Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Yep, it's getting late for you Santas out there. So am I. But here are a few things you might be able to pull off in time for the holiday exchange.

Is there any gift better than chocolate? Artisianal chocolates are available in the Asheville area, esp, as well as in the Triad and Triangle.
For bakers, order some chocolate drops from BLACK MOUNTAIN CHOCOLATE www.blackmountainchocolate.com.
Or order a jaw-dropping beautiful box of CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES (www. from Asheville's FRENCH BROAD CHOCOLATE www.frenchbroadchocolates.com
french broad chocolates liquid truffle

Imagine roaming this garden at THE MAST FARM INN and gathering fresh veggies and herbs, then gathering in the kitchen to learn from Chef Danielle Deschamps some innovative and delicious ways to prepare them, as well as meats and desserts. And then, you get to snuggle up in one of the deliciously made beds in this inn that's been open for over a century. Perhaps you can give your favorite cook, and/or yourself, an overnight stay and cooking lesson. www.mastfarminn.com

AB VANNOY HAMS of West Jefferson does hams the old-fashioned way, curing them for over nine months in a climate-controlled ham house, wrapped in paper and mesh after coating them in sugar. This ham is so fine, it should be called a state treasure, and surely a package of ham slices, or a whole ham itself, would make someone really happy on Christmas Day. Stay tuned for an even more aged ham that's akin to prosciutto. http://site.abvannoyhams.com/

SUNBURST TROUT COMPANY www.sunbursttrout.com/ Located at the base of Cold Mountain, of movie fame, this trout company has been operating since the '40s, and now features along with their lovely filets, smoked trout, tomato jam to go with it, and lovely trout caviar that's awesome. Jacques Pepin loved his visit there. The Jennings family makes extra efforts to be eco-friendly, too.

Friday, December 4, 2009



photo courtesy of Foggy Ridge Cider

Apple cider has a image problem. Or perhaps a "name" problem.
Most of us buy "apple cider" at roadside stands or in the grocery store. That brown liquid is actually just apple "juice," which should be more appropriately named "fresh cider" if ya wanna call it cider.
Real cider is sometimes referred to as "hard cider," which by definition, is fermented up to 8 percent alcohol, so you can get a "buzz" better than with beer.
Diane Flynt, owner and artisan cider maker at Foggy Ridge Cider in southwest Virginia, (www.foggyridgecider.com,) says she's had some old-timers who've visited her cidery and say, "Well, I just left some on the back porch and it got hard all by itself."
Well, sure. Just like cheese will develop a mold all by itself, juice will ferment.
True cider is the work of an artisan, and like wine, it takes a serious application of techniques, with stainless steel tanks or oak barrels, with added yeast and careful monitoring of brix, or sugar levels.
But it all starts with the apple. Diane grows 30 different varieties that are full of tannin, acid and aroma.
The best cider apples are often heirlooms and, well, ugly. As with wine, most ciders are blends of several varieties of the fruit, providing a balance of sugar, tannin and apple taste.
After a visit to Foggy Ridge Cider while researching THE NEW BLUE RIDGE COOKBOOK (out in March 2010), I was hooked on cider. I love it with pork, esp., or sipping with cheese. It's a sophisticated taste and looks lovely. What a lovely tradition to bring back to America!

As "American as apple pie"? Nope. Apples came from England with the Jamestown settlers. The Cherokees loved them, and used sophisticated grafting techniques to establish large orchards. Every early American homestead eventually had their own apple orchard, because it ensured they'd have something to eat and drink.
Cider was the drink of choice for most settlers. John Adams had a tankard of cider before breakfast each morning. Most ciders during the 18th century were better for them than water, which was often polluted. In fact, apples were "drunk" more than eaten at that time.
For an interesting account of the history of apples, read THE BOTANY OF DESIRE by Michael Pollan.

Appalachian and Grayson cheeses from Meadow Creek Dairy, Galax, VA
photo courtesy of Meadow Creek Dairy

Last week, Diane was at Wine Authorities, a wine shop near Forest Hills in Durham, pairing her cider with several local cheeses.
Hillsborough Cheese Company makes a wide range of cheeses from purchased cow and goat milk. Fresh chevre, rolled in ashes from grape vine leaves, had a mushroomy flavor, and paired nicely with the sweeter cider from Foggy Ridge called Sweet Stayman. Spicy foods would also be a good contrast with this sweeter cider.
A rule? Balance spice with sweet.
Another fresh herbed cheese paired nicely with the Serious Cider from Foggy Ridge. Because it is crisp and more acidic, with a higher tannin level, it's a more food-friendly cider that begs for veal snitzel, perhaps, or a nice pork dish, or even smoked trout.
Pair acidic foods, like fresh cheeses, with acidic wines or cider.
Meadow Creek Dairy is located near Galax, VA, near Foggy Ridge Cider. Because their Jersey cows are raised on pasture, they only produce seasonal cheeses. The Appalachian is a luscious creamy yellow cheese that paired nicely with the more acidic Serious Cider.
That's one of the pairing rules for both wine and cider.....the higher the fat level of the food, the more tannin is needed.
The Grayson cheese from Meadow Creek was quite pungent, with a big beefy, mushroomy flavor. It needed something to stand up to its big bite, like the Serious Cider.
photo styling by Kathryn Wiegand
Pippin Gold is a Port-style blend of cider from Foggy Ridge, made with only Newtown Pippin apples, and apple brandy made by Laird & Co, a VA distillery that is the nation's oldest. Diane entertained us with how she freezes the cider at a local ice house, then takes a huge pick and climbs onto the huge cube of ice and breaks it, then withdraws the melted liquid, which concentrates the flavors. Then it is blended with the brandy, producing a smooth and sweet liquore which we've enjoyed as a drizzle over fresh pound cake. Diane also recommends sipping it as an aperitif with walnuts, almonds or dried figs, or as an after dinner drink, or poured over fresh peaches.

