Wednesday, February 25, 2009


THE FAT GUY challenged me and other foodies in his latest eGullet newsletter,, to go shopping in my pantry.
I would not dare show a photo of my pantry.  It's loaded, therefore messy.  We could eat for weeks off the dried pasta, cereal, cans of veggies and tuna, the odd assortment of jams bought around the world, all the flavored honey from Bee Blessed.  And the dogs have their stash, too.
But lately, I haven't been able to freeze extra chili or gumbo, because freezer space is gone.  Thanks to Dan and Amy, we've got loads of blueberries and pecans from their Finch Nursery and farm in Bailey.  Pounds of greentail shrimp fresh-frozen at our coast.  Some meats from local farmers.  And peaches and more peaches I froze during their season.  
So I have to ask myself, what am I waiting for?  We are in the dead of winter, with spring weeks away.  Time to really lay into those luscious peaches and blueberries - not just the polite foraging I've been doing, to make them last longer.
So, when the Fat Guy laid out his challenge, this Carolina Foodie said, bring it on.

I'll go one-up on the Fat Guy.  I can do local, too.
I've got a hard cheese, called DEGAS, from Sleepy Goat Cheese in Pelham, NC, left from my last visit to the Wake Forest farmers market.  I'll toast some of the Finch Nursery pecans, and that's my appetizer.
Those pork chops came from Triple B Farms north of Oxford, sold at the Wake Forest Farmers Market.  I'll use an onion I have in cold storage that I bought at the State Farmers Market to saute with the chops, and bake a few sweet potatoes from Dan and Amy.  (I think I should invite them to dinner, don't you?)
Then for dessert, how about a blueberry & peach cobbler, with ice cream? (See recipe below)

Veggies & they always have to be local?
I'm trying to be a good steward of the earth.  We buy local, albeit most times, when it is convenient.  I'm thinking of joining a CSA for this summer's harvest, but am concerned about how much I will be away from home, researching a new book.
This week, a big treat has been these big, juicy navel oranges bought at Costco.  I know they traveled all the way from California, but for goodness sakes, we can't grow oranges here.  And the big bag of firm yet juicy Bosc pears came all the way from Oregon.  But I did not find any pears at any NC markets this fall, and the laborers swiped all from my grandmother's tree on the farm.
So how do we balance the need for being good food stewards, with our tasteful desires and good nutrition?   I feel I'm better off eating a navel orange for my afternoon snack than I am a bag of potato chips.  So why do I feel guilty?  Lemme know your thoughts.

RECIPE - BLUEBERRY & PEACH COBBLER, adapted from THE OUTER BANKS COOKBOOK, by Elizabeth Wiegand, 2008, Globe Pequot Press.  Copyrighted.
During baking, this cobbler does a flip-flop; the fruit and juice go to the bottom and a cake-like layer forms on top.

For the Batter:
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup sifted all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk

For the Fruit Topping:
1 1/2 cup blueberries
2 cups sliced peaches
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup fruit juice (OJ will do, but also try peach or apricot nectar)

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2.  Spray or lightly butter one 10x5x3 inch loaf pan
3.  Sift flour, baking powder, and salt in alternately with milk, and mix just until smooth.  Pour batter into prepared pan.
4.  Place fruit over batter, and sprinkle with the 1/3 cup sugar.  Pour fruit juice over top.
5. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until to is browned.
Serves 6

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Carolina Foodie Goes Sailing

Okay, so I'm ruin't.  Last week I went even further south, to the British Virgin Islands, a favorite stomping ground where we can sail our chartered boat from island to island each night. 
I know it's not Carolina, even though we always meet somebody from our state.  May I share our culinary delights?  

Flying Fish sandwiches, crisply fried red snapper, grilled grouper, and spicy ribs were such treats the nights we went onshore.   But the absolute best were the hot, steaming spiny lobsters plucked from their cage right off the dock and served with lemon butter at Abe's, a simple little waterside place on Jost van Dyke.
We were told once by a prissy New Yorker that lobsters mate for life and walk hand in hand across the ocean floor.  My husband replied "that why you eat them in twos."  He's spent many hours searching for them among the rocks and coral heads, but has yet to pluck one from its hiding place. 
Saba Rock, above (photo snapped while on a hike over the island), is in the North Sound of Virgin Gorda, and serves THE best conch fritters and Painkillers.  Their fritters taste much like our hushpuppies, just with tiny chunks of conch, and usually served with a spicy aioli-type sauce.

I can really get into Happy Hour, when drinks are two for the price of one.  One of the BVI's specialities is a Painkiller, designed to either ease your pain or cause a great deal of it.
Try the recipe below.  They're deliciously addictive, so watch out!  And the freshly grated nutmeg is what really makes it.

