Wednesday, December 19, 2012


A Locavore's Delight


What's a locavore to do when it comes to holiday gift giving and treats?  Turn to local products, I'd say.

So here's my Christmas List, dear Santa . . . .hint, hint.   Or, I'm spoiling what might find its way under my friends' trees.

ON THE FIRST DAY OF CHRISTMAS, MY TRUE LOVE GAVE TO ME:  One jar of Outer Banks SeaSalt, hand-harvested from the salty waters of the Atlantic Ocean near Southern Shores by the "accidental saltist," Amy Huggins Gaw, better known as THE OUTER BANKS EPICUREAN.  


ON THE THIRD DAY, MY SANTA GOT ME......WAIT A MINUTE, IS THAT CHOCOLATE BAR MISSING SOME OF ITS 3 OUNCES?????  From Escazu, in Raleigh.  Artisan chocolates, and oh, my!

And, so after a smack, what did my Santa find for me next?  FOUR BOTTLES FROM FOGGY RIDGE CIDER, including my very favorite, Pippin Gold!  After dinner, with cheese, or just chillin' by itself!


And on the SIXTH DAY, he brought home a SIX PACK OF ARTISAN BREWS FROM North Carolina, like Asheville's Highland Brew, Kinston's Mother Earth, and Greensboro's Natty Greene.  Ditto to have during the Carolina ballgames, either women's or men's teams!

ON THE SEVENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS, MY TRUE LOVES ARE . . . . WELL, LEGAL.  . . . MOONSHINE!!!  From NC's very own TROY & SONS  or a fifth of Junior Johnson's MIDNIGHT MOON.    After all, Junior did get his start racing away from the law for stuff like this.

ON THE EIGHTH DAY, sweeten me up with some local honey.  I love BEE BLESSED honey of all sorts of flavors, depending on the season, that I find at the NC State Farmers Market.  Try your regional honey.

On the NINTH DAY, how 'bout pounds and pounds of SHELLED PECANS for stashing in my freezer?  These came from my brother-in-law, Dan Finch, master potter, blueberry plant grower, and the best thing that ever happened to my sister, Amy.

The TENTH DAY?  Promises, promises to explore these ten FARM-TO-TABLE restaurants in my home state, which means ROAD TRIPS that I love!

KNIFE AND FORK, Spruce Pine; CURATE, Asheville; ASHTEN'S in Southern Pines; CROOK'S CORNER in Chapel Hill; LUCKY 32, Greensboro & Cary; PROSCUITO, in Hillsborough;  CHEF AND THE FARMER in Kinston; THE BLUE POINT in Duck; KETCH 55 in Avon; and BASNIGHT'S LONE CEDAR in Nags Head.

And on the ELEVENTH DAY of Christmas, my true love gave me the best ever shrimp, the green-tails that are caught in NC's Pamlico and Core Sounds during the late fall.  Peeled and ready to go, in my freezer.  Oh, shrimp and grits, or maybe grilled or just sauteed with garlic and butter over linguine?

And on the TWELFTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS, my true love, exhausted, gave me 12-month subscriptions to these very fine, local magazines:  EDIBLE PIEDMONT, WNC, and Raleigh's new WALTER.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

SUNNY SIDE is OPEN, So Things are Looking Up

     Slurping down oysters at Sunny Side was high on the list of the hubby's birthday wishes.  So, ROAD TRIP!  Williamston, NC is a little crossroads of a town floating in the flat coastal plains just inland from the Albemarle Sound, about two hours or so from the Triangle.
     Sunny Side is so worth the drive.  It's a landmark, steaming oysters since 1935.  There's a large bar room in the front, where live music keeps things lively on a Saturday night while you wait for an hour or two for your turn in the back room around the horseshoe-shaped bar.
     Slide onto a stool, then peer onto the floor in the middle.  Yep, wood shavings.  Catches the drips when the buckets of oysters are brought in from out back, steaming and overflowing with the bivalves.

     I picked Jesse, our server and shucker for the night, out of the line up of all the shuckers' mug shots printed on the paper placemats, while we waited for our peck to steam.  He's been working at the Sunny Side for 25 years, always his night job, the second one that keeps him afloat, he said, as he poured hot butter into little saucers, then added another bowl of horseradish for us to mix into Sunny Side's own sweet cocktail sauce made with a secret recipe.
     The menu is simple:  oysters, steamed, not fried or baked.  Shrimp, steamed. Crab legs, steamed.  There's no coleslaw, no fries, no veggies, except broccoli smothered with cheese, if you insist.  There aren't even any hushpuppies, just packages of saltines opened by each server as you need them.
     Jesse chatted as he put his wooden board on the lower workspace, and with bare hands - no gloves, mind you - started opening our prizes, distributing them equally in the small bowls set in front of us.