At Wine Authorities, of course. Wellspring. A few restaurants in DC and along the Blue Ridge and in the Triad. Diane hopes to expand in the Triangle area. When spring arrives, plan a trip to the cidery near Dogspur, VA, that's near the funky little town of Floyd, VA, and Chateau Morissette, a delightful winery along the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Read all about ciders, and how Diane changed careers from a banker to cider maker at www.foggyridgecider.com.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Maybe not. But I thought about it. Just to add some fun to my busy holiday kitchen.
This 4-lb beauty, a "pie pumpkin" was purchased at the State Farmers Market for a buck, or two, can't remember. Thought I'd go local with my pie, esp. given the phrase "easy as pie." It truly does not take long to cut open a pumpkin, slice it and then roast. And I knew it would taste better than the canned variety that I was tripping over during my last foray at the grocery store.
So slice a pumpkin, then with a metal spoon, scoop out the seeds and scrape the threads that cling to the pumpkin slices. I rubbed their wounds with a tiny bit of olive oil. You can cover with foil, or not. Roast in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes, or until a fork can pierce the flesh easily. It took about 5 to 10 minutes to slice and clean the pumpkin, then another 30 to roast (while I did other kitchen chores).

Here's where this project got time consuming - dealing with the slimy seeds.
Your hands are your best tools for many cooking chores. In this case, I stood at the sink and popped the seeds into a colander with my gooey fingers.
And this is why I love to work in the kitchen alone, at mundane tasks such as this. I wondered about our Thanksgiving dinner, the first holiday and family gathering without my father sitting at the head of the table, and wondered how we would all react to that. It will be sad. And then I remembered that my daughter invited two gay friends who are hilariously fun to be with, and wondered how my conservative extended family will react to them. It should be a hoot with lots of laughs. And wondered also if my namesake, Elizabeth, will bag a deer before her husband and father on their traditional Thanksgiving hunt. They all filled their freezers last year with fresh venison.
Roused from my reverie, I finished rinsing the seeds and patted them dry, then laid them on a baking sheet and sprinkled them with sea salt. I slid them into the oven to roast along with the pumpkin slices, for about 20 minutes, until golden brown, stirring twice.
But hey, it was worth it, and I ate a good portion of them warm, straight out of the oven before I got them all off the pan.

I let the pumpkin cool slightly before scooping the flesh from the outside peels and pureeing in the food processor. That four pound baby produced about 2 3/4 cups of pumpkin puree, about 22 ounces. A typical can of pumpkin weighs 15 oz.
So I did the math and figured I must add perhaps about half more to the typical pumpkin pie recipe. However, knowing that the pumpkin all by itself was "sweet", I cut back on the sugar. The hubby loves cinnamon, so I happily added another half portion and also to the allspice and cloves.
Wrong! The pie was too sweet. The spices overwhelmed my gorgeous fresh pumpkin flavor. So the recipe below gives what I believe to be better proportions.
The pie still tastes terrific. Better than store-bought. Better than the canned variety.
Me, not the pastry. I will admit a secret.....I used a store-bought rolled up pie crust, rather than making my own. I ran out of time, and I love the convenience of those long boxes with two rolled up pastries inside. Purists may chastise me. Go ahead. I'm still thankful I've got a pie!
During these hard economic times, be thankful for the food that graces your table, no matter where it comes from; thank the farmers who work hard to produce the veggies, fruits and meats, the troops who have no choice but to be over there fighting, and thank the good Lord that we are here in the good old US of A, where PETA and vegans and carnivores can all have a choice.
1 prepared pie crust
1 medium-sized pie pumpkin (about 4 lbs.)
3 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 small cans (5 oz. each) evaporated milk

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Prepare pumpkin puree first. Slice pumpkin, remove seeds and flesh, place in oven for about 30 minutes until flesh is tender. Cool slightly then scoop out flesh. Place in food processor or blender and puree.
3. Mix eggs and sugar together. Add spices and salt. Stir in pumpkin puree and blend thoroughly. Stir in milk.
4. Pour mixture into prepare pie crust, and bake for about 45 minutes or an hour, until the center of the pie is set.
5. Cool slightly before slicing, give thanks, and then ooh and aaah as you taste the freshness of the pumpkin.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


My BS created a stir at the checkout lane at Trader Joe's. "What's that?" one young man wanted to know. "So that's how they grow!" said an older woman behind me. Down South, we don't see many brussels sprouts offered at our markets, much less grow them. They need a cold snap, much like our collard greens, and take up to five months to grow and lots of space.
Why "Brussels"? Belgium is responsible for their breeding, back in the 13th century. They're truly tiny cabbages.
I broke my Buy Local rule because I love brussels sprouts. And this stalk looked fresh and had small heads.
They're easy to cook. NEW YORK TIMES writer Mark Bittman likes to pair them with bacon, which suits Southerners used to cabbage and pork. Some cooks like to sprinkle them with toasted pecans, or grated Parmesan. They can be shredded as well, but then you miss out on presenting them with their gorgeous beautifully round little heads. They need a quick cook, just until wilted.
I like to saute them in butter. I find that by parboiling them for just a minute or two, they'll cook more evenly without toasting the outer leaves in the saute. And the boiling water needs lots of salt to cut that bit of a bitter taste. Then I slice them in half and saute. Use a cast iron skillet so that you can get the pan hot and a nice browning on the cut half of the sprouts.

