Wednesday, December 15, 2010

HOLIDAY APPETIZERS


THE HOLIDAYS BEET ME!
The best of the holidays is the gatherings of loved ones, friends and family.
Feeding them is another story.
But here are two ideas that are really rather simple, although they do require some cooking ahead, and are quite savory. You'll have folks singing your praises rather than carols.


TAKE IT FROM TV
Roanoke's WSLS 10 has had me on its noon time show, OUR BLUE RIDGE, several times the last few months.
Last week, I demonstrated two recipes. The first was for an awesome spread made with artichokes and goat cheese, or chevre. It's a step beyond the typical artichoke, mayo/sour cream and cheese dip, and is a bit healthier. Roast frozen artichoke hearts first with herbs, and you'll find folks in your kitchen drawn to the aromas. Then, while it's hot, add the chevre. Serve bubbling hot from the oven on warm baguette slices or crackers, and you've got one mighty hors d-oeuvre.




GIFT PACKAGES
A beautiful little package of roasted beet, chevre and rosemary appetizers is also one of my favorite things to serve from THE NEW BLUE RIDGE COOKBOOK.
Roast those ruby red beets, defrost a package of puff pastry, chop some fresh rosemary and slice a log of chevre, then assemble quickly. A bit involved, yes, but really rather simple. Get your guests involved, and what a merry way to spend time in the kitchen - with tasty rewards!
Go to this link for the recipes already printed. And please watch for more helpful hints.



Thursday, December 2, 2010

APPLE PANCAKES


WEEKEND BREAKFASTS
One of my best presents I received for Christmas last year was home delivery of the Sunday NEW YORK TIMES. I relish curling up on the sofa and diving into the politics, fashion, movies and book reviews, while downing a huge pot of coffee, and when it's the season, having a nice roaring fire going in the fireplace.
A nice breakfast treat just adds icing on my cake. And I am a fool for anyone who wants to cook me breakfast. My husband, bless his heart, has finally mastered eggs-over-easy. But that's about the end of his repertoire.
With Pink Ladies and Golden Spices in my larder, and apples a favorite of the hubby, I tried recently to also make his day by making a breakfast version of an apple pandowny.
Buckwheat is a favorite of mine, especially with maple syrup. Whenever I find stoneground grits, there will usually be pancake mixes available, too. So I've got a stash of buckwheat pancake mixes in the extra fridge in the garage.


APPLES & BUTTER
The small, six-inch cast iron skillet that was my grandmother's brings back such sweet memories every time I use it. And isn't that what the weekend's more relaxed time should be about? Conjuring up memories of a loved one while stirring up something yummy?
I peeled, cored and thickly sliced two apples. I also used an additional small skillet so that I could cook two pancakes at a time, and melted a pat of butter in each.
The apples slices looked like a pinwheel when added to the skillets. I cooked them over a low heat so that they would not brown too quickly before softening up, then flipped each slice over.
Then I mixed up the pancake batter, and slowly poured it over the apple slices, again over low heat.



FLIPPED
I'll confess that flipping the pancakes didn't work with one. The trick is that, just as with regular pancakes, you must wait until the bottom is fully cooked. Usually you can see what looks like popped bubbles, or tiny craters, that indicate that the batter is cooked through. And that's when you can successfully slide your spatula under the apples and batter, and then flip them over.
Good luck. I've had success with that two out of the four times I've made them!
But let me tell you......no matter if it's pretty on top or not, these pancakes are just divine. We splurge with real maple syrup from either Whitetop Mountain in VA, or from Maple Springs Farm near Burnsville, NC.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

PUMPKIN EATERS!



"They really love 'em," the farmer yelled over to me as he flung yet another pumpkin from his truck with a shovel. These Halloween rejects were quite the treat for these pasture-raised mommas and their calves.
At this time of year, Ashe County roads are humming with huge trucks hauling Christmas trees, Fraser firs, cut during the cold snap of November. Farmers markets are full of beautiful round cabbage heads and winter squash, as well as the start of Christmas decorations.
At Zydeco Moon Farm & Cabins, we were treated to some of Sally's zesty tender greens she's growing in a new hoop house. Her CSA patrons will enjoy more greens all winter long with a clever new growing system that re-purposes gutters. Drainage holes were drilled in the bottoms and then they were filled with soil. What a great growing environment in the greenhouse during the winter!

Ashe Co. Church Marquee. . . . We don't need more to be grateful for; we need to be more grateful. Happy Thanksgiving, y'all.




PUMPKIN IN THE OVEN........
So what if it's full of warts and getting old......Like me, it's still full of flavor and usefulness!
De-seeded, my Halloween pumpkin will be roasted, and I'll use the puree for either a soup or a pie.
My friend from Chapel Hill, Nancie McDermott, author of SOUTHERN PIES and SOUTHERN CAKES and several other cookbooks, writes that she prefers to use canned pumpkin in her pies, for the fresh pumpkin can be rather watery when cooked down. Purists like Barbara Kingsolver, in ANIMALS, VEGETABLES & MIRACLES, recommends cooking with fresh pumpkin.
Frankly, I think whatever you have time for is just dandy. If the pumpkin's flesh is too watery when roasted, it will be perfect for soup. So keep some cans of pumpkin puree to use with pies or muffins in your pantry!
Ditto for pie crusts. Nancie and I shared a secret at a recent Pie Contest where she was signing books at Quail Ridge Books.
We keep a stash of pie crusts in the fridge or the freezer. Not the homemade kind. The boxed, rolled up pie pastry for me, the crusts in the tins for her.
If time is limited, wouldn't we rather have pie, even if we don't use not made-from-scratch pastry?
Enjoy your Thanksgiving gatherings of loved ones and eating!