     The oysters this past week were from Texas, and like most things Texan, were big and juicy.  Next week, around Thanksgiving this year, they hope to score some oysters from North Carolina waters, from the Pamlico Sound, down near Stumpy Point and Engelhard.
     Our bill, for two pecks of oysters - it was a birthday, mind you - and for a pound of steamed shrimp, and a few beers, was about the same as a date for a full-fledged meal.  But, it made the birthday boy very happy, and was well worth the drive of dodging deer in the dark.

    Here's a delicious recipe from a local......

CRAB SLOUGH OYSTERS   (C) from THE OUTER BANKS COOKBOOK:  Recipes & Traditions from NC's Barrier Islands, by Elizabeth Wiegand, 2008, Globe Pequot Press.

            Crab Slough is in the Pamlico Sound at the southern end of Roanoke Island near Wanchese.  It’s a well-known area for harvesting prime oysters because the water is slightly rough, being near the Oregon Inlet, so that only single oysters, rather than clumps, are formed.  The water is rather brackish which gives the oysters a delicious salty taste.  Frequently, tiny pea crabs, themselves a gourmet treat, are found residing in the oysters. Crab Slough oyster beds were “claimed” and passed down from generation to generation, says Frank White, a Manteo native. 
            Imagine White’s surprise when on a trip to New York City years ago, he found Crab Slough Oysters on the menu at Joe Allen, a restaurant near the theatre district.  He adapted the dish by the chef, Ed Gafney. 

3 dozen oysters, preferably from Crab Slough, in their shells
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound fresh or frozen spinach, thawed
1 ½ sticks butter
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
½ teaspoon hot pepper sauce

  1. Open and remove oysters from the shells.  If you should find tiny crabs, be sure to save and include with the oysters.  Reserve each of the larger, flat halves of the oyster shells, and place on a large baking sheet or pan.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat, and add the garlic, stirring and cooking for just a minute or until the garlic is almost brown. 
  3. Add the spinach and sauté until fresh spinach is thoroughly wilted or frozen spinach is warm.  Drain the spinach in a colander.
  4. Divide spinach among the oyster shells.  Place one oyster (and one pea crab, if present) on top of the spinach.
  5. In a heavy skillet, melt the butter, and add the Worcestershire sauce and hot pepper sauce.  Cook slowly, stirring occasionally, until butter is nut brown.
  6. Preheat the oven to broil.
  7. Drizzle each prepared oyster with the browned butter mixture.  Place under hot broiler for two to five minutes, or until oysters are thoroughly heated.  Serve immediately.

Thursday, September 27, 2012


Shrimp and Grits from Basnight's Lone Cedar

            Grits with bugs.  Conjures up those fly-in-your-face pantry moths when you open up grains, doesn’t?  But grits with bugs is how the old-timers on the Outer Banks would have described the iconic dish of Shrimp and Grits - had they ever eaten it back in the day.
            Asked to speak about Shrimp and Grits at Sunday’s Brunch at the Day at the Docks in Hatteras a couple of weekends ago, I posed this to some older Bankers:  “Did you grow up eating shrimp and grits?” 
            “Naw.  We had fried fish for breakfast.   Or grits with runny eggs.  But not shrimp and grits.”   And, it turns out that hardly anyone did outside of the Low Country of South Carolina, until 1985, when The NY Times published an article written by a homesick Southerner, Craig Claiborne, a Mississipian by birth. 

            Claiborne headed south to Chapel Hill to check out the dishes he’d heard about coming from the kitchen of Crook’s Corner.  Bill Neal, owner and chef, was among the first to plan his menu around seasonal and regional ingredients.  Neal was a rural South Carolina boy who settled in the Triangle after graduating from Duke University.  He’d left both his wife and their restaurant, La Residence, which as its name implies, had a more French-influenced menu and style of preparation.  Neal took the techniques he had learned and used Southern foods from his childhood at his new place, Crook’s Corner.  It had no white linen tablecloths, but it did have a pink pig on the roof. 
Clairborne was intrigued with Neal’s take on Southern foods, so he placed his big self on a stool in Neal’s kitchen and took notes.  After the recipe for Neal’s Shrimp and Grits appeared, the dish took off quicker than you can burn garlic, appearing on menus especially across the South.  Northern restaurants had grits shipped from the southern mills and shrimp from up and down the Southeast coast.  Thus, the icon was born.