***RECIPE ***
Brussels Sprouts - on a stalk, or loose, about 2 pounds
4 tablespoons butter
toasted pecans and/or Parmesan cheese

1. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Prepare an ice bath (sink or large bowl full of cold water and ice). Add 1 tablespoon salt to the boiling water, then the brussels sprouts. Let sprouts boil for just two minutes, then drain and place in the ice water bath to stop the cooking and maintain that gorgeous green color.
2. Drain when sprouts have cooled and pat them dry. Slice in half.
3. Melt butter in large saute pan or cast iron skillet. Add sprouts, cut side down, and saute until just turning golden brown on the cut side. Flip sprouts over and stir around, carefully, until they have reached your desired tenderness. Salt to taste and serve immediately. Add toasted pecans or freshly grated Parmesan if desired.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Fish Flash

Speckled trout are running along North Carolina's coast, but my fishing line sure didn't snag one. What did I catch while out at Cape Lookout on a gorgeous, warm fall day this week - pre-Ida? A lizard fish.
We were at the beach to celebrate the hubby's birthday, and he loves to fish. His brother offered his boat, the wind was mild, the waves nil, so out the Beaufort Inlet we went, skirting Shackleford Banks to the Bight at Lookout. Along the way, we got up close and personal with a pod of bottlenosed dolphin, who enjoyed "surfing" between the hulls of our catamarin.
We also stopped and fished along the way, as well as within the bight. The Birthday Boy got skunked. I got a lizard fish. Other boats were reeling in speckled trout. We figured we needed cut bait, which we did not have.
I love speckled trout for its mild, sweet flavor, and tender meat. So I figured there is more than one way to catch a trout. On the way home to Raleigh, I stopped at a favorite fishmonger, B & J Seafood on HWY 70 in New Bern (252 637-0483), where Ray filleted two gorgeous specks for me. We discussed baking them whole, but decided that because they were quite big, it would be best to fillet and saute them. They filled my largest saute pan, and when I turned them, I goofed. Thus, I decided the above photo of the newly painted Lookout Lighthouse was more appetizing!

No need to feel intimidated at cooking fish. Trout has a very delicate flavor and texture, so its preparation needs to stay simple. My advice is to just leave room in your saute pan to flip the fillets after the first side is browned! You might need to use two pans.

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
salt and pepper
1/2 cup flour
4 speckled trout filets

1. Heat equal parts butter and olive oil, enough to coat the bottom of the pan, in a large saute pan over medium high heat.
2. Meanwhile, lay both sides of fillets in flour, then shake off excess. You just want a dusting.
3. When butter/oil is hot and sizzling, lay fillets with skin side up in pan. Saute until golden brown. Turn. Season with salt and pepper. Squeeze lemon juice over each fillet.
4. Continue to cook with the skin side down until fillet is cooked through, meaning no pink color, and flaky. But be careful not to over cook. Trout is very tender.
5. Carefully lift each fillet onto individual plates, and serve with slices of lemon.


Wednesday, November 4, 2009


I am not on a diet, although everyone would love to lose 10 pounds, right?
 I am not even balking at eating sugar.
The reason I haven’t made my famous Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies for a long time is because my dad died.
I made cookies for my ailing father a couple of times a month for the last seven years. He loved them. Hoarded them. Only shared with his visitors - like his granddaughters - when pressed to do so. Even my mother was rationed.
I took my last batch to him in August, the day he didn’t wake up from his nap. As I stood by his beside, I actually said, “But Dad, I brought you cookies.” As if that would make him roll his eyes and say, “just kidding.” Or grab the bag of cookies from me and hide them under his sheet. No, nada response. The cookies were still warm from the oven, unlike his cheek when I pressed my face to his. Sobbing, I took the cookies into the kitchen, where they were later devoured by his mascara-streaked granddaughters who sat in silence around the table.
My dad was no gourmet. He loved fried bologna sandwiches. Boiled eggs. Runny scrambled eggs. Beef roasts with catsup. Steak and potatoes. Fried chicken. Biscuits or store-bought white loaf bread, served in stacks on the table.
When he quit farming but my mom still worked, he sometimes made supper. Like most men, he loved using a Crockpot. Open up any can and throw it in, then add any tough piece of meat without browning or fussing with it. Douse it with salt and pepper, them turn the sucker on high and let it rip.
You have to understand that he was a typical Southern farmer. The boss with a work crew of lazy kids and hard-working tenant farm families who were not allowed to be lazy.
He expected “dinner” at noon, prepared by my sister or me, or our Grandmother. I remember many summer days “topping” tobacco beginning at 7 a.m. and being told about 11:30 to get to the house and help make dinner. I’d throw whatever vegetables and a meat we had leftover onto the stove for a rapid-fire heating. Make a pitcher of sweet tea. Then after everyone else had sat and begun to eat, sitting down to eat myself, just like my grandmother had done before she gave out. Then, after eating, my dad went and stretched out on the floor in the center hall, where he could catch a breeze and a nap. I cleaned up the kitchen and dishes, just in time for him to get everybody back out to the fields.
So in a way, my dad is responsible for my interest in food and cooking. How’s that, given this history?
I decided that if I were going to have to cook for the rest of my life, I might as well have a good time with it. Explore different kinds of food. Become proficient at cooking. Have fun in the kitchen. Set challenges.
What I learned was that good cooking had immediate reinforcement. Folks like to eat well. Praise the Lord and praise my cooking, I’d pray. As I burned less and created more of a repetoire, I introduced some new ideas to the table. My dad put an end to that. Keep it meat and potatoes with a cake on Saturday and pie on Sunday. Thank heavens I married a man who loves whatever I cook for him, with the exception of peas.
No matter how my dad felt after the cancer started taking its toll, he still ate my chocolate chip oatmeal cookies. I like to think they offered him some comfort, a little enjoyment when pleasures were few and restricted to a hospital room or a bed.
I never realized how they offered me comfort, too. Those cookies were one way I could “do something” for him when even all of medical science was failing.
After he died, my cookie trays remained in the cabinet for weeks, then months. It didn’t occur to me that I had not made any since that fateful day. But then when we were getting ready to take a sailing trip, I thought I’d make some to take to our sailing buddy. As I creamed the butter and sugar, big old tears welled up in my eyes, catching me off guard. I was sobbing when I added the chocolate chips. By the time the first batch was out of the oven, I had figured out my sorrow. Grief has a way of catching you unawares, I have found.
I think I’ll make a big batch to take to the Finch Pottery Open House in Bailey on Sunday, where I’ll join my sister Amy and her husband, Dan Finch, and do some Christmas shopping and hopefully sell a few copies of THE OUTER BANKS COOKBOOK. Come and get a cookie.