Tuesday, November 9, 2010

STOKES PURPLE SWEET POTATO

I like the color purple.
Folks who know the Carolina Foodie often see her wearing purple.
So when I saw PURPLE SWEET POTATOES at the State Farmers Market in Raleigh, I had to have them. I wanted to EAT PURPLE!
I had heard that NCSU had been working in their micro-propagation program with the Saura Pride Co in Stokes County, trying to rid a purple sweet potato of any possible viruses. The fact that they were now for sale meant success.

STOKES PURPLE
That's its official name, the Stokes Purple, and it has an interesting story.
After retiring from a state job, Mike Sizemore of Walnut Cove decided to farm some land he owned. Another farmer who wanted to retire approached him about selling his equipment and sweet potato business. As an added bonus, the elderly farmer threw in some slips of a purple sweet potato, an Asian variety, that he thought had potential. Sizemore grew some and was impressed. So he took it to NCSU to get a "clean" plant, one free of viruses that often ravage a crop.
Nearby, Hanging Rock State Park hovers over fertile fields that are perfect for growing potatoes. They don't like being wet, so the soil needs to drain well. But it can't be too sandy, or else the nutrients won't be there.
Now, other former tobacco farmers in Stokes County have a replacement crop, and can use most of the same farming equipment as they did for planting and growing tobacco. They sell them for cash to Saura Pride Company, (named for the Saura, the Native Americans who once inhabited the fertile soil of this northwestern Piedmont area), which distributes them to markets.
You'll find sweet potatoes overflowing market bins now. After being dug up in the fall, they spend several days "curing" at a steady warm temperature inside a warehouse. In the old days, folks laid them to "cure" in the sun, before packing them into root cellars or even "potato hills," holes dug in the earth where the potatoes were mounded in a heap, then covered with soil. Cured sweet potatoes will store much better than those in their "green" state.


PURPLE PEOPLE EATER, oops, maybe PURPLE EATING PEOPLE?
Remember that catchy, bouncy song by Sheb Wooley that made the charts back in 1958, also sung by Jimmy Buffet? It's been stuck in my head ever since I sliced into that Stokes Purple.
"I said Mr Purple People Eater, what's your line?
He said eating purple people, and it sure is fine
But that's not the reason that I came to land
I wanna get a job in a rock 'n roll band."
PURPLE IS HEALTHIER?
Maybe we should be eating more purple.
Turns out that the chemical responsible for the purple color, anthocyanin, can reduce cardiovascular disease and improve vision. The purple variety has more antioxidants, with 8.5 times more Vitamin E than in an orange sweet potato, and more Vitamin C. And those antioxidants get stronger when the sweet potato is cooked.




THE COLOR PURPLE
Under the peel, the Stokes Purple was still purple. The cutting board turned purple. My hands were purple. Under my nails, it was purple.
I diced it, along with another new NC variety, the bright orange Hatteras, then stirred in olive oil until they glistened, sprinkled it with sea salt and herbes de Provence, and set it into a 375 oven for about 30 minutes until barely tender.
And guess what?
The Stokes Purple was still purple after being cooked.
Now, that sure is fine. And it tasted better than fine, too. I love sweet potatoes!
Note: our teeth did NOT turn purple. With a bit of scrubbing and filing, the stains came off my hands and nails.


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

WATERMELON RADISH


WHOA!!! I screeched to a halt in front of Edible Earthscape's booth at the North Hills Farmers Market.
"What is that? It's gorgeous!" I cried.
"A Watermelon Radish," Haruka Oatis replied.
What does it taste like? "A radish," she said with a laugh.
I took one home, for fifty cents, and set it on the counter.
"What's that ugly thing?" I was asked. "Just wait," I said with smile.




I peeled away the thin, outer skin, then cut the radish into thin slices.
"Wow!" was the reaction. "That's gorgeous."
Toasted walnuts, some fresh mizuna, also from Haruka and Jason's farm, and freshly grated Parmigana cheese were added to the Watermelon Radish for a salad that was as delightful to the eye as to our tastebuds.
I'm going to try and find some seeds so that I, too, can plant this edible beauty. Anyone have a resource for us? Please comment!