            Bill Neal gets a lot of credit for Shrimp and Grits, but he was cooking from an old cookbook from the 1950s, CHARLESTON RECEIPTS.  As the recipe header noted, “Breakfast Shrimp” was a long-time breakfast favorite in the coastal region, what is referred to as the Low Country of South Carolina. That recipe called for cooking the shrimp in bacon grease, with a bit of onion and green pepper added.  A little bit of tomato catsup and Worcestershire sauce was added.
            But it turns out that recipe was a gussied up version of a “poor man’s breakfast.”  Like other folks who live off the land, folks in the rural Low Country fed themselves with whatever they had on hand.  They sold the larger shrimp caught by nets and kept the small shrimp for their own consumption.   Like my grandmother, they kept a metal can of bacon grease on the stovetop, which they used to sauté the shrimp.  They added pieces of bacon, or ham scraps, if they had any, but not tasso ham, because they were not Cajun.  They didn’t use butter, because it was too precious if hand-churned and hard to keep in the hot Southern summers. Herbs and cheese?  Naw.
            Bill Neal’s version is a nice riff on that basic Low Country, poor man’s breakfast, using bacon, sliced mushrooms and scallions with a little garlic and lemon juice.  And he served it over boiled grits, as the folks in Charleston did, except they called them “hominy grits.”

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            Here in the Grits Belt, from North Carolina down on through Louisiana, some say Texas, too, you can find three types of grits.
            All grits come from dried corn.  Duh. Then it’s ground.  Double Duh.
            Well, the Charlestonians call their grits “hominy grits,” a name derived from a Native American term, “rockahomine.”  Native Americans made these types of grits from dried corn kernels that are treated with “lye,” an alkali they made by running water through ashes.  Why?  Because it would remove the outer hull, leaving a white puff of corn that they would dry, again.  It could then be stored and used whole, in a stew, like the New Mexican posole.  Or, the dried puff could be ground into HOMINY GRITS. 
            Interestingly, it was this process of using lye that prevented the Native Americans from suffering from pellagra, a niacin-deficiency that Europeans developed because they ate relatively nothing but corn during some mighty lean years.  The lye process changes the structure of the starch.  How smart the New World natives were!
            The type of grits most restaurants and good home cooks use today are stone-ground grits.  And here’s the thing - they’re nothing new under the sun. For centuries, farmers and homesteaders have dried corn, then ground it between two large stones.  Stone-ground grits are the best tasting because they retain that outer hull, and the inner hull as well.  It’s the oils in the inner hull, especially, that add the most flavor to these kinds of grits, and the reason they can go rancid without storing them in the fridge.
            The other type of grits is hardly worth mentioning.  They’re the packaged, commercially ground “Quick Grits” available on most grocery store shelves.  After both outer and inner hulls have been removed, the dried corn kernels are pulverized with steel rollers.  But that removes all flavor, and much of the richer texture.  It’s like the grated, dried and flavorless Parmesan cheese that comes in that big green box, versus a hunk of real Parmesan that’s held tight while grating it over your pasta.


Shrimping is a huge industry on the Outer Banks today.  Ou?r barrier islands create a version of the Low Country, with inner sounds filled with marsh grass and shallow waters.
            So why did no one I asked remember eating shrimp and grits while growing up? 
            Here’s an astonishing fact:  It wasn’t until the 1930s that folks in the Outer Banks ate shrimp.  Truly!  They did not eat shrimp!
            “My grandmother thought they were worms,” said Della Basnight, a Manteo native.  “She wouldn’t eat them.  Thought we were crazy. They were bugs, for God’s sake.”
            “I could see them in the ocean grass while I was out fishing,” said my buddy John Gaskill, age 96.  “But when I left Wanchese (for the Navy) in 1933, we weren’t eating shrimp.  We thought they were bugs.”
            Shrimp nestle in the mud, and fouled up nets when Outer Bankers dragged the sounds for fish. 

So here’s the Great Circle of Life as far as Shrimp and Grits go.  Outer Banks fishermen would pluck those nasty “bugs” out of their nets and plop them into barrels.  Then, when they got over to the mainland, they traded those stinky barrels of shrimp for barrels of corn.  It was a win-win, for the farmers used them as fertilizer, and the Bankers dried the corn, sometimes on old sails spread on roofs or bushes.  After stripping the dried kernels from the cobs, they would take them to one of the dozen windmills that dotted the Outer Banks. 

Replica at the Island Farm on Roanoke Island
Think about it:  Couldn’t do gravity flow mills using creeks or water wheels on the flat beaches, now could you?  So they built German post-style windmills, that could be turned to face whichever way the wind was blowing.  The blades of the windmill could be covered with sails, so as to better control the speed of the turning stones.  If the mill got going too fast, the stones would scorch the corn.  The summertime breeze was sometimes nonexistent, so the sails helped there, too.  And so that’s how the Outer Banks got their cornmeal and grits – sometimes traded for “bugs” or shrimp.