Monday, October 19, 2009

NC Mountains to the Sea

CHANTERELLES are still in season, being foraged for a few more weeks from mountain forests and believe it or not, front lawns, from Asheville to Charlottesville. In the forthcoming THE NEW BLUE RIDGE COOKBOOK, I talked with Asheville's MUSHROOM MAN, Alan Muskat, about searching for these tasty wild specimens, and also Chris Weihs, a former restauranteur from Charleston who now scours his property near Cashiers for all types of mushrooms.
At $29.99 a pound at Whole Foods last week, it'd be so much cheaper if you can find them yourself. Just beware that some wild toadstools are fatally toxic. Know what you're doing, or take a hunt with Muskat who leads folks into the woods to forage all sorts of wild mushrooms.
The above dish of wild mushrooms or just chanterelles with roasted apricots will be featured among 150 recipes in THE NEW BLUE RIDGE COOKBOOK. I'll keep you posted as to when/where it's available - hopefully in March.
In the meantime, purchase just a few ounces and saute them in butter. Yum! What a fall treat.

Beautiful swimmers, our Blue Crabs, are still available at seafood markets by the basket or dozen. Or nicely cleaned in one-pound tubs.
Crabmeat is my all time favorite. Best way to cook it? Melt enough butter to moisten the crabmeat well, spritz it with lime or lemon juice, a sprinkle of Old Bay, and heat. Serve with toast points or how about just a fork???? Died and gone to heaven....
GREEN TAIL SHRIMP are still gaining in size and should be showing up in the Pamlico Sound within a few weeks.
I stopped at Atlantic Beach Seafood this past weekend and put in my order for my winter stash. I am all about eating fresh and local - and shrimp does not suffer from freezing, if it's done correctly. In the winter, it's so handy to have one-pound bags of frozen shrimp that do not take long to thaw.
Brown shrimp are still being caught just offshore around Morehead City and Swansboro. They range in size, but all are absolutely firm and delicious. Support NC's shrimping industry, and never, ever, eat imported shrimp!

Thursday, September 17, 2009


The Carolina Foodie caught the largest wall-eye. Nanny-nanny-boo-boo. How does that sound for a grown-up after spending a week with your sister and brother in the Canadian wilderness of northern Ontario's lake district?
Along with two husbands, we arrived by float plane, 190 miles north of the border, the only folks to inhabit the four-mile long Lake Wilkie at a cabin powered by LP gas and solar panels. All food and drinks had to be flown in, under weight limits... how much does beer weigh?
Once there, we had four aluminum boats to tool around the lake with. Hiking was minimal, due to foot-deep moss which covered ankle-turning stone. But the fishing for wall-eye and Northern pike was terrific.
We had grilled fish five nights out of the seven. We had picnics on huge rocks lining the shore, with ghostly white aspens and firs reflected in the water.
And my siblings and I got to bond well, after our father had died just two weeks prior to leaving. The trip had been planned and paid for about a year in advance. Getting the three of us to commit was major. After Dad's death, we seemed driven to continue with our plans. So under the watch of a full moon, we talked and reminisced and figured things out around dinner and a campfire, re-capturing the bonds that genes had tossed together and left with renewed affection that goes beyond kinship.
Blueberries were prolific around the cabin and lake, so Amy and I gathered bowls full for blueberry pancakes and cobblers.
Limits of two fish per day per person were caught and cleaned, then grilled for our evening dinner, along with canned vegetables - not exactly gourmet.
We were told to take the fish guts out to a rocky point, where not just one, but three bald eagles landed daily and partook of the feast we offered. Later, they began to fly in each morning to stand sentinel in a tall pine, watching and waiting for a handout. Steve and I also saw a carribou cow swimming across the lake twice. During the dimming of the day, we took our boats to the middle of the lake and watched the sun set, then 180 degrees over, the glowing yellow moon rise and be reflected in the water.
We saw no bears, but saw evidence, through their scat, that they enjoyed blueberries, too.

Fillet fish. Wall-eye and pike are full of bones; pike are slimy. Cleaning them is not for the squeamish, so I volunteered to cook. I tossed out this contribution to the task at hand, that if you are going to grill fish, there is no need to scale the skin.
Melted butter
Salt and pepper
fresh thyme - yeah, go run out and get that when you're camping!
Preheat grill, and oil the grates with a paper towel swabbed in vegetable oil
Lay fish fillets, skin side down, on the grill. Spoon melted butter over, sprinkle with lemon juice, then salt and pepper to taste.
Close the grill cover, and cook for at least five minutes or more, until fish flakes when poked with a fork.
Eat immediately.

Saturday, August 15, 2009


JULIA CHILD is one of my heroes.
So on her birthday today, I'm adding my two-cups worth of butter to her tributes.
I was privileged to not only meet her, but to interact and have conversations with her on four occasions. The last time, as I approached her, she greeted me by name. I was thrilled!
She was in her 80s by the time I met her, and was a bit stooped. But, she loved my height - she also had measured 6 feet 2 inches at one time. Tall women have big feet. Shoes are a problem. So, the first time we met, we had an exchange about where we find shoes. The second time we met, she asked where I found mine, as she did on the third occasion. I later read that when she and her sister were teens, they decided if there was ever a house fire, they'd first throw their shoes out the window before they leapt!
The above photo was taken along with Anne Willan, who owned LaVarenne, the famed cooking school that was in Paris, then later Burgundy, where I was lucky to go one week more than a decade ago. We were at a food writer's conference at The Greenbrier. I had brought a stack of my Julia books for her to sign. When she saw they were all stained and dog-eared, she cooed, "oooh, they've been used! That's a good sign."
I loved watching her sit in front of me at this conference, nodding off while listening to a panel discussion. But then, all of a sudden, she'd pop her head up, raise her hand, wait to be called upon, and ask a question.....most times, to learn something new, not add her two-cents worth. At the time, I was astonished. After all, she was such an icon, and her she was, still learning and asking questions as an 80-something year old. I wanna be like that when I grow up!
And here's another little gem about Julia. I accompanied her to the ladies room once. When she emerged from her stall, she took a look at the counter of sinks. "Women are just so messy," she said. And with that, she grabbed several paper towels and proceeded to wipe down the entire countertop, not stopping until it was dry and gleaming. I was humbled, and to this day, never leave a mess in the restroom!
Another time, she gave a cooking demo. Cooking chickens three ways, she roasted one at a very high temp, like Harold McGee had written about. That bird was called "Harooooold." Another was roasted as she writes about in one of her cookbooks, lathered with butter and stuffed with herbs. That one she called "Julia." The third way was cooked on top of the stove, like "Grandme-mere," she called that bird.
She almost did "it." You know, the famous Saturday Night Goof. She almost dropped the chicken on the floor. "OOOOOPs! " She cooed. We were rolling with laughter. "You know, I never did that. But it has been fun," she said, pointing a wooden spoon our way.
When she pulled "Grandme-mere" from the pot on top of the stove, it stuck on the bottom. That scarred breast was set up right on the serving platter. "It looks rather ugly," she tisked. But then she didn't miss a beat. While waving that spoon at us again, she looked straight out at us all, and said, "Never, ever admit a mistake. That's what parsley's for!" and with that, she picked up a bunch of the green stuff and stuck on top of the bird.