A SIMPLE VINAIGRETTE

Last post, I told you about Theros Olive Oil and Virginia Vinegar Works.
I should have told you how to make a vinaigrette using them.
Vinaigrettes are so easy to make and so very much cheaper - and tastier - than bottled dressings.
Here's the classic RECIPE:

One part vinegar (or lemon juice or combo)
salt & pepper
squirt of Dijon mustard
MIX THOROUGHLY (I usually opt for a recycled jelly jar, and just shake the hell out of it)
Add THREE or FOUR parts oil (I prefer extra virgin olive oil for most)
MIX THOROUGHLY

Options: minced fresh herbs added before the oil, and/or minced garlic

If you should choose to use a small bowl, use your whisk to mix. With small bowls like that, you can create a neat whirlwind by rubbing the handle of the whisk back and forth between your palms. Try it!










Friday, October 29, 2010

Olive Oil and Vinegar from the Blue Ridge?

THEROS OLIVE OIL from ASHEVILLE
One can only wish that olive trees could be grown in the Blue Ridge. However, the Theros family has grown a fine business in Asheville, importing organic olive oil from their own 400-year old trees in Greece that the family has tended for generations.
Theros Extra Virgin Olive Oil is really special. We dipped some crusty bread into a bowlful, and soon were slurping it up.
I loved its taste - pure, full of fragrance, with a bit of a peppery taste. Some of that flavor can be attributed to the salty Mediterranean Sea air, and to its lower acidity - about half that of standard olive oils, so the website claims. It's not co-mingled with oils from other regions, making it pure Greek. That's a big plus, says Spero Theros.

Spero Theros, who immigrated from Messinia, Greece, arrived in Asheville via Minnesotta, where he landed as a boy. His son, Nick Theros, a co-owner, now spends half the year in Greece, tending to the 1,300 trees, harvesting the olives, and seeing to the cold pressing at an olive crushing plant. He even takes friends and family from Western North Carolina to help out.
The oil is then shipped to Asheville, where it's bottled at the Blue Ridge Food Ventures facility. Several local restaurants use and serve Theros, and it's also available at EarthFare Groceries across the state. I bought my bottle at the Manna Cabana in Saluda, NC, and also found some at the EarthFare in Raleigh.
You may also order at the website, by the bottle or case and get it at a much better price.

VIRGINIA VINEGAR WORKS
In the real mountain hometown of the fictional Walton's, in Schuyler, VA, a couple is converting wine into vinegar. I know I've tasted some wines that tasted a bit like vinegar, but that's not the case here.
Finely crafted vinegars are smooth and redolent of the flavor from which they were made. You can almost sip them. This is the quality that Virginia Vinegar Works shoots for. And they are locavores, too, using local wine varietals, the Petit Mansang or Viognier, among others that do well in Virginia's Central and Southwestern wine regions.
Owners Jay and Steph Rostow are also glass-blowers, who wondered what to do with the gorgeous bottles they were creating. Now they know.
They make the vinegars in small-batches, using a traditional method that dates back to 1616 in Orleans, France. It takes three months to convert the wine into vinegar, and another six months to age in oak barrels, which helps to impart the terroir of the grape variety. Then it's filtered before bottling.
Order from the website: www.virginiavinegarworks.com

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

WHADDYA CALL IT?


A couple of weeks ago I found this squash or perhaps pumpkin at a roadside farm stand near Woolwine, VA. (Don't you just love that name, Woolwine?) What's it called? I asked. Permelon, the farmer answered.
Then I saw this bin of Pink Bananas between Fruitland and Hendersonville:


The very next day, at the City Market in Asheville, there were more of these long, cylindrical squash, with a sign that said CANDY ROASTERS.
What gives with all the names?
Turns out they are all of the Cucurbita maxima family, which makes me wonder if the squash were so named because of the faint cucumber scent of its flesh.
I do know that Candy Roasters, Permelons, and Pink Bananas are all prized heirloom squash that old-timers are quick to tell you that of course, they're great for making pies. "Or whatever you do with pumpkin," said one impatient older lady.

FROM THE CHEROKEES
The Cherokee people cultivated this squash that migrated to North America, from South America, by the 16th century, and eventually shared the seeds with European settlers. Today, it's still grown all over the southern Appalachians.
Georgia has a variety of Candy Roaster, and sites post "do not confuse with the Carolina Candy Roaster which is slightly different." And vice versa . . . As if one state could lay claim to the delicious orange and sweet flesh. The variety also makes its home in Bangladesh, Burma and India. How's that for traveling around the world?
Part of my trouble in identifying the Candy Roaster aka Pink Banana also known as a Permelon, is that the C. maxima varies so much by shape, size and color. It can be pink or blue or gray. Tubular, round, tear-drop or squat. Most weigh in at 15 pounds, but can grow as large as 250 pounds.





ROASTING THE "THING" - HOW TO
I love roasting veggies, so thought I'd roast the Candy Roaster/Permelon with a sweet onion.
So to best manage this long squash that hung over my cutting board, I chopped both ends off, then sliced open the middle. The scent of cucumber floated up. The center was full of round, plump seeds, and the filaments scraped away easily.
After simply slicing off the outer skin of a couple of those middle pieces and chopping them into bite-sized pieces, I quickly realized I'd have enough to feed an army, more than enough for the three of us. So with the other half, I left the skins on and placed them cut side down in another pan to roast alongside our dinner. I'd use those pieces in a soup the next day.
The chunks of squash were mixed in with a sweet onion also cut into chunks, drizzled with olive oil, and seasoned with salt and pepper. Placed into a 350 degree oven, within about 40 minutes or less the squash was tender and fragrant. After it was out of the oven, I seasoned it again after tasting, and sprinkled some chopped fresh oregano from the garden over the mixture.
Not as sweet as she expected, said my daughter. But good. Very good. And so easy to prepare, too. I like that!