Native Americans ate shrimp, say archaeologists.  But European settlers were a little slow in catching on to this succulent protein from the sea.  Like with the blackened red fish craze, folks in the New Orleans area introduced the rest of the new settlers in America to eating shrimp.  Records show that in 1735, seine nets were ordered from France fishermen from New Orleans.  They dried the shrimp in the sun, as the Chinese and Mexicans had for centuries.
            Southport, near Wilmington, was the first seaport in North Carolina to build a shrimp cannery in the first decades of the 1900s.  Diesel engines, adapted for boats, played a huge role, allowing the use of “otter trawls” rather than a large seine net that could only be used in shallow waters.  Then ice became readily available from ice plants.  The small island where the Roanoke Island Festival Park is today was once called “Ice Plant Island.”

         Some fishermen left Wanchese, the big fishing village even today on the Outer Banks, and headed to the Gulf of Mexico during the 1930s to learn how to shrimp.  When they began pulling nets for shrimp, they were called “bug hunters” along the coast of North Carolina. 
            The shrimp industry steadily grew from just a couple hundred of thousand pounds in 1931, to more than 10 million pounds caught in the wild each year today, making it NC’s largest seafood industry.

            Check out the menus in many of the restaurants that dot the Outer Banks, and you’ll find their version of Shrimp and Grits.  Some will be served with cheese grits, some with creamy grits and creamy, thick sauce with the shrimp, and some with have wild mushrooms or roasted garlic or diced tomatoes.  Most feature andouille sausage or smoked bacon.
            Even though the dish has no culinary history on the Outer Banks, let’s claim them anyway.  After all, we’ve got shrimp – those bugs that used to foul up nets – and we had grits, thanks to windmills and barrels of stinky shrimp. 
           Hatteras Island chef and Seaside innkeeper, Chris Latimer, created a marvelous Shrimp and Grits for the Days at the Docks brunch, using fresh Pamlico shrimp from fishmonger Jeff Aiken, along with andouille sausage, roasted garlic and fresh bell peppers prepared in a deep, dark roux.  Fresh, stone-ground grits were donated by Carolina Grits & Co of Rocky Mount.  What a marvelous treat!

Thursday, August 30, 2012


MISSION:  Find cool ~ as in weather, eateries, farmers market, hikes.  Taste local foods that inspire
                      new home recipes.

DESTINATION:  Vicinity of Asheville, NC

TIMING:  One long weekend

OPTIONS EXPLORED:  Asheville City Market, Saturday mornings
Looking Glass Mountain before a storm
                                           Market Place Restaurant
                                           Cucina 24
                                           The Blue Ridge Parkway
                                            Craggy Gardens
                                            Black Balsam Mountain
                                            Frying Pan Fire Tower

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!  (Look for the recipe below!)

     The annual Wine & Food Festival, the Goombay Festival, and the Topless Festival were all going on this past weekend in Asheville.  And no, I did not.  I did not participate in any.  Rather, we enjoyed a seasonal ale at The Wedge in the River Arts District, two delightful dinners each evening, some shopping at the venerable Mast General Store, and several gorgeous hikes with a view along the famed Blue Ridge Parkway, with an evening meal and overnight at the Pisgah Inn.

Cool?  You bet, in every sense of the word.

This weekend, I'd love to go back for the NC Apple Festival in Hendersonville.  This year it's especially important to support our apple growers.  Some lost as much as 90 percent of their crop due to late spring frosts.  Officials guarantee there will be enough local apples to go around this weekend. 

     The Market Place Restaurant was sold a few years ago by Asheville's original foodie, Mark Rosenstein, a man who created farm to table dinners way decades ago, when he'd take his knife and basket into farmer's fields to get dinner supplies, or scoop trout from a pond when an order was placed.  He led Asheville and the rest of the food world to the world of sustainability, local foods, and wood-fired ovens where he baked bread daily.  

     Rosenstein left his mark on Asheville's Wall Street, and in the very capable hands of William Dissen, the new, young owner/chef.  Here's what he told the ASHEVILLE CITIZEN-TIMES:  "To me, farm-to-table is a celebration of community: it's a place to get together, to party, to share a meal, to celebrate, to have fun."  Amen.  And Amen to his effort at community building as well.  Our meal was truly delightful and reasonably priced, and the atmosphere was relaxing with live music at the bar and a serene dining room.  I'll be back.

     Cucina 24, also on Wall Street, also provided a menu full of locally sourced foods.  The beet salad was especially delicious and oh-so-pretty.  It inspired me to try it at home, and look for a recipe below, my version of beets, chevre and pistachios.  

     You might wonder why I have not included photos of our meals we enjoyed at these lovely eating establishments.  I think taking photos, especially with a flash, disrupts not only MY dinner, but other folks as well.  I love to see good food porn.  I sometimes take shots, but only when a flash is not necessary.  Most times, the dining table is dimly lit, photos.

