Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Cold weather makes my mouth water for OYSTERS.  
Yeah, we all know the old rule about only eat oysters during the "R" months.  That's because the water is cold enough that they're done spawning, thus done with being "milky,"and now sport a clean, intense flavor.
You'll find local oysters from the waters of NC esp. along the Outer Banks, near Wanchese, Stumpy Point, Crab Slough and other points in the Pamlico Sound.  They're making a bit of a comeback in NC, due to efforts at restoration and cleaning up pollutants.
Buy them by the bag full and steam or roast them yourself.  Need instructions?  Check out THE OUTER BANKS COOKBOOK, where I tell you how.
Or try them lightly fried - one of my fav's - at Basnight's Lone Cedar on the causeway between Manteo and Nags Head.  They'll also steam them.  
My favorite Oyster Bar is Sunny Side, in Williamston, off HWYs 13 & 17, just off HWY 64, on the way to the Outer Banks.  It's in an old building that doesn't look like much.  You enter into the main bar area, where you can belly up and order a cold brew while listening to live bands on weekend nights, and while you're waiting for your coveted stool in the BACK room, where the U-shaped oyster bar is.  Look over into the middle, where the half dozen black shuckers continue to work as they have for dozens of years, and you'll find cedar shavings on the floor.  Ordered by the bucketfuls, the oysters are steamed out back, dumped in the trough in front of you, and opened by your own personal shucker, as fast as you can slurp 'em down.  Bowls of hot sauce and hot butter are there for the dipping, too. 
Those shuckers are full of stories.  Just get them to talking, and you'll have a belly full and a good time.  They'll even sign their photos on your placemat.  1102 Washington St., Williamston, www.sunnysideoysterbar.com, (252) 792-3416.

Raleigh and Cary Oyster Bars
The 42nd Street Oyster Bar on the corner of Jones and West Streets in Raleigh has been around since 1931.  Updated, it's a lively place on weekend nights, with a true bar scene and live music.  But you can still sit at the stainless steel bar or nearby counter and enjoy buckets of steamed oysters and a cold beer.  At weekday lunch, you're likely to see politicians or businessmen slurping down oysters while ironing out details that will affect you somehow.  www.42ndstoysterbar.com, (919) 831-2811.
Tony's Bourbon Street Oyster Bar in Cary, at the MacGregor Village shopping center, has a great bar scene as well.  You have to sit at the bar in back to get steamed oysters, where your every need will be taken care of, from a cold brew to melted butter to cocktails sauce and crackers.  Lively music, and a dance floor, makes this a very fun place to seek the bivalve on weekends.  www.tonysbourbonstreet.com, (919) 462-6226.
Got a favorite?  Email me at efwrite@hotmail.com.

edible Piedmont is a new quarterly publication that "celebrates local foods, from the plateau to the coast."  You'll find it, for free right now, at Whole Foods, Southern Things and NOFO, and at some farmers markets and vineyards.  Check out my article about oysters in the Winter issue, with a recipe for Ocracoke Oyster Stew & Grits from my OUTER BANKS COOKBOOK, as well as a primer on roasting oysters.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Local Food Guide cover

The Appalachian Sustainable Agricultural Project (ASAP) is a wonderful organization of farmers, food producers and chefs located in the mountains of North Carolina.  Each year, they publish a LOCAL FOOD GUIDE, which lists farmers markets, farmers and their contact info, restaurants that use local foods, and retailers that stock local products.  You can pick one up for free or go online at www.buyappalachian.org.
Check out their interesting newsletter, e-Connections.


Greens, like collards and kale, onions, sweet potatoes, winter squash, honey, pecans, eggs, goat cheese, sausage and other meats, jellies and jams, breads, pies and cakes, and in the Asheville area, rainbow trout - this is what you'll find at farmers markets here in N.C. during the winter.
Asheville restaurants are to be applauded for their efforts to serve local foods all year round.  Early Girl Eatery has a CSA supplying winter produce, while Tupelo Honey's own chef harvests from his own garden for the restaurant's supplies.  The Market Place, Savoy, Laurey's Catering, and a host of other restaurants join in the local food movements.  Check out ASAP for restaurant suggestions.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Sustainable farms, food that's nutritious, food traditions that are honored, sharing meals and ideals....that's what the organization SLOW FOOD is all about.  Check them out at slowfoodusa.org.