My friend Della Basnight shares August 15th as her birthday, too. So does Princess Anne. When Della told that to Julia at a food/wine meeting, Julia replied, "And do we like her?" Della assured her that when the Princess was in Manteo for the 400th anniversary, she was a delight.
Tonight, I'm roasting some chickens in honor of my hero. My youngest daughter has just returned from a trip to Europe, where she hit six museums in Paris in three days. Hats off to her! And, the nicest woman in Strasbourg helped her late at night when she was lost, getting her husband and baby from bed to give her a ride to another section of the city where their hotel really was.
Julia Child was in her mid to late 50s when her first cookbook was published. So am I.
Julia loved her life, loved exploring food, and loved her husband, Paul. Ditto for me.
Julia kept learning. She kept going when age slowed her down. She had a great sense of humor. I'm working on all of those, especially laughing more. HA!
Go see JULIE & JULIA. I loved it. Meryl Streep "got" her. Amy Adams is great in anything she does. We were all laughing, and I heard sniffles, too. When the movie ended, the audience bust into applause. It just made me so damned hungry!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


There's nothing like traveling over 70 miles of highway, mostly surrounded by high sand dunes, live oaks and red cedars, to feel like you're going to the end of the earth. As we left the bustle of Duck, Kill Devil Hills, and Nags Head, through the Pea Island reserve, past the Bodie Island lighthouse, my pulse was slowing and a smile was showing. After a few pleasant hours signing my book, THE OUTER BANKS COOKBOOK, and a live broadcast with Moose on the local radio station at Waves, off we went to a favorite respite in Hatteras, right on the marina dock. I like working vacations like this.
The charter boat business has been slower than usual, but some folks are still enjoying a fishing foray to the Gulf Stream, what captains call "The Yellow Brick Road" for the amber sargassum that floats en masse, providing a nice shelter for wahoo and dolphinfish, this weekend's Catch of the Day. Mahi Mahi, Hawaiian for "strong-strong," is the more commercial name for dolphinfish so that it won't be confused with Flipper.

Friday, I gave a cooking demonstration at the Duck town park, using mahi mahi in three recipes from my first publication, THE OUTER BANKS COOKBOOK. We grilled filets and served them with a pineapple salsa. We deep-fried some nuggets, according to a recipe shared with me by Capt Ernie Foster of the Albatross fleet in Hatteras. Then I sauteed some nice chunks in soy sauce, honey and fresh ginger and garlic. All three ways were quite tasty, my audience agreed.
Mahi mahi is a sweet fish. Before it's cleaned, it looks as though it has run into a wall, with a very snubbed nose. Gorgeous rainbow colors glisten along its spine, and those colors change from purple and green in the water to yellow and blue while on the dock.
We found Capt Ernie in his porch swing at his charter house on the dock, reading , as homework, the latest from author Jared Diamond. Ernie had gone to Vancouver to represent the local fishermen and to learn about Canada's ways to regulate the fishing industry. He wasn't too happy with where he sees US and state government regulations headed.
It's more imperative than ever for us, as consumers, to eat local, and buy local. Ask your fishmonger if the fish and shrimp were gathered in waters at least near our state's coast, NOT imported from Asia. Eat at restaurants who still care that the fish they serve is from local waters, caught by local fishermen on day boats, like Basnight's Lone Cedar on the Nags Head Causeway, or Cafe Atlantic or Pony Island on Ocracoke. You can taste the difference in freshness, and eating locally helps the local economy, not some foreign conglomerate.

Try the recipe below. If you buy the fillets already cleaned, it's FAST FOOD, served over orzo or rice.

SWEET GINGER AND SOY GLAZED DOLPHINFISH, from THE OUTER BANKS COOKBOOK: Recipes & Traditions from NC's Barrier Islands, 2008, ThreeForks, an imprint of Globe Pequot Press.

1/4 cup soy sauce
juice and zest from 2 limes (about 3 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 teaspoon cayenne powder
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
1-inch cube of fresh gingerroot, minced (about 2 tablepsoons)
1 tablespoon minced garlic
four 4 to 6 ounce dolphinfish filets, skinned (or grouper, wahoo, or tilapia)

1. In a small bowl, mix together the soy sauce, lime juice and zest, honey and cayenne.
2. In a large saute pan, heat both oils. When hot, add ginger and garlic, stirring constantly so garlic doesn't burn, for just one minute. Stir in soy sauce mixture and bring to a boil.
3. Carefully add fish filets, skinned-side down, and cover the pan. Cook for abut 4 minutes.
4. Turn the filets over, and cook for an additional 2 to 5 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish.
5. To serve, place fish on plate over rice or orzo. Drizzle with the sauce, and serve immediately.
Serves four.

