 tsp hot water
1 cup nuts, preferably pecans
1 pint (2 cups) fig preserves
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 10-inch tube pan.
2. In a small bowl, sift together the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and salt. Set aside.
3. In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs. Add the sugar and oil.
4. Alternately add the dry ingredients with the buttermilk. Add vanilla, then soda dissolved in hot water.
5. Gently stir in nuts and fig preserves.
6. Pour in prepared pan, and bake for about 1 hour, or until toothpick comes out clean.
C0pyright 2008 by Morris Book Publishing, LLC