When my candidate, Barack Obama, was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States, a snow storm covered most of North Carolina.  It was quite beautiful in the Triangle area, with branches laden with fluffy white powder.  It was also very cold.  
But what a spectacular day to witness such a welcome change for our country. 
I was prepared for the cold, and prepared to spend hours watching the inaugural activities on TV.  I had stacked wood inside the night before, and started a huge batch of chili in my new cast iron pot that was a Christmas present from the hubby.
Chili is one of the favorite things our new president likes to cook and eat.  Aha!  Great for Inauguration  Day!   I wanted to try a chili with chunks of beef rather than ground beef, and found an inexpensive, lesser cut of steak.
I had to "cure" the pot ahead of time, coating it with vegetable oil, then heating it in a very low oven for several hours.  It's a terrific pot, and can even be used in the fireplace, in case we have no electricity due to snowstorms!
As for the chili, it cooked for a couple of hours before I had to let it sit overnight in the fridge.  Then, because I had added too much chili powder, I needed to add some more beans to cut the "heat."  There was no more room in the pot, so I transferred the chili to a very large crock pot. 
And that worked great.  I was able to nestle by the fire with my sweetie while we watched the festivities, only occasionally jumping up to give the chili a stir.  By the time Obama was sworn in, we were enjoying the celebration of change, and, our chili.  What a grand day!

Make it as spicy as you like.  It needs to simmer for at least four hours to make the beef chunks tender. 
Serve in large bowls with crisp tortilla chips, or cornbread, or toast.  A salad makes a nice accompaniment.
Serves 6 to 8 with hearty appetites.

2 large onions, chopped
1 large red, orange or green bell pepper, chopped
several cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 lbs beef (I used round steaks), cut into bite-sized chunks or cubes
1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil
about 1 cup water
4 cups black beans (2 large cans, or mix 1 with a can of red kidney beans)
2 small (14-oz) cans, or 1 large can, chopped tomatoes
2 1/2 Tablespoons Seasoning Mix:  equal parts dried oregano and ground cumin, and about half (or equal amount if you like it hot!) hot chili powder or flakes (I used about 2 tablespoons of each, but that was really hot!)
lots of freshly ground pepper, and salt, to taste

1.  In a large saute pan, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add onions, and stirring occasionally, cook until they begin to soften.  (You can chop up the meat while this cooks.)  Add bell pepper and stir for about 3 minutes.  Add garlic, and stir for another minute.  Take off heat, and set aside.
2.  n a very large, heavy pot, add canola oil and place over medium high heat.  When oil is hot enough (should spatter when a piece of beef is added), add just enough beef cubes to not even cover the bottom of the pot.  You want to brown each piece, without any touching, on at least two sides.  If crowded the beef will just turn gray and stew, rather than brown, and the aim is to seal the juice in by browning first.  Remove the batch of beef cubes with a slotted spatula or spoon, and place in the same pan as the onion mixture.  Continue with more batches until all the beef cubes have been browned.  It may take six to ten batches.  Be patient.   This is what makes it taste so good.
3.  When all the beef is browned, pour off excess oil and return the pot to the burner.  Deglaze the pot by adding the cup of water, and stir all the browned beef particles off the bottom of the pot.  This will give the chili a great flavor.
4.  Burn heat to  low.  Add the onion mixture and beef to the pot.  Add beans and tomatoes, and stir well.  Add seasonings (be conservative, for you can always add more spice, but it's hard to take it away!).  If the chili seems too thick, add water, a half cup at a time until you have the desired consistency.
5.  Once mixture starts to boil around the edges, lower heat until just a simmer.
6.  Simmer chili for at least 4 hours, stirring occasionally.  You might want to transfer the mixture to a crock pot, as I did.  It's best when the beef cubes are so tender that they almost disintegrate.   You might have to add more water if it gets too thick.  You decide.  Taste for seasonings.  