SOUP'S ON!
Okay, October should be full of brisk fall days begging for sweaters and soups. This week, records have been set in the 80s. Not exactly a fall soup day, but there was the squash thing I had already roasted.
So I chopped up half of a large onion and sauteed it in a little olive oil. Stirred in some minced garlic. Then I pureed the squash, along with the cooked onion and garlic, all in the food processor, adding a little bit of chicken stock to loosen it up. I then added that puree to the pot, and stirred in some chicken stock until it was the "soupy" consistency I wanted.





Seasonings? It could be the French style, with fresh or dried thyme, esp. But my tastes buds were remembering some "pumpkin" soup from the Caribbean, probably made with a calabash or huge squash, that got its savory flavoring with nutmeg.
Freshly grated nutmeg is very worthy sensory experience. A bit sharp at times, spicy, unlike what you think of as a traditional pumpkin pie spice. A favorite use of nutmeg is grating it over a creamy Painkiller, that tasty cocktail with rum and coconut milk from the British Virgin Islands. And freshly grated nutmeg takes sauteed fresh spinach to a different level.
So the recipe for Candy Roaster Soup? There's one in THE NEW BLUE RIDGE COOKBOOK from the outstanding Asheville chef, Mark Rosenstein. Or, you can just follow the steps I outlined above and wing it, tasting and seasoning as you go.
To top off my soup, literally, we grilled some shrimp wrapped in bacon (all natural, pasture-raised from Hickory Nut Gap Farm), and placed the skewers across the shrimp. All of us wound up dipping the shrimp into the soup. . . a glorious and tasty combination.


I'd say that C. maxima was worth it's weight....for $2 dollars we had a marvelous roasted veggie one night, and a terrific soup, with leftovers, the next. Not matter what it's called, what an heirloom veggie. I'll try a pie from it the next time.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Dig LOCAL ROOTS

TIME TO GET TO THE ROOT OF THINGS . . . . .
Visit any farmers market these fall days and you'll find a bevy of potatoes, turnips, winter squash and sweet potatoes - all tasty root vegetables. While at the City Market in Asheville (and without my camera, I am sorry to say), I found gorgeous carrots - purple, yellow, white and orange - and Scarlet Queen turnips, a red one that's great for salads or lightly roasted. Kale and other greens spilled out of baskets. Candy roasters, butternut and acorn squash filled the tables, too.
Inspired by all those root veggies, we made a communal dinner after a family hike off the Blue Ridge Parkway. Take a look see below, with the recipe!


MEANWHILE, I MUST TELL YOU ABOUT A SPECIAL DINNER I ATTENDED . . . .


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Roanoke, VA

Rappahannock Oysters. Golden Trout. Lamb from Border Springs Farm in Patrick County. How local can you get?


And visiting Chef Ed Lee, a James Beard award winner this year and chef/proprietor of 610 Magnolia in Louisville, KY, was pretty excited about working with such fine local ingredients for last week's special dinner. Chef Lee and Executive Chef Joshua Smith shared the menu, alternating preparing the six course menu.


What made this meal such a culinary delight? Using local ingredients with such a global influence, thanks in part to Chef Lee's Korean family background and his New York City upbringing.


A tiny, perfect little quail egg was criss-crossed with tiny strips of duck bak-kua, a traditional Chinese salty-sweet dried meat similar to jerky. Fried kale to add color and crispness. The lamb done "kalbi"-style, a traditional Korean method of marinating, then grilling meat. The final touch for dessert - a damson plum consomme with black sesame paste and basmati sherbet.


LOCAL ROOTS is open for lunch and dinner. Check out their marvelous seasonal menus. 1314 Grandin Rd SW, Roanoke, VA 540 206 2610






HOW TO SIMPLY ROAST A DINNER . . .
We scored a gorgeous eye of round from Hickory Nut Gap Farm at the City Market also. We seared it on the stove top in a bit of olive oil on high heat, to seal the fat and juices, just until it was browned, then placed it in a big roasting pan. Sweet onions, new potatoes, those Scarlet Queen turnips, and the multi-colored carrots were cut into chunks, then added to the pan, along with a green pepper from my daughter's garden. Her roommate also harvested and chopped some rosemary and fresh thyme, which we added with slivers of garlic. Drizzled with olive oil and with several grinds of pepper, the veggies were glistening and gorgeous. Set into a 325 degree oven, stirring occasionally, the veggies were tender and the meat at about 150 after about an hour.
Meanwhile, we laughed, cajoled and teased as we played Apples to Apples. They didn't let Mom win.
The crowd of twenty-somethings that gathered around Bec's table finished off everything in the pan, including the turnips that everyone had sorta scoffed at. Carrots were fought over.
See, it pays to get to your roots, especially with your family around.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Green Tail Shrimp

