Friday, March 20, 2009


Today is the Spring Equinox, meaning an equal number of hours in daylight and nighttime.  From now on, the days will be getting longer.  Yea!!!  I love spring. 

And today, there's GOOD news out of Washington.....there's now a vegetable garden on the White House grounds.  So many activists were calling upon the Obamas to please set an example of how to grow good food and eat well.  Michelle Obama got her hands dirty, helping to dig up the thousand square foot plot, along with 5th graders from a DC school who will help plant, then tend to the vegetables, harvest, and cook.  What a marvelous win-win!
There's a similar program in downtown Durham, called SEEDS, where community garden plots can be rented for a nominal fee.  D.I.G. - Durham Inner-city Gardeners - is another SEED program for teens who are paid minimum wage to work a market garden.  They sell their produce at the Durham Farmers Market, and also get to sample and cook.  You can read all about it in upcoming issues of edible Piedmont.  

RADISHES - try this out!
I love tender, young radishes, dipped in sea salt, then in butter, then popped into my mouth!
So I'm planting a packet of seeds this weekend in a pot on my deck, with the hopes that the deer and rabbits won't be able to reach them.

NEW FARMERS MARKET COMING TO NORTH RALEIGH, on Durant Road at the Falls River Town Center, scheduled to open May 2nd. But the first weekend in April, you'll find the 
farmers markets open at North Hills, Moore Square in Downtown Raleigh, and Wake Forest.  Or wherever you live, your market should be opening for the growing season in just two weeks!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


               Roasted Golden Beets, Chevre, Toasted Pecans Salad                                               (recipe follows)

"Life itself is the proper binge."  Julia Child

So who doesn't want to save money these days?
Like many Americans, we've made a commitment to not go out to eat as much, to save money.  I interviewed Chef Amy Tornquist, who owns and cooks at both Sage & Swift Catering and the restaurant, Watts Grocery, in Durham, who said that at least when we DO go out to eat, to support those restaurants that buy and deal with local farmers and local purveyors rather than a chain.  Good point.  Support your neighbors.
Eating in can be a chore.  You've got to shop, and prep, and cook, and then, clean up.  However, they can all be pleasurable activities. Really. Chopping is Zen-like to me.  Planning a meal, pulling stuff from the fridge and gathering it all together is creativity at work.  Put on some good music, even pour a glass of wine, and enjoy the smells and sizzles while you create.  After savoring our dinner and conversation, the hubby and I make all the dirty dishes and pots just disappear, a small price to pay for a meal well-done.  
So I try not to make making dinner a chore, although . . . . .

- Crunchy croutons can really make a salad.  Make your own at a fraction of what a bag will cost in the grocery store.  Take old baguettes or thickly sliced bread that's no longer really fresh, and cut them into bite-sized cubes.  Place the cubes in a bowl, and drizzle olive oil over them, turning with a spatula or your hands, until they have a bit of a oily coat.  Season if you wish with salt, or dried herbs.  Spread on a baking sheet, place in a 300 degree oven, and bake until croutons are crispy enough for you, about 10 minutes, give or take a few. 

- A delicious vinaigrette is easy to make, and will cost a fourth of what bottled versions do.  I make mine in an re-used jelly jar.  I squirt a bit of Dijon mustard into the bottom.  Add a half teaspoon or so of my seasoning salt and grind some pepper in, then pour in about a half-inch of vinegar.  Sometimes I use a wine vinegar, sometimes the cheap balsamic, depending on mood or salad variety.  Then I place the lid on, and shake the mustard, salt and vinegar all together.  
Then, I slowly add enough olive oil to have about 3 times as much oil as vinegar.  Eyeball it.  Classic recipes call for a one to two, up to a one to four ratio of vinegar to oil, so I use the magic 3.  After you've added the oil, put the lid on tight and shake real good.  The jar, that is.  Stick your finger (clean) in the mixture, and then taste.  Add more oil if it's too tart, or more vinegar if the oil is overpowering.  Maybe more salt or pepper.  Learn to trust your taste.   You can also add fresh or dried herbs, chopped garlic, grated cheese, whatever.  I store leftovers in the fridge, but have to remember to allow it to come to room temp so that it can be shaken up.  
You can also use a bowl and whisk. 
Homemade vinaigrette tastes great, and as you can see, is so simple.

-  Baby carrots have always been a favorite lunch or snack.  Then I read that they're not really baby carrots at all, just big carrots peeled, then chopped to "baby" size.  And that's why they sometimes get crusty, or else watery, in their plastic bag.
So, I was amazed at how many regular-sized carrots I could buy for the same price as one small bag of "baby" carrots.  Peanuts, in comparison.  Organic carrots will cost a bit more, but still not as much as the impostors, and they're even more healthy.
How long does it take to wash, peel, then cut up a carrot?  Not long at all.  

Beets are a favorite in our house.  And fuggehdahbout canned beets.  Ugh!
Buy beets with the greens attached, and you get an "extra" green to use in your salad.
Roast them.  Heat the oven to 400 degrees.  Slice the root end off, and cut the beet where the stalk meets the bulb.  Wash.  Place beets on a large square of aluminum foil, maybe drizzle a bit of olive oil on them, then wrap the foil tight and roast in the oven for about an hour to 1 1/4 hour.  Allow beets to cool.  Use either rubber gloves or baggies over your hands to prevent staining, and peel with a sharp paring knife.  Most times, the skin can just be rubbed off anyway.  Slice or quarter.  Eat as is, in a salad, or heat with a bit of butter as a side dish.

Combine the above, or arrange artfully on a salad plate.  Drizzle with a white wine vinaigrette.  
Can you say simple?  Delicious?