Monday, January 12, 2009


Striped Bass are in season.  
Stripers, also known as rockfish, head south with the Labrador current, sorta the southbound lane of I-95 for the Atlantic, and  hit the Outer Banks during the colder months of the year.  Except the juveniles, who wanna build up muscle mass before making the trek up north, so they hang out year round, particularly around the bridge pilings at Oregon inlet, which is about as far south, well maybe to Ocracoke, as any of the stripers go.  
And that's because most of them are heading to the Roanoke River, in the NE corner of NC, from whence they came.  Really.  Most return to their birthplace to spawn, or drop off the next generation.  That happens in early spring, creating a fishing frenzy around Roanoke Rapids.
But for now, the stripers are schooling up close enough to the beach to be able to cast to them from the surf, or caught out in the suds of the inlets via boat.  
- That means fresh stripers are in the fish markets
-  Scroll down for a delicious RECIPE from THE OUTER BANKS COOKBOOK:  Recipes & Traditions from NC's Barrier Islands. 

Quick Story.  A group of friends and I were walking the beach at Kill Devil Hills one February afternoon, and happened upon a Fishing Frenzy.  Big old stripers, two feet long, just littered maybe 100 yards of beach.  About 30 fishermen were casting, over and over, into the surf, and hauling in over and over, these 20-something pounders. We overheard one guy say his buddy had called him when he saw the stripers breaking, or schooling, from where he was working on a new roof.  Another fellow came running over the dune with his tie tucked into his shirt and dress pants tucked into his boots. 
I said to one guy who was dropping his fish into his cooler, "This looks exciting."
"Ma'am," he says, a big old grin on his face, "I haven't had this much excitement ever in my life.  Nothing could be better than this."
"Not even sex?"
"Ma'am, that lasts for only a minute.  This has been going on for hours."
My girlfriends and I decided he needs to stick to fishing.

BAKED FISH with PARMESAN CRUST, copyright from THE OUTER BANKS COOKBOOK by Elizabeth Wiegand, Globe Pequot Press, 2009.
This recipe comes from Ruth Toth, the retired teacher/chef of the Cafe Atlantic in Ocracoke.  It's one of the most popular items on her menu.  She prefers to use puppy drum, but happily substitutes whatever firm fleshed fish is in season.
2 cups freshly grated or shredded Parmesan Cheese
1/4 cup melted butter
3/4 cup mayonnaise
3/4 cup chopped green onions
4 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon hot sauce
4 large (4 to 6 ounces) fish filets, preferably puppy drum, flounder, trout or stripers (rockfish)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Place aluminum foil over baking sheet or pan.
Mix all ingredients, except fish, together in a mixing bowl.
Spread cheese mixture  evenly over filets, and place in oven.   Baking time will depend on the thickness of the filets, but will take about 12 minutes for fillets 3/4 inch thick.
YIELD:  4 servings

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Happy New Year

                                                                Asheville's City Market, Aug 08
Okay, so I'm late, as usual.  But here's to a grand New Year, in spite of the economy.  I've resolved to make lemonade out of lemons, by doing a couple of things:
- Eating local. Local food is fresher, therefore tastes better, is healthier, and is better for our earth and local economy.  And I love chatting and sharing with farmers at the markets.  
- Buying into a CSA, a "subscription" for whatever produce a farmer has in season, during the growing season.  I'll tell you of several available in our state later.
- Making more soups and stews, which offer cold comfort during the winter anyway.
- Eating less meat. It's healthier as well as economical.  "High on the hog" doesn't have to give way to pigs' feet, however!
- Reduce, re-use and recycle, not only waste, but leftovers for lunches and soups, bones for stocks, and bread for crumbs, etc. 

 See that spatula with the green tips?  It's the next best thing to sliced bread.
I love it.  Made to withstand temps of up to 500 degrees, you can stir risottos, clean the pot's sides, stir fry, clean out a measuring cup or bowl, so many things.  I don't know how I cooked without it.  About $8 at Target.
And who can do without a sharp pair of kitchen shears?  Opening plastic, cutting string, snipping ends off green beans, they're indispensable.
My chefs knife fits my hands.  It has a good weight and feel about it.  And the hubby keeps it sharpened for me.  I use that for just about everything that needs to be chopped, sliced or pared, even. 
And my poultry shears.  They were a wedding present, that's how old they are!  But they are still sharp as razors, with serrated edges, and I can cut through the backbone of a raw chicken without even gritting my teeth, much less a cooked Cornish game hen.  
Then there's the angled measuring cup, my grandmother's old tin "cup", the serrated bread knife, the serrated tomato knife. . . . . . .
Gotta favorite?  E-mail carolinafoodie@hotmail.com