Sunday, July 12, 2009


Isn't that one of the most beautiful things you've ever seen? A quart of pure, unadulterated, snow white lard, an amazing gift from a gifted baker.
Blasphemous to my quest for healthy living?
I think not. An indulgence, for sure. Lard, however, contains much less cholesterol than butter. Doesn't exactly make it good for you, though, does it? What fat does? As Julia Child said, "moderation." I eat fried chicken maybe twice a year, so big deal.
The big deal with this lard, however,was from whence it came. Fat from a whole pig was rendered low and slow - over two hours - in a baker's huge, outdoor brick bread oven. The pig had spent many happy hours foraging in an open pasture setting, NOT stuffed and fed grain inside a vastly crowded barn. Pasture-raised pigs tend to sport more fat, due in part from their breed and partly from their diet. Thus, there was an abundance of fat for the baker to deal with after he had slow roasted a very succulent loin of pork.
This generous man had prepared jars of this beautifully rendered lard and sold a few at the market, only to be given "cease and desist" orders from the Food Police since he did not have the proper permits for dealing with animals, only baked goods.
So when I visited during the annual Appalachian Sustainable Agricultural Project's farm tour, he confessed to baking more than bread. After I waxed poetic about flaky pie crusts and lard, he went inside and retrieved the above jar of beautiful lard, and with a wink, gallantly offered it to me. What a gift and an honor.
"Try frying chicken," he said. "It'll be the best you ever had."
So out came my grandmother's cast iron skillet and two plump chickens which I, raised right as a Southern girl, actually remembered how to cut up into frying pieces. I melted the lard, shook the chicken pieces in seasoned flour, and fried away, just like my grandmother had done. A huge after effect was all the grease splatters. I'm still cleaning.
But my Fourth of July chicken was the best ever. Crisp and succulent. My father gave it his blessing.
Now I can't wait to make a pie crust.

Okay, so it's not the real name of this half and half veggie, but I can't remember.
But its taste was quite memorable.
Thinly sliced, then sauteed in olive oil until just tender, seasoned with salt and pepper and a sprinkling of fresh thyme and oregano, it was delicious.
Summer squash qualifies, in my book, as FAST FOOD. Quickly slice or chop, then slowly saute. Or, split in halves or quarters and heat over a grill until just tender, which takes less than five minutes. It's amenable to onions, garlic and strong herbs, or just fine with a sprinkling of salt and pepper.
Easy and fast. And, available at your local farmers market. These were purchased Saturday morning at the North Hills Farmers Market. Maybe it was the bluegrass band playing in the square that the squash responded to.

Friday, June 19, 2009


Including my father, and my husband, and my father-in-law.......They may be old goats but they are fine examples of loving, supportive men, and FATHERS. And so for FATHER'S DAY, here are some great ways to use goat cheese, or chevre. (And forgive my hiatus from this blog. My father is now, sadly, under Hospice care.)

Easy: HERBED CHEVRE as a dip for French Breakfast radishes, chilled cucumber slices, pita chips

As a topping for CLAM FRITTERS:
This is an old-time recipe from the Outer Banks. These fritters are more like pancakes, rather than like tubular hushpuppies. My friend Della Basnight, from Manteo, tells me she loved them served with applesauce. They'd be great with a dollop of sour cream or creme fraiche plopped on top. However, I'm lactose-intolerant, so I use herbed chevre. And it's marvelous. These make great appetizers to pass around, perhaps with some chilled Prosecco?
Making these is not rocket science. You basically want to blend in just enough flour until you've got a pancake batter-like consistency.
2 cups chopped clams (about 1 pint, or two small cans)
1 egg, beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
about 1/2 cup flour
about 1/4 cup canola or corn oil
1. Drain clams and reserve the juice. (If you have to chop the clams, use a blender.)
2. In a medium bowl, stir together the egg, salt and pepper. Add as much flour as needed top hold the mixture together. If needed, reserved clam juice can also thing the batter. Stir in clams.
3> Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large frying pan (cast iron works great). When hot, drop batter by large spoonfuls to form 2- to 3-inch circles.
4. Flip fritters as soon as bottom side begins to turn a golden color, and brown on the other side.
5. Serve immediately, with a dollop of softened butter, cream cheese, creme fraiche or herbed chevre.
YIELD: 6 appetizers, or about 18 fritters
From THE OUTER BANKS COOKBOOK: Recipes & Traditions from NC's Barrier Islands, by Elizabeth Wiegand, 2008, Globe Pequot Press
Another way to use Chevre....as a topping for FRIED GREEN TOMATOES
Two baseball-sized, hard green tomatoes had my name on them at the Farmers Market last week.
So here's what you do for FRIED GREEN TOMATOES (again, not rocket science):
Slice the tomatoes, thick.
Beat an egg in a small dish.
Pour some cornmeal into another dish.
Heat some canola oil in a skillet.
When it's hot, dip the tomato slices into the beaten egg, then coat each side by pressing into the cornmeal.
Fry for about 2 minutes or until golden brown, then flip and repeat. Season with salt and pepper.
Serve the FRIED GREEN TOMATOES on top of lightly dressed greens. Place a dollop of chevre on top of each slice.
Enjoy this Southern comfort!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


KOMATSUNA, also known as Japanese spinach, is just one of the more interesting veggies you'll find at farmers markets this spring.  Greens are an easy grow and a good sell for NC farmers, and jump start the hearts of veggie lovers like myself.
Komatsuna is one of the many Asian greens and vegetables grown by Haruka and Jason Oatis, on their Edible Earthscape Farm in Moncure, in Chatham County.  Before coming to North Carolina, they farmed in Japan and now use many of the techniques learned there on their sustainable farm.  Bamboo provides poles for vines and water conveyors.  They use a "chicken tractor." 
 At the bustling North Hills farmers market last Saturday, Haruka was demonstrating how to lightly saute the coarsely chopped green with shiitakes and garlic, like you can do with Swiss chard and other greens.
Beets, turnips, arugula, mizune, fresh eggs, honey, chevre from Celebrity Dairy in Siler City, and even fish from Southport, were available.  And strawberries!!  Babies were out in strollers and toddlers danced to the live blue grass band playing on the grassy quad.  The fellow selling roses had a long line....it was the day before Mother's Day, after all.
My message to you?  Get thee to a farmers market on Saturday morning.  Take small bills and some change.  Carry your own tote sacks.  Put an ice chest in the trunk for your purchases.  It's one of the most enjoyable things to do on a weekend, AND, you will contribute to the local economy, by buying LOCAL.  Keep your food dollars in the neighborhood, and chat with the grower.  It makes a difference when you put faces on the food you eat.  