Breads from Farm & Sparrow

SECOND OP:  Procure picnic supplies from the variety of goods available at Saturday's farmers market in downtown Asheville City Market.  We found fresh, wood-fired oven-baked breads from Farm & Sparrow;  tangy goat cheese from Three Graces Dairy; smoked trout from Sunburst Trout Farms; the season's first apples; and, pastries with local black raspberry jam to just devour right there, on the spot!

Sitting on Top of the World, at Craggy Gardens
      One of my favorite easy and quick hikes is to drive north on the Blue Ridge Parkway to Craggy Gardens, and follow the trail up to the dome.  From there, you've got an awesome 360 view of the world.  No matter the season, it's just great for the view, and because of the breezes, it was nice and cool.  Late summer, you can even pick wild blueberries off to the side of the top. During the fall, all you can see is a carpet of color.  In the winter, icy patches give you a bit of a challenge to the top, but then you get to bask in the full sun.
Skinny Dip Falls

House Bread from Farm & Sparrow bakery
     Near Pisgah, south of Asheville, our favorite cool hike is Skinny Dip Falls, at Milepost 417.  And no, I did not, although perhaps that would have been a great segue from the Topless Festival?  Anyway, you hike down a shaded, root and rock-filled path to a gorgeous rocky waterfall, and you can rock hop up and down if the kid in you prevails.

     Just a bit down the road, hike the Art Loeb trail off Black Balsam that leads to the bald, with views to the horizon and overlooking Graveyard Fields.  An awesome view, worth the mile trek upward.

   And, HWY 276 down to Brevard from the Parkway provides a terrific winding, downhill scenic route, with pull-outs along the Davidson River for picnics.  At Sliding Rock Falls, you can do just that - slide down the rocks on your butt.  Great fun.   Looking Glass Falls has steps leading down to the bottom level, allowing you pretty views all the way down.  Find a big rock on the side for a picnic there, too.


I still crack up remembering a friend who exclaimed, "You can eat the roots, too?  I always throw them away!"   She loved beet greens in salads and stir fry;  now she loves the roasted roots as well.

1 bunch of beets
6 ounce tub of chèvre (ours was flavored with honey and lavendar)
thinning options - 1 to 2 tablespoons simple syrup, Greek yogurt, or milk
couple tablespoons chopped fresh herbs - I used rosemary, chives and oregano
handful of salted pistachios, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

1.  Preheat oven to 350.  Cut the beets from the stems (reserve for salad or to braise).  Wash the roots well.  Place on a large rectangle of aluminum foil, securely wrap them up, and place on a baking sheet, as they can leak!  Bake for about an hour, or until a knife easily pierces the largest beet.  Cool.

2.  Use a paper towel or cloth and rub the skins off.  Cut into bite-size pieces.

3.  In a small bowl, place the chèvre.  Mix in a bit of your thinning option, and whip with a fork or whisk till mixture is pliable.  Place on your serving dish or individual plate.

4.  Top chevre with beets.  Sprinkle the herbs over, then the chopped pistachios.  Season with salt and pepper.  Serve and enjoy!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Julia Child Had Big Feet

A cherished memory, meeting Julia Child. 

Julia  Child was six feet, two inches tall.  Like me.  She had big feet, like me.  

And so, when I was introduced to her, she looked me in the eye, then immediately down at my feet.  “Where did you get those lovely shoes?” she warbled.

"My sh-shoes?"  I stammered. Julia Child wanted to know about my SHOES?

I was so very privileged to see her several different times over the next few years at food writer’s events.  And each time, she greeted me enthusiastically, and then asked me, “Where did you get your shoes?”

At The Greenbrier. with Anne Willan and Miss Julia many years ago
Now, I’m not going to complain that she wanted to talk about how hard it was to find shoes for our big feet instead of talking food.  I could hardly spit out anything, I was in such awe of her.

And once, she did ask me what I was writing, then admonished me with this:  “You must write about your home, about North Carolina.  Write about the wonderful food there.” 

So I did as Julia said.  First I showcased our bountiful harvest of seafood and fresh produce along the Outer Banks. Then I went to the other end of our state to write about the marvelous foods of the Blue Ridge mountains.  I found so many great stories, such a variety of foods, with passionate folks at either end working hard to bring the best to our tables and markets.  I’m so glad I took that advice from Julia.  I try to bring a bit of the passion she felt about cooking and eating well to my own writing.  She was a good role model.