White Shrimp, known to OBX locals as Green-Tails

GREEN & GOURMET
It's time to be seduced by some of the sea's most succulent goodies,
the green-tails.
Green-tail shrimp are prized and sought after by chefs and foodies along the Carolina coasts, and we have to wait it out till the fall before the bounty comes in. Just this past week, a marquee at the seafood market at Whalebone Junction in the Outer Banks announced their presence, so I stopped to fill up my cooler. In years past, I've had Atlantic Beach Seafood clean and freeze 20 pounds to last me through the winter, just like many chefs do whose restaurants stay open year round.
The Pamlico Sound in NC is the northernmost border for most shrimp. Core Sound, near Morehead City, and the Wilmington area, at Southport, get loads of shrimp from their waters as well.
Didn't know that there were different kinds of shrimp?
The pink or spotted shrimp are the most scarce and are the first to be harvested in the spring, from April to June. They're most active at night, burrowing into the mucky muck during the day.
There's the brown shrimp, the most plentiful and what you typically find in most seafood markets in the Carolinas, netted from July to November. They are also most active at night in open waters, and that's why you see the big shrimp trawlers out after dark, with the crew anchoring at Lookout Bight and other safe harbors to sleep during the day.
Green-tails, or white shrimp, have a more subtle, sweeter flavor. They like to hang out in brackish marshes, preferring soft, muddy bottoms. Shrimpers start bringing them in during late August and usually their season lasts until the end of November.


Trawler at Wanchese, the ultimate Outer Banks fishing village
SHRIMP WERE PESTS
Can you believe that shrimp were once scoffed at and considered inedible up until the 1900s? Even though the Native Americans considered them gourmet treats, catching them with weirs or baskets made from marsh grasses and supple bark and tree limbs.
Fishermen along the Outer Banks down to Southport would pick what they called "bugs" -the pesky shrimp - from their nets and throw them into barrels, then trade them with farmers for corn that would be dried and ground into cornmeal. Farmers worked the shrimp into their gardens as fertilizer, so it was a win-win.
Then settlers got brave or hungry enough and finally developed a taste for shrimp. Ice plants in the early 1900s enabled them to keep shrimp fresher for longer periods of time, and that helped sales. By the 1930s, commercial canning improved the status of shrimp, too.
The introduction of trawlers, in 1933, proved to be much more efficient than the long-haul seine traditionally used to net catches from the Pamlico and Core Sounds in NC. After World War II, shrimping became NC's major seafood industry.
Today, you'll see the long-armed trawlers working the sounds or just offshore. "Otter" trawls are traditionally used in deeper waters and catch a majority of the shrimp in NC. A newer trawler, called a "skimmer," seems to be more efficient for white or green-tailed shrimp especially, with a lot less by-catch as well.
Once, out in our little motor boat, we followed behind a shrimp trawler as it culled its catch, just outside the Beaufort Inlet. The kids screamed when they saw several six-foot long sharks gobbling up the goodies in the shrimper's wake.


COOKING GREEN-TAILS
Green-tails are usually sweet, firm and have a very clean taste.
I was in the mood to grill, but didn't want to overwhelm the subtle taste of the shrimp. So after shelling and deveining, I marinated them in a mixture of olive oil, garlic, salt and Spanish smoked paprika, with a bit of lemon juice. Skewered, they shared the grill with some beautiful, firm yellow zucchini that have been so prevalent in our farmers markets lately.
Easy and quick, and, delicious!

GARLIC GRILLED SHRIMP

2 pounds shrimp, cleaned, washed and patted dry
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika
couple grinds black pepper
juice of half large lemon
2 tablespoons olive oil

1. Soak wooden skewers, if using. Preheat grill.
2. Mince the garlic, then while on cutting board, sprinkle with salt. Using the flat side of your chef's knife, press the salt into the garlic, mashing it together. Place in a bowl large enough to hold the shrimp, then add the paprika, black pepper, lemon juice and olive oil. Whisk until blended well.
3. Add shrimp to the bowl and stir to coat. Let sit while grill is heating.
4. Place on skewers. Grill on both sides for just a couple of minutes, until shrimp is firm and pink. Eat immediately!

Monday, October 4, 2010

BEST BURGERS IN THE US

Nothing like a good, juicy burger every now and then. Carolina Foodie made a recommendation to USA TODAY for their travel story about 51 GREAT BURGER JOINTS, one from each state.
Char-Grill has been a favorite since I was a student at NC State. I love the nostalgic music, the car parts sticking out from walls, and how you can custom order your burgers just the way you want them.
Check it out!
http://travel.usatoday.com/destinations/greatamericanbites/hamburgers/40391418/1

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Join these Gourmet Adventures



courtesy of Foggy Ridge Cider

A FAVORITE PLACE TO TASTE
Cider has become a favorite of mine. And not that brown, thick juice, either, although I do enjoy that. But REAL cider. What is sometimes called "hard cider," apple juice that's fermented and become more than 7 percent alcohol.
Diane Flynt, of Foggy Ridge Cider near Dugspur, VA, has quite an artisan's touch with the cider she makes from a variety of "spittin' apples," those varieties that are so tannic to taste but perfect for fermentation. She's studied and apprenticed with the best in France, England and New England, and her product shows.
This coming Saturday, welcome autumn with a visit at her cider-tasting facility. You'll be amazed at the marvelous taste - so food friendly, too - and how different each of the varieties of cider she produces tastes. I bought a case the last time we stopped in.