STRAWBERRY ALERT!   A market vendor told me today that strawberries will have an extremely short season this year because of all the rain.  So buy now!  I hope she's wrong.  I love strawberries, and have yet to make jam or freeze some. 

I bought a bunch of beautiful, red-stemmed Swiss chard that just begged for a light saute.  It was a perfect foil for the very mild grouper we grilled.  The shiitakes came from the SPAIN FARM in Raleigh.  

bunch of greens - Swiss chard, Komatsuna, red kale or other milder greens
3 to 5 shiitake mushrooms
2 or 3 bulbs of spring onions, thinly sliced
2 or 3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

1.  Wash greens and spin or pat dry.  Cut off stiff ends.  Coarsely chop the leaves.
2.  Gently clean the shiitakes with a damp towel, cut off the stem, esp. if it's rather tough.  Then thinly slice the mushrooms.
3.  Heat olive oil over medium high heat, then add mushrooms.  Stir and saute until almost tender, about 3 to 5 minutes.  Add onions, stir and saute for another minute or so.  Then add garlic and stir.
4.  Add greens, and gently fold the greens with the mushrooms, onions and garlic.  Continue to saute for just a minute or two more, or until the greens are wilted yet still a bit crisp-tender.
5.  Take off heat, and add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve immediately.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


A few ideas for the month of May....
From Slow Food Asheville - Take a walk on the wild side, then feast!

Wildflower Walk at Max Patch

Sunday, May 17, 2009 
Hike starts at 2:00

Join us for a great time on this one-hour hike through beautiful Max Patch bald as we look at beautiful and unusual wildflowers. We’ll start out at Kanati Lodge B&B (see directions below). Your host for this hike is David and Jeanne Kendall and the hike will be led by Renee Fortner. Renee is the Assistant Supervisor of Landscaping at Warren Wilson College. In her spare time, Renee hikes the mountains around Asheville with a plant ID book in hand. It was a previous job at the Botanical Gardens in Asheville that sparked her interest in all plants native to North Carolina...yes even poison ivy (birds love the berries)!

Bring food to share (see what is local) and together we’ll have a pot-latch for after the hike! This hike benefits our School Garden Program (See the announcement in the newsletter or on our website) and we are asking for a $10 per person donation! (kids free!!!)

Here's the link, if you'd like to join them.  Also read about the great food projects they have!

I have always gotten such a kick out of Mother's Day, from the time our three were wee mess makers in the kitchen, to now, when they are good cooks and bigger mess makers.
Chocolate always scores, in my book.
So does breakfast in bed.
With coffee first, of course.
Here's a good idea for MOTHER'S DAY PRESENT.....and a luscious North Carolina product:
french broad chocolates liquid truffleartisan chocolates & pastries handcrafted with love in asheville, nc
french broad chocolates liquid truffle

Happy Mothers Day! To get our chocolates to your mamas, where they belongorder online by May 5 for a timely delivery.  htpp://www.frenchbroadchocolates.com

GATHER YE CHILDREN AROUND MOM IN BED . . . Mother's Day Recipes......Crabmeat Omelet, a favorite recipe of this mom's, from THE OUTER BANKS COOKBOOK:  Recipe & Traditions from NC's Barrier Islands. .  Add sliced fresh, local sliced strawberries to the plate, and I guarantee Mom will be happy!

4 tablespoons butter, divided;  1/3 pound crabmeat (about 1 cup);  sprinkle of Old Bay seasoning;  1 tablespoon chopped chives;  4 eggs;  salt and pepper to taste

In a saute pan, melt 2 tablespoons butter.  Add crabmeat and sprinkle with Old Bay and chives.  Gently stir crabmeat until heated through, then place in a small bowl.  In another small bowl, beat eggs together with a fork until creamy and frothy.  Melt remaining butter in the same saute pan over medium high heat, and swirl to coat the bottom and sides of pan.  Add eggs, and season with salt and pepper to taste.  When mixture has become slightly cooked on the bottom, tilt pan and allow the moist eggs to run beneath the cooked eggs, or if you are skilled, flip the omelet over. Add crabmeat to the center, and fold over the two edges.  Remove immediately.  Divide omelet half, and slide onto warmed plates.  Sprinkle with more Old Bay if desired.  Two servings

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


Marinated Margarita Shrimp with Asparagus & Roasted Red Peppers over Cheese Grits Cakes aboard Lagniappe on the Chesapeake

Springtime beckons even the grouchiest of us to get outside and play.  Tent camping, backpacking, biking and picnics at the park are among my favorite activities.  And last weekend, sailing on the Chesapeake was an offer we couldn't refuse, since we don't have a sailboat ourselves.  But we're both willing and not entirely clueless crew.
And I enjoy the challenge of packing portable feasts.  So from my freezer I pulled frozen peaches from the NC State Farmers Market, Dan Finch's blueberries, and the homemade granola I've shared with you.  That was a terrific breakfast, along with coffee, overlooking a gunkhole in the West River below Annapolis.
For one dinner, I packed two pounds of NC green-tailed shrimp from my freezer.  Before leaving home, I made the cheese grits cakes and pre-cooked the asparagus and red pepper.  That makes on-board cooking - or at camp or picnic table grill - a lot easier and less messy.  About half an hour before grilling, I added the pre-made Margarita marinade to the zippered bag.  We heated up the grits, asparagus and peppers in foil packets on the grill, then wrapped them in some kitchen towels to keep them warm, and then grilled the shrimp.
All that was left was to open a bottle - or two - of a very nice pinot noir.  We weren't driving, or dragging anchor, for that matter!

2 pounds large shrimp, peeled
1/4 cup tequila
2 tablespoons lemon or lime juice
zest of one lemon or lime
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon salt
ground pepper to taste
2 tablespoons olive or canola oil
Mix all ingredients together in a small jar.  Shake.  Refrigerate if not using right away.