1 ounce cream of coconut, like CocoLopez
1 ounce orange juice
3 ounces pineapple juice  (or use 4 oz of pineapple-orange juice)
2 ounces dark Rum
freshly grated nutmeg

Shake all ingredients together, and pour over ice. Grate nutmeg over the top.  Enjoy!!!

Friday, February 6, 2009


"Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly."  M.F.K.Fisher
VALENTINE'S DAY is all about the romance.  Chocolates, red wine, lace. . . That said, I've found the best way to my man's heart is through his stomach.  Seduction occurs in our kitchen, lingers over a naughtily good meal, finished with - okay, I admit - chocolate, red wine and lace.
Some of the very worst dinners we've had out have been on Valentine's Day.  Restaurants are so overwhelmed on this night, that service is always poor; waits occur, even with reservations; and the food, we found, is not up to the usual quality.
A romantic dinner at home need not be a hassle.  Toss together a salad, grill some steaks, and indulge in a store-bought chocolate confection.  What counts is that you spend time - quality time - with the one you love.  
One Valentine, my folks dropped by at the last minute, so for our romantic dinner we had four adults and three cranky kids, who had been deprived of their naps so they'd go to bed early.  At least I was able to light the candles.

SUGGESTED MENU   A short tour of the state, or grocery store, can net you some very fine, celebratory foods for a really special dinner for two.  
- Sunburst Trout, at the base of Cold Mountain, near Candor, NC, produces excellent caviar that is being used in finer restaurants across the country. Even Jacques Pepin loved it.  
- I still have a few beets in cold storage from Raleigh's Farmers Market.  We've got a stash of fresh pecans in the freezer from my sister and her husband's farm in Bailey.  
- And now's the time when goats are having their kids, so local, fresh chevre is not generally available.  But you can still find logs at your local cheese counters.  
- Recipes for starred items (*) can be found in THE OUTER BANKS COOKBOOK.  

Sunburst Trout Caviar, Chevre & Toast Points

Salad of Roasted Red Beets, Toasted Pecans*, and Chevre
sparkling water

Wasabi-Mine Valentine Tuna Steaks*
medley of roasted red & yellow peppers with fingerling potatoes
Pinot Noir

Chocolate Pecan Pie*

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP is a favorite on a cold winter's day.  It conjures up days sailing in and around Grenada, where we fell in love with their local gastronomic treat, Pumpkin Soup.  Fresh nutmeg from this "spice island" was always grated over the top, right before serving.  That aroma sends me images of tropical beaches, trade winds and swimsuits and warms my soul. 
Turns out their "pumpkin" is more like the butternut, which is available locally. 
Kept in a cold spot, but not the fridge, butternut squash will keep from its late fall harvest through most of the winter.  It's easy to roast, just by halving and seeding, or even to peel and saute in a bit of oil, then adding a bit of water, simmering until it's soft enough for using in recipes.  Added to risotto, it makes for such a rich dish full of flavors.  
But our favorite is SOUP. I like to roast the squash, because it seems to be sweeter and have a more intense flavor.
My family is fairly lactose intolerant, so we do not add cream or milk to the recipe below, making it a very healthy, low-cal dish.  However, for those of you who can tolerate both the dairy and the extra calories, you could add at least one cup of cream or milk.  
Just make sure you grate some fresh nutmeg over the top before serving.  One whiff can send me all the way back to Grenada.  
Serves 6 as a first course, or 4 for lunch
1 medium butternut squash
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium to large onion, quartered
2 cloves garlic, peeled
about 1 quart or more of chicken broth or tock, or vegetable stock, or water
optional: 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, minced fine, or 1 teaspoon ground, dried ginger
salt and pepper to taste
Garnish Options: dollops of soft cheese or chevre; swirl of cranberry oil; chopped 
pistachios or walnuts; or plain or herbed croutons

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil.
2. Slice butternut squash in half. Using a spoon, scoop out seeds. Rub olive oil 
over the cut surfaces, then place squash cut-side down on the foil.
3. In a small square of aluminum foil, place onion and garlic. Seal, and place 
beside the squash on the baking sheet.
4.  Bake until the squash is very tender, about 45 minutes to an hour.
5.  Peel skin from the flesh of the squash, which should come off easily, or else 
scoop flesh with a spoon.  Place squash in the bowl of a food processor.  (Or use a potato masher and chop onions and garlic).  Add onions and garlic, and process until a smooth puree.  Add chicken stock a bit at a time while machine is running, until you have the desired soup consistency.  Be careful, however, not to overfill machine, as it may ooze!
6.  Place puree and broth in a large saucepan or smaller stock pot.  eat, over medium to low heat, and simmer until mixture has thickened slightly, about 10 minutes.  Taste and add seasonings, including ginger, as desired.
7.  Serve in large soup bowls, and add preferred garnish to the center, or serve plain.