Saturday, August 30, 2008


TO MARKET, TO MARKET......and I come home laden with so much I have to make a list to make sure I don't overlook something in the fridge during the week.
It's sensory overload, just walking through the farmers market.  "Taste this," the vendors cry, holding up pieces of peaches, tomatoes or cukes.  And I taste and taste.  And I buy.  We have been eating like royalty these days, with plates laden with sweet fresh corn, crisp green beans, squash and zucchini laced with oregano from the herb garden, fresh pears, and sweet, sweet watermelon......oh, my.
Fresh and local, that should be everyone's mantra.  Especially now, during the height of the summer's harvest, and knowing that in just a few short weeks, the peas will be gone, maybe the sweet corn won't be there next week, and the figs?  Grab them while you can.

The beauty of a fig sliced open, the musty flavor that wafts from within, the moist, honeyed sweetness....well, it's almost like having sex in the kitchen.
 Figs grow profusely on Hatteras and Ocracoke.  Seems they like the salty air, and most long timers there place oyster or clam shells around the base of their fig trees, both as a mulch and for the minerals to leach into the soil. Lynne Foster lives on Hatteras Island, and with husband Ernie runs the Albatross Fleet, a set of charter boats that go out to the Gulf Stream right off the Outer Banks. Lynne most graciously shared some recipes with me for THE OUTER BANKS COOKBOOK. 
One of our favorites is an appetizer of fresh figs.  Here's an adaptation of one of Lynne's great recipes, using what I had on hand one evening.  Preheat the broiler.  Slice the figs in half vertically, from stem to end.  Place a toasted or candied walnut in the center, then top with fresh chevre.  Place under the broiler until the cheese softens just a bit, about two minutes.  To gussy them up, place a sprig of fresh herbs on top, like thyme, even rosemary.  Wait just a few minutes before serving because they can burn your mouth if you pop them in right away.

O' HENRY  Peaches . . . .As I peeled these beauties, I couldn't help but think about the lovely short story read each Christmas by O'Henry, about the couple who each gives up something significant in order to buy a beautiful present for the other.....  I believe O'Henry was from Greensboro, NC.         These sandhill peaches are a short-season variety.  Very dark in color, as you can see in the photo.  Isn't that a lovely, 3-handled pottery dish made by my friend Missy Manning?  We saw a dish similar to that when we got caught in a short squall while hiking up to a view on Virgin Gorda on our last sailing trip in the BVIs.  Missy came home and did it even better, so I grabbed it at one of her shows.  I love using this dish, not only because of its fond memories, but because it shows off my food so well.
I've been making an effort this summer to freeze some favorites.  Blueberries, peas, and peaches, esp.  I buy in quantity, which presents the problem of spoilage.  If you wait until the peaches are just beginning to soften, you have to deal with some that have mold or have gotten too soft.  I spread them on the countertop, not touching, when possible, and that seems to help some.  I remember helping my grandmother with freezing peaches, when my dad would return from Georgia where he bought tobacco slips in the early summer.  He'd bring back a bushel basket or two of the first peaches of their season, and we'd spend a day peeling and slicing.  
Mark Rosenstein, the Asheville chef I followed at the City Market there a few weeks ago, said he learned when in France that a good chef will immediately start a pot of water to boil when he begins his day, to peel tomatoes, or like me, peaches.  
First, make a small cross at the bottom of each peach you're gonna peel.  I like to work with just four or five peaches at a time, placing them in a pot of boiling water, turning to make sure all sides are submerged, for about a minute.  Then, I lift them out and immediately place them in a bowl of ice water.  And like magic, most times, the peel will easily slip off the peach, leaving a gorgeous blush of rouge on the flesh.  I slice them, and splash with orange juice, or lemon, to keep the color bright.  I've been using the new two-sided freezer bags, and lay them flat on the freezer shelf.  This winter, I know they'll bring me much pleasure when thawed.  