Place about 1 pound asparagus in a saute pan.  Cover with cold water.  Place over medium high heat.  As soon as the water comes to a boil, drain the asparagus, and plunge into a ice water bath to stop the cooking and seal the bright, green color.  When cool, drain and pat dry.

Place 1 or 2 red bell peppers on a baking sheet covered with foil.  Put under a pre-heated broiler, turning until all sides are blackened.  Remove from oven, and gather the foil up to cover the peppers.  Allow to cool.  Peel blackened skin away, and remove stem and seeds.  Slice into thin slivers.

ADDITIONAL ACCOMPANIMENT:  2 to 4 tablespoons grated Parmesan/Asiago cheese

2 cups water
1 cup milk (or you may skip milk and use a total of 3 cups water)
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup stone-ground grits (yellow or white)
3 eggs
1 cup grated cheese (Parmesan or Asiago or combo)
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a shallow 10 x 15 in. baking pan with foil, then lightly spray with oil/nonstick spray.
Bring water and milk to a boil in a large saucepan.  Toss in the salt.  While stirring constantly, whisk in the grits, slowly, in a steady stream.  Lower heat to a simmer and stir occasionally.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, beat eggs, then add cheese and cayenne pepper.
When grits are thick and most of the water absorbed (about 10 to 15 minutes), add a spoonful or two of grits to egg mixture and stir.  Then add egg mixture to the grits in the pan, and stir until cheese is melted.
Pour mixture into prepared pan, and spread to about an inch thickness.  
Bake for about 20 to 30 minutes, or until semi-firm to the touch.
Cool, then refrigerate for at least one hour.  You may cut out rounds, or other shapes.

Place the marinated shrimp on skewers.  Heat all ingredients, and grill the shrimp for about five minutes, or until pink and firm.
Use the grits cake as the bottom layer.  Arrange asparagus over the grits cake, then red pepper slices.  Sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese.  Place shrimp skewers over top.  Enjoy!

Recipes adapted from THE OUTER BANKS COOKBOOK:  Recipes & Traditions from NC's Barrier Islands by Elizabeth Wiegand, Globe Pequot Press, 2008.  Available at major bookstores and online.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Chef Bill Greene, of Artisanal in Boone, confers with his sous chef 

Iron Chef, watch out.  North Carolina has the best chef competition going, held the last few springs in Blowing Rock, but coming to the rest of the state next year.
FIRE ON THE ROCK is the culmination of 16 chefs from the High Country competing during the month of March for one of 8 coveted spots in the final heats. The RULES?  They could bring $100 worth of food in their bag of tricks.  Each heat provided a secret ingredient that must be used in each of the three dishes they would prepare in 50 minutes.  Baskets full of NC veggies - peppers, apples, onions, mushrooms, sweet potatoes, red and yellow potatoes and heirloom tomatoes grown in a hot house were also available for the chefs to use.
Honey, leafy greens, corn and corn products, and striped bass were the secret ingredients from NC in the four elimination rounds held on Sat.
The audience watched, smelled and cheered, while a lucky 5 purchased a spot at the Chef's Table to dine on each of the 3 dishes both chefs created during their heat.  Judges also tasted and ranked each dish.

So we in the audience salivated as each dish was presented.
Yucca-encrusted striped bass, then presented in the next dish in a tortilla with avocado, mango and chipotle salsa, then a ceviche with heart of palm, caper and grapefruit were presented by the only female chef, Marietta DeBriere, chef of the Blowing Rock Country Club and a native of Puerto Rico who definitely cooks with a Latin flare.
Chef Chuck Nelson of The Table at Crestwood used duck fat to saute the striped bass.  He also wrapped a filet around julienned red and yellow peppers sprinkled with balsamic vinegar, tying the bundle with a long green chive.  another dish stacked the fish with heirloom tomato, a sweet potato slice roasted with balsamic vinegar, with fried wantons on top.  
Bill Greene of Artisanal blanched, then gave native NC ramps a cold water bath, which he sprinkled over roasted corn chowder; another used sweet corn and habanero sauce with pork. HIs challenger, James Welch of Crippens, did a rosemary cheesy polenta, also a corn succotash with pork.
The next heat had Michael Barbato of Chetola's Manor House and Guy Branaman tossing leafy collards, kale and cabbage with apples, onions, bacon, peppers and shitakes to serve with NC pork or chicken.
The surprise ingredient for the last heat was honey.  Chayote squash, julienned leeks, carrots and parsnips, diced heirlom tomatoes, as well as the honey, were used with honey pecan glazed chicken, and a steak.  Both chose to do sweets - a honey blueberry cobbler with a honey creme anglaise, and a blackberry honey gastric served over chicken.  One judge, restaurant reviewer John Batchelor, exclaimed, "You need to count how many toes are curling!"
Each heat had a declared winner.  But competitors for the final heat, held on Sunday, were determined by the total number of points given each chef by the judges.  

Celebrity chef Carla Hall Lyons of Alchemy Caterers in Washington, DC, the People's Choice winner and self-proclaimed "'Al Gore' Iron Chef," joined the Judges Table for the final THROW DOWN between Bill Greene of Artisanal, and Dominic  Geraghty of The Hounds' Ear Club. 
The secret ingredient?  Carolina Blue Crab.  The first of the season, alive and fiesty.
Tossed into boiling water, it was a scramble to clean enough crabs and then cook, within 50 minutes.  
Chicken thighs were wrapped around crabmeat by Dominic.  He prepared a crab bisque with a basil chiffonade.  "Fireworks" coleslaw with a little "zip and a zap" formed a bed for more crabmeat.
Meanwhile, Bill Green served thinly sliced Kobe beef with crab and a homemade hollandaise sauce with asparagus.  A Kobe Oscar?  Then a Napoleon stack of veggies and crab,  and finally, a gazpacho  with mache and crab.

Unbelievably, it was a tie.  Both chefs received 255 points.  The other chefs were only separated by 7 points.
Close?  You bet. 
What was amazing to this Carolina Foodie was watching the chefs think on their feet, using ingredients they had on hand, to present such beautiful and amazing dishes in such a short time.
Next time, I'm buying a seat at the Chef's Table.