October 2 Fall Open House with Dogtown Pizza
Foggy Ridge Cider
Sample Grimes Golden, Newtown Pippin, Ashmead's Kernel and Pomme Gris with nationally known apple expert, Tom Burford, at Foggy Ridge Cider's fall open house. Learn about heirloom apples and bring your own mystery apples for identification. Enjoy Dogtown Pizza's famous artisan pizzas and fall mountain views. All this and 91 year old Eldon Gardner playing his harmonica and washboard tie. Cider tasting free. Pizza $10 to $15. Open 11 to 5.

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TERRAVITA - OCTOBER 16TH

Terra meaning “of the earth” and Vita meaning “life,” captures in its definition the very spirit of this event. The first of its kind, TerraVITA Food & Wine Event will bring together some of the finest biodynamic and organically-grown wines and microbrews in the world with the very best locally-grown organic edibles in the Southeast!


Alongside dozens of international fine wine producers and a select few microbrewers, chefs from North Carolina’s top restaurants, confectioners, cheese-makers and food artisans will prepare culinary treats using seasonal organic fare for all attending this sustainable celebration! If you appreciate fantastic food, love locally-grown, consider yourself a wine lover, or find yourself waking up early to get first dibs at the farmer's market, or know enough about beer to recognize the terms "hops"

and "microbrew," you will want to put this event on the calendar.


There will be an array of enticing food and beverage samples that will blow you away! The month of October offers a plethora of locally-grown ingredients, and whether you’re into grass-fed meat or you are a vegetarian chowhound, there will be plenty of choices - setting us all up for one of the most amazing buffets in the Southeast!


TerraVITA’s Grand Tasting on the Green will take place on The Green at Southern Village, an upscale, environmentally-conscious, mixed-use community in Chapel Hill, NC. Tickets are all-inclusive (Yes - all alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, as well as food samplings are included) and can be purchased for $65 each. That means the only reason you'll need to break out your wallet is to support our deserving non-profits!


We are fortunate to have some of the very best chefs in the state of North Carolina signed on to participate in TerraVITA! Look forward to experiencing wonderful tastings by Bill Smith and Paul Covington from Crook’s Corner, Vivian Howard from Chef & The Farmer in Kinston, Amy Tornquist from Watt’s Grocery, Stephen Ribustello from On The Square in Tarboro (and featured in the August issue of Our State magazine), Jimmy Reale from Carolina Crossroads, and on and on... See the Food & Beverage page for more specific details on “who” will be with us on October 16th!


The event will begin at 1 p.m. with will-call at check-in (there will be no tickets actually sent), where you will receive your wine glass and begin experiencing an afternoon of tastings – selecting from more than 80 Biodynamic or organically-grown wines, sustainably-produced microbrews and some of the best locally-grown organic foods available…

For more info or to get your tickets www.terravitaevent.com/


October 19th, Love at First Bite


photo courtesy of Todd Elliot

Alan Muskat is Asheville's WILD MUSHROOM MAN, who forages for chefs and takes amateurs out into the woods to teach what's edible and what's toxic. He also shares his enthusiasm for devouring the goodies he finds in the wild, and has a new eating/cooking series to share.

Wild Mushrooms with Alan Muskat and wild canap├ęs with Kim Hendrickson at Laughing Frog Estate, Walnut, NC (near Asheville)
Finding Our Place at Nature's Table
This Autumn to Spring, join us for one or more of seven “slow food, slow mood” experiences -
a wild foods "forage and eat" dinner series the third Tuesday of each month
October 19th to April 19th 3-9 pm

Each event will feature:

• a foraging expedition or food prep “playshop” led by regional experts

• a behind-the-scenes look at wild food preparation and fine cooking

• an intimate four course dinner with wine pairings prepared by distinguished area chefs





AND FROM OUR COAST - A NEW CSF - Community Supported Fishery
Core Sound Seafood was started as a way to connect the fishermen of Down East Carteret County, North Carolina to a viable, local market. Most of the fishermen that make up this coastal community have been fishing all their lives – often they can trace their fishing heritage back four or five generations. Sadly, these fishermen are increasingly leaving their life on the water as global markets, community economic loss, rising fuel prices and decreasing buying prices threaten their livelihood. Our goal is to provide a market to these fishermen and their families by offering locally caught, fresh seafood to the Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Raleigh community through a weekly CSF (community supported fishery) share. We believe that North Carolina fishermen are a tremendous resource in our state’s diverse agricultural offerings, and including them as producers in our local food shed is vital.

They are making deliveries of seasonal seafood - clams, fish, etc., from now through December. Check them out at

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Gunk-holing Gourmet


MAKING A MEMORABLE MEAL
You know those trips you take when you find yourself smiling a bunch? When conversations flow, laughter erupts, and the weather gods are looking out for you?
We just spent a couple of nights on the Chesapeake with our buddy, Rob, and it was the twelfth year we've taken his 32-foot Fidelio out of the South River near Annapolis and sailed to the Eastern Shore.
And don't tell his wife, Christy, but he claimed the last night's meal "the best meal of his life."
A DAY OF GOOD EATING
At first light we heard the chug-chug of a crabber's boat as he set his lines; later we'd sail by as he netted the famed Maryland crabs into his buckets. Crab cakes made with freshly picked crabmeat, barely breaded and dusted with Old Bay, found their way onto my lunch plate when we later pulled into the dock at Oxford. We sat outside under the shade of an umbrella as we ate and chatted and listened to the sea gulls and lapping of the waves, the smell of marsh and Chesapeake mud overtaken by lime and beer and the spicy whiff of Old Bay seasoning.
That's terroir. That's eating where you are, being in the moment. Is there anything sweeter?

MARYLAND HAD A LITTLE LAMB.....
Rob is not just a family doc extraordinaire who relates with his patients with his heart wide open, but he's also a published poet.
After a day of wind in our sails, we find a quiet gunk-hole up a creek and toss the anchor. We tidy up the mess we made while under sail, while he usually fixes us all a RumDumbDumber. Then Rob pulls out, or more recently, pulls "up" a file of poems from his iPhone to read to us as we lounge around the cockpit. They're free-form impressions and observations that make you chuckle or lament or nod your head in recognition of the minutae and the bigger issues that make our world go round, and I feel richer for his outpourings.
We throw the pits of seasoned olives overboard, or at each other if deserved. We miss Rob's wife, Christy, a busy attorney who sent us off with a lovely salsa made with their own cherry tomatoes, some fresh corn and black beans. As the coals build on Fidelio's small charcoal grill attached to the stern, we again talk politics, movies, books, kids, you know, life. No easy answers to any problems, we decide.

HOW TO COOK A LARGE MEAL ON A SMALL BOAT
I place the beets from the farmers market in Raleigh that I had slow-roasted at home and covered in foil, on top of the hot coals to heat them up. On top of them, I place roasted tiny potatoes acquired from Charles Church, at Watauga River Farms at Valle Crucis.
I believe behind every good bite of food is a good story, so I tell Rob about Charles, one of my favorite farmers I met while researching THE NEW BLUE RIDGE COOKBOOK, and how he switched from growing burley tobacco like his father and grandfather, to going organic. How the fields touch the banks of the river, how he's pulled so many arrowheads, shards of pottery and other remnants of the Native Americans who toiled his soil before him. How when I asked if he had any beets for sale, his helper asked how many I wanted and went to pull some from the field.
We pull our beets and potatoes off and smother them with jackets and a pillow to keep them warm.
Meanwhile I readied a rack of lamb to assume the space on the grill. I had chopped rosemary and oregano from my garden and placed them in a jar with olive oil and minced garlic. We smeared the herbal mixture all over the lamb, then covered the bare, naked bone tips with foil to keep them from burning. As flames flared from the droppings of melted fat, we all gravitated to that end of the cockpit, taking deep breaths and long sips of the tempranillo Rob opened.
One section of the rack was just perfect before the rest were ready, so we sliced up three chops and ate them from the bone, like starving food worshippers. "That is the best meat I have ever, ever put into my mouth," Rob exclaimed.
Oh my God, he said as he took a bite of beets. "And the potatoes, you can almost taste the river soil," he said. We all grinned, and toasted to our good fortune.
The final touch? An apple tart made with the lovely, green Pippin apples I found in Woolwine, VA last week. We groaned and stretched under the moonlit night, looking for constellations.


MEMORIES on the CHESAPEAKE BAY
The deal with these sailing trips is that Rob supplies the boat and the booze, and I do the food. I have become such a locavore and seasonal cook, and it travels with me.
I loved the enthusiastic response to my meal planning and food prep from Rob and the hubby. Yet dinner required teamwork and coordination, so we all "owned" it.
What makes a memorable meal? Is it just the food? The primal taste of garlic and lamb?
The earthy taste of terroir from root vegetables like beets and potatoes?
Or the wine that brought out the best in the food?
Or is it the company and the conversation that make a meal memorable? Or the locale?
How about all of the above?
After dusk, as the sky dimmed and moonlight laid on the water, we were all mellowed.
Our hunger for meaningful moments was as filled as our bellies. An that, folks, makes a
MEMORABLE MEAL.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Carolina Foodie: IS IT ALMOST FALL?

Carolina Foodie: IS IT ALMOST FALL?

IS IT ALMOST FALL?


MY MOUNTAIN STASH
"Stop! Turn around," I screamed.
We had just flown past a farmers' stand on the side of a back road that led to Woolwine in southwest VA, on the way home from the Galax VA area and the Blue Ridge Parkway's 75th Anniversary celebration, where I signed copies of THE NEW BLUE RIDGE COOKBOOK.
"Apples!" I yelled louder. So he stopped and made the turn, I'm sure anticipating pies and crunchy snacks.
But this stop was a gold mine. Apples, warty pumpkins, sourwood honey, cushaw pumpkins, and a long squash I did not recognize.

PERMELON
It's a what? How do you spell that? "I dunno," said the farmer. "But I do know the deer love them. They've pawed their way through several boxes worth." At two feet long and several inches thick, it will provide a lot of flesh to devour, I thought.
An internet search tells me that PERMELONS are a term for Old Appalachian winter squashes that are found especially in West Virginia and southwestern Virginia.
Aha.
Another source says they were grown by Native Americans all over the east.
Someone else said they were a sweeter relative of pumpkin, and more nutritious.
Another site said they were available at farmers markets in SW VA, and that she makes permelon butter, like apple butter, or serves it like any other squash.
I'm thinking I'll roast some cubes with olive oil. Any one else have any suggestions or experience with permelons?

CURSHAW PUMPKINS
Now this one I recognized as an heirloom squash - the cushaw or sometimes spelled kershaw - that many farmers in the Blue Ridge are growing. You treat it like any other pumpkin or butternut squash, roasting it to use the flesh in pumpkin pies or in soups.
It will keep well for several months if stored in a cool, dark space.
I plan on using this big boy in a spicy, ginger soup. Any other suggestions?




SOURWOOD HONEY
A favorite and a treasured food source, sourwood honey comes from what's also known as the "Lily of the Valley" tree. The highest concentration of sourwood trees are found in western NC, with some in Virginia and Georgia. Bees flock to sourwood blossoms in late June through July, with new crops of honey available in August and September.
This honey is spicy yet sweet, a bit floral, with a rich, buttery feel. I just love it, and save it to pour on toast where I can appreciate its taste pure and unadulterated.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

SEAFOOD SAFARI

The Shackleford Wild Ponies
EARL WHO?
A nap was in order during the calm before the storm, Hurricane Earl, caused a mandatory evacuation of the Cape Lookout area. That meant that all four sailboats anchored in the bight, and folks like us, out for a sunny, calm day cruise, today would be scooted away by the Coast Guard. And the wild horses? I'm sure they'll endure the high winds and possible overwash. They seem to be hearty souls.
I'm grateful to have been there a few days ago to enjoy a picnic of freshly steamed Pamlico brown shrimp, with cantaloupe that tasted of the Carteret County black soil, and cool off with a float in crystal clear and smooth waters. That area of the Southern Outer Banks does call itself "The Crystal Coast."


Just south of Ocracoke along the chain of "Outer Banks," Cape Lookout is also part of the "Graveyard of the Atlantic" that extends down from its northerly neighbor, Cape Hatteras. Decades ago, I observed short, stout cement-block buildings that were bunkers used during World War II, when German subs were sunk within a couple of miles of the shore. Here, over a century ago, there was also a "processing plant" for porpoises, or bottle-nose dolphins, to gather the oil from their carcasses to use in lamps and crude machines. Oh my.
This trip, we witnessed a half-mile long pod of these graceful, gentle beauties as they fed on bluefish right along the cape. I had to wonder if they knew a storm was coming, and were filling up while they could.

A BEVY OF SEAFOOD
On the way to Atlantic Beach, we stopped at a favorite fishmonger, B & J Seafood in New Bern, where they clean and pack fresh blue crabs from the Pamlico Sound. We netted a beautiful, pulled from the water that day Southern flounder, which we stuffed with lump crabmeat and laced with lemon juice, melted butter and a sprinkle of Old Bay. Another delightful, memorable meal was jumbo lumps of crabmeat that I panned in butter, and paired with a buttery, smooth California pinot grigio from Mirrasou.
But my man loves scallops, and we had scored some big boys that were dry-packed and fresh from cooler waters than ours.
Fresh corn from home - well, I had cut it from the cob, flash-boiled, then frozen for this trip - and some tasty heirloom tomatoes made a pretty and tasty plate. He loved it.
The recipe follows.




SEARED SCALLOPS WITH CORN VELOUTE AND TOMATO CONCASSE
1 pound sea scallops
2 cups or so of freshly cut corn
1 large heirloom tomato, seeded and finely chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped sweet onion
olive oil for cooking
salt and pepper
fresh chives or parsley, minced, if desired

1. Wash and pat scallops dry.
2. Heat corn in just enough water to almost cover the corn. Scoop out about one cup into a blender with just a bit of the cooking water. Puree until smooth. Heat veloute in a small pan if needed. Season both corn and veloute with salt and pepper.
3. Heat chopped tomatoes and onions just until warm. Season.
4. Add just enough oil to a large saute pan to coat the bottom. Heat until very hot. Add just a few scallops - NEVER over crowd when sauteeing scallops, or else you get rubbery discs. Brown on both sides - it should take just about two or three minutes per side. Remove to a plate, and continue to brown the remaining scallops.
5. To plate, place the tomato concasse in the middle of each plate. Pour the veloute around the edge. Scatter the scallops evenly. Ladle the drained corn over the scallops and veloute. Scatter herbs if desired. Eat immediately!