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


Ruby red and golden tomatoes, crisp chocolate croissants and rustic whole grain boules, figs, apples, blackberries, Asian pears, trout, cheeses, jewelry, and, oh wow, yes, that's exactly what I smelled....a coffee cart!  A recent visit to the Asheville City Market had all my senses racing on high.  Each farmer has such a meticulous display of vegetables, greens and fruits, with chalkboards and signs, and a friendly greeting for new and old customers.  I loved it.  There was even a pair making cheery bluegrass music.  
Tasting my way through the U-shaped market was such a great way to start my Saturday.  We were in Asheville, for me to read and sign THE OUTER BANKS COOKBOOK at Malaprop's Bookstore, and to do some tasting research for my new project.  
SHOP WITH A CHEF, sponsored by ASAP, Appalachian Sustainable Agricultural Project, featured Mark Rosenstein, creator and chef of The Market Place Restaurant and author of IN PRAISE OF APPLES.  His cooking has long been an inspiration for me, and I always make reservations whenever we are in town.  I also enjoy his new 10o Bar/Bistro on the terrace.
Mark led shoppers to several farmers to buy heirloom tomatoes, herbs, greens and some marvelous breads, explaining why he choose what he did and how this is ripe, smells good, etc.  
Then he went back to a cooking station and talked as he showed how to blanch and then peel tomatoes, toasted bread, added herbs, etc.  What a marvelous event, and indeed, we did learn as we watched and tasted with him.
I was so delighted to stop at table for SUNBURST TROUT.  Their trout farm is set at the base of Cold Mountain, and they make a tremendous effort to feed the fish good, organic food, and provide their waste products to farmers to use as compost.  Their trout fillets are excellent, and are sold at Earth Fare statewide as well as with other grocers.  Owner Sally Eason was concerned with the drought, saying that they had a good week or two of water left, and that was it.  When the water is low, the hot temperature really affects the fish.  Also, she usually has a big stash, like a thousand pounds or more, of the trout caviar (roe) which has made them famous all over the country.  She said she only had four pounds harvested.  Wow.   Let's hope this latest tropical storm in Fla will make its way to NC's mountains.
We packed some of Sally's latest new product, trout jerky, and some smoked trout into our ice chest, along with some chevre.  We liked the Jumpin' Juniper with a bit of chili powder from Three Graces Dairy, and I couldn't resist another tub of Sunset Valley Herb Chevre from Spinning Spider Creamery, one that our daughter Bec introduced us to. Along with an Asian pear, baguettes from Bec's work - City Bakery - we had lovely picnic fare to eat on our hike to the Three Waterfalls at Dupont State Forest, and the next day streamside while Steve flyfished along the Davidson River.

BOUCHON is a lovely little bistro on Lexington Ave. that certainly delighted our tastebuds.  We chatted with owner/chef Michel Baudouin while waiting for our table.  He grew up outside of Lyon, on a farm in the southern Rhone Valley.  How did he get to Asheville?  Via Dallas/Ft Worth, where he established two successful restaurants.  On a getaway several years ago, he and his wife fell in love with this area.  They moved, and started Bouchon, which is a colloquial expression for "bistro."  We loved their moules & frites, and there are several flavorings for the mussels.  The Salade du Grand Pere took me to back to France, with its lardons and walnuts. The wine selection was good, and the prices were very reasonable.  
But what I really loved was the Trout Almadine, a fillet covered with thinly sliced almonds, sauteed with butter and herbs. Yes, I know, that's a dish that's seen plenty of territory, but it was done just right, served with brussel sprouts and slivers of potatoes.  
Bon appetit y'all, Bouchon's menu declares.  I'll go back.

This dish cooks quickly, so have all ingredients ready to go, as well as your side dishes that you'll be serving along with the trout.
Servings for four:
4 fillets rainbow trout - about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon seasoning salt
2 to 3 Tablespoons butter & 2 to 3 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup thinly sliced almonds
2 tablespoons minced fresh herbs - lemon thyme, regular thyme, parsley or chives

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2.  Wash trout and pat dry.  Mix flour, cornmeal and salt together on a plate.  Lay fillets in dry mixture on each side, knocking away coating until just a thin haze of the flour/cornmeal is left.
3.  In a large, ovenproof saute pan, (or use 2 pans), melt butter and add olive oil.  When hot enough to make a sizzle with water droplets, add trout, skin side up, and saute for about 2 to 3 minutes.  Turn fillets over, and press almond slices into the flesh while cooking for another 2 to 3 minutes.  Sprinkle fresh herbs over the fillets, also.  
4.  Slide saute pans into oven to finish cooking, for about 3 minutes, or until fish flakes easily with a fork.  Sprinkle with lemon juice and serve immediately.