Like Julia, I was in my ‘50s before I finally got a cookbook published.  Being a “mature” age is hard for me.  I’d rather not be "invisible." I don’t like being “old,” so I’ve learned that I need to add a little gusto, like Julia, to my life.  To approach life and tasks with passion.  For she always did everything full out, it seems, especially when it came to eating, therefore living, well.  Never holding back.  Even into her eighties, she was going to so many public events, doing TV shows, asking questions of other cooking experts at conferences, and writing books.  She always talked to everyone who approached her.  She sat around after dinner and just chatted and laughed with the many people sitting literally at her feet.  She knew no strangers, but many strangers knew her. 

May I be blessed enough to even continue to try to be like Julia.  For, dare I say it, she left big shoes to fill.

One of her biographers told me that Julia and her sister, who was also six feet tall, had a pact when growing up:  If the house should catch on fire, first, they’d throw their shoes out the window, then they’d jump. 

Like Julia, I’m throwing my shoes first.

Check out this youtube video honoring her 100th birthday from NPR:

RECIPE  ~   BRAISED SALMON WITH VEGGIES, an adapted recipe from Julia Childs

From one of my go-to cookbooks, THE WAY TO COOK by Julia Child

     In THE WAY TO COOK, Julia shared a recipe for braised salmon with vermouth or a white wine, and "aromatic vegetables."  Now, far be it from me to suggest a better way.....but.....I do use recipes as a springboard or guide to use with whatever I have on had.  And so, I adapted.  We do not cook with wine with a certain guest, so water flavored with the veggie juices was used instead.  And I added to the chopped carrots, celery, and onion some red pepper and corn cut from a leftover ear.  Rather than cooking these veggies until very soft, for ten minutes, I stopped at five minutes, allowing them a bit more texture, or al dente.  Orzo or Israeli pearl couscous is great with this dish, as they soak up the pan juices.
     YES, THIS RECIPE CALLS FOR BUTTER!  But Julia always preached "moderation."  Butter, cream, chocolate, fois gras.....all those "top shelf" items were to be enjoyed every now and then, not every day, she wrote and spoke.  So just practice moderation.

      Our fish came out just great.  I loved the tenderness of the salmon, the sweetness of the veggies. We toasted Julia Child, her cherished memories she leaves us with, and my good fortune of meeting and talking with her.   Here's to Big Feet!


1 1/2 to 2 pounds salmon fillets, cut into four serving pieces
1/2 to 1 cup chopped carrots
1/2 to 1 cup chopped celery
1/2 to 1 cup chopped onion
1/2 to 1 cup chopped red or green pepper
1 ear corn, kernels cut
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup water, approximately
salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.   Butter a large flat baking dish, and also butter a large piece of was paper that you will use to cover the dish once the fish is placed in the oven.
2.  Remove skin from salmon fillets by running a knife blade between skin and flesh at an angle, holding to the skin with one hand wrapped in a cloth or paper towel which allows you to get a grip.  If there are any bones, pull them out with tweezers.   Place fish in prepared baking dish.
3.  In a saute pan, melt 2 tablespoons butter, then add veggies.  Saute for about five minutes, or until they have begun to soften.  Then, place veggies on top of salmon fillets (set pan aside to use later).  Add just enough water to come halfway up the sides of the salmon.
4.  Cover the baking dish with the buttered side of the wax paper down.  Bake the fish for about 15 minutes, or until fish flakes easily.
5.  Place the fish on warm plates, with the veggies.  Pour the remaining fish juices back into the saute pan, and boil over high heat until reduced to a few tablespoons.  Stir in the remaining butter, in pieces.  Pour sauce over the fish, and serve immediately.


Please be nice and remember attribution if you should copy this!  Thanks.

Thursday, August 2, 2012


Asheville City Market


     Summer time......can it get any hotter?  Head out to your local farmers markets early in the a.m., before the heat of the day wilts either you or the fresh, fresh produce heaped in baskets and on display.       
     I'm like a kid in a candy store when it comes to farmers markets.  I want something of everything.  I've learned to bring enough cash, small bills, and a basket or bag, along with a chilled ice chest in the back of the car whenever we hit the larger NC State Farmers Market.  My hubby says he's my mule, for he'll take loads of produce from me to take back to the car, so I can continue to shop unencumbered.


Charles Church of Watauga Farms
One of my favorite farm tours, so check them out at  

Load up the car with friends, kids and coolers, and head to the Boone area Sat and Sun afternoons from 2 to 6 p.m.

Check out "Chicken Tractors," pet alpaca's, see tomatoes growing upside down and on strings, and meet and greet those hard-working folks that bring such marvelous produce and meats to your table. 

A Chicken "Tractor"


Saturday mornings, I love to explore the diverse farmers markets that have popped up all over my neck of the woods.  Judging from the crowds I am encountering, many have found their audience, folks like me, hungry for a tomato ripened to perfection, green beans with a snap, cucumbers that are crisp, colorful squash, okra so fresh it's begging to be taken home.

Other days of the week, I'll slip over to CRAZY LADY'S, a produce stand that started out small at Taylor's,  our local filling station cum wine store.  After a couple of years, Crazy Lady now has farmers coming to her, making deliveries fresh daily, and the busy parking lot proves she's got a great business going.  I love having a great selection of squash, berries, peaches, watermelons, fresh corn, you name it, that is LOCALLY grown.

One thing I've loved about her is that she will pass on produce or fruit that is perhaps just a second past its prime, what she calls "ugly," but still good if used that day.  Our peach pie last week was made from her gift, with ugly, soft peaches with bruises that did not taste ugly at all.  In fact, those peaches were perfect in my eye.  Waste not, want not, huh?


Figs and Smeared Goat Cheese, drizzled with honey.
Figs, Smeared Goat Cheese, drizzled with honey . . . could not be an easier appetizer.  If' you're not lucky enough to have your own fig tree in the back yard that you've protected from birds and squirrels, you'll find fresh figs make a brief appearance at farmers markets now.  I snap them up whenever I see them.  They bruise easily, so treat them with care, and expect a few in each basket to be not too pretty.  I've gently boiled the too-soft and uglies with a bit of sugar or honey in water, until the figs are all syrupy, and used those over goat cheese or vanilla ice cream or with pound cake.  
     I first had an appetizer like this at The Little Hen, a fantastic Farm-to-Table restaurant in Apex.  
     To create this appetizer, soften some local goat cheese and spread it over flat crackers.  Slice each fig in half, or quarters, and place on top of the cheese.  Drizzle with local honey.  I found some unusual Bay Bush honey at the State Farmers Market from BEE BLESSED HONEY.  Beekeeper Barry said he had left his hives sitting after gathering honey when the gall berry season was over, and when he returned, he found this dark, richly flavored honey which he finally figured was from the bay berry trees in blossom.  What a nice surprise for him, and for me!


My daughter, Kate, treated us to a delicious dinner of patty pan squash stuffed with ground turkey and grated veggies with quinoa.  She adapted several recipes using ground turkey for stuffing veggies to come up with this delicious version:

HANDY TIP:  Grate the garlic and ginger root using a micro planer or small grater.

4 large patty pan squash (or large bell peppers or portobellos)
1 lb ground turkey
1 tablespoon soy sauce
3 cloves minced garlic
2 teaspoons minced ginger root
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 tablespoon lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup shredded carrots
1 cup sliced celery
1 cup green onions, thinly sliced
1 medium zucchini, finely chopped
4 cups warm, cooked quinoa or three-bean pilaf (or a combination thereof)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Bring a large pot of water to boil.  
2.  Wash patty pan squash.  Cut a small opening around the tops, creating a little "cap".  Using a spoon or melon baller, scoop out the insides and seeds. Place squash into boiling water for about three minutes.  You may need to hold them under water with a spoon.  Drain, then run cold water over each, or plunge into an ice bath, until they are completely cool.  Pat dry and set aside.
3.  In a saute pan, heat olive oil.  Add onions and cook over medium low heat until onions have begun to soften.  Add the ground turkey, soy sauce, garlic and ginger.  Stir, and cook until turkey is browned. Add cilantro, curry powder, lemon juice, and salt and pepper.  Stir well, then cover and simmer over low heat for about three minutes.  Remove the mixture from the heat.
4.  Add the cooked quinoa or mixture to the ground turkey mixture and stir to combine.
5.  Stuff each squash with the turkey mixture, packing it down with the back of a small spoon.  Place stuffed squash in a baking dish.  Drizzle any remaining liquids from the turkey mixture over each.  Place the caps on the squash, cover the dish with aluminum foil, and bake for about 30 minutes, or until squash is tender and stuffing is hot through and through.  If there is any stuffing mixture left, place that in a separate dish and bake, also.
YIELD:  4 servings.

Friday, June 15, 2012


Sweet Corn and Crabmeat Soup......tastes like summer!
 Corn and Crabmeat, two fav foods, tangled together, makes one helluva good soup.
     Sweet, succulent corn plus sweet, succulent crabmeat equals a fine pairing for a summer's meal.
Sweet white corn is a perfect pair for crabmeat.
 Chef Jay Pierce of LUCKY 32, in both Greensboro and Cary, featured my recipe from THE OUTER BANKS COOKBOOK on his menu at both Cary and Greensboro restaurants last summer.  It was a crowd favorite, he tells me.  

     I like the sweet white corns available at farm stands during the early summer.  Some folks find them too cloying sweet, but those varieties usually have smaller kernels, which I prefer, and a great taste.  I also use the less expensive back fin crabmeat for this soup, although lump crabmeat is great, too.  My family is a bit lactose-intolerant, so most times I do not add cream, but, if you prefer a more creamy base, just add light cream with the crabmeat, stir and continue to cook just until heated through.

Crabs waiting to be shipped.  I'm lazy, so I usually buy crabmeat already picked, by the pound
     This family favorite was the recipe I featured in my latest cooking demo for Roanoke's noon show.  To watch, click here - DAYTIME BLUE RIDGE. You'll see it's so easy, so you can get out of the kitchen right quick! Check it out!

RECIPE     ~     CRAB & CORN SOUP  from THE OUTER BANKS COOKBOOK, Elizabeth Wiegand, Globe Pequot Press, 2008. (c)

            Fresh, sweet corn from the farm stands and fresh, sweet crab from the sounds –you can’t get any better than that on the Outer Banks.  Here’s to early summer!  The less expensive backfin crabmeat is perfect for soups.

4 to 6 fresh ears of sweet corn or 3 cups frozen sweet white corn
2 Tablespoons butter
1 onion, finely chopped
¼ cup red pepper, finely chopped
2 small cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup water
1 pound backfin crabmeat
salt and pepper to taste
GARNISH:  Shredded fresh basil leaves or chopped parsley
OPTION:  ½ cup light or heavy cream, added with the crabmeat

  1. Prepare corn by cutting kernels from ears with a sharp knife.  Run the non-sharp side of the knife down the trimmed ear to  “milk” the juice from the remainders of the cob.  Reserve kernels and juice. 
  2. In a large soup pot, heat butter over medium low heat.  Add onions and cook slowly until wilted and translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add red pepper and stir for 2 to 3 minutes.  Add garlic, stirring constantly for one minute.
  3. Add chicken broth and water.  Bring just to a boil, then add corn and its milk.  Add more water, if necessary, to reach your desired consistency.  Turn heat to low and cook for about 8 to 10 minutes, or until corn is tender. 
  4. Add crabmeat (and cream, if you prefer), stir and heat until warm.  Season with salt and pepper. 
  5. Garnish each bowl with basil or parsley before serving.
SERVINGS:  6 appetizers

Thursday, May 31, 2012

A beautiful catch from western NC stream

     The first Saturday in June is like Christmas Day for fly fishermen.  That's when our friends Sally and Joe are awakened in the middle of the night, not by someone coming down the chimney, but by the headlights of pickups and SUVs, angling for a parking space along the dirt road that follows Helton Creek in Ashe County.  They're all trying to lay claim to the beautiful, deep pool by the rock, or under the hemlock where so many snagged flies hang like Christmas ornaments.

 "Just one more cast. . . ."

     So what's the excitement?  Aren't the rainbows, brookies or specks, and brownies - NC's beautiful mountain trout - there swimming and eluding fishermen all the time?  Yep.  But beginning Saturday, until October, fishermen can KEEP their catch, rather than having to catch and release.
     Do you know how sobering, how tempting it is to reel in a big one, and then have to let it go?  Knowing that it would fill up your frying pan but good?  It's enough to make a grown man cry, just like the younger boy did when he didn't get a racing bike or car keys one holiday.   I know the hubby has a tender heart, and he always says that he let the fish go to get bigger.  But I also know he's just made a promise to catch it again, when the controlled harvest regulations are lifted.

     The little brookies and brown trout that Steve has caught are throw-backs.  They are tiny, but fun to catch since they are so very elusive and wary.
Let's see, can I focus?
     But those rainbows, they can have some size to them.  That's a fulfilling day, to spend wading in a stream, have the thrill of reeling one of those big boys all the way in, and then having it grace your dinner plate.
     Trout can be lightly floured, then fried in a little butter and oil.  Throw in some subtle chopped herbs, salt and pepper to taste, and that's just mighty fine.
     Or, try the recipe that follows, shared with me by John and Julie Stehling, the lovely owners of one of my favorites, Early Girl Eatery in Asheville, for THE NEW BLUE RIDGE COOKBOOK.   I love to do trout this way, because you simply bake the trout, then top the fillets with a fresh blackberry and green tomato sauce.
At the farmers markets, no chiggers, no thorns.
     Some folks call the native wild blackberries "dewberries" and they're worth the chiggers.  Just wear long sleeves and pants, secured to your wrists and ankles!  And choose thickets, esp. those on the roadside, that have not possibly been sprayed.
     You'll find baskets upon baskets of fresh blackberries at area farmers markets soon.Many of the new varieties are named for Native Americans, like Arapaho, Kiowa, Navaho, and in keeping suit,  NCSU, named one of their research varieties  "Nantahala", like the river and area in western North Carolina.
      And if you can't catch your own, try for some fresh trout fillets at area markets, esp. those from Sunburst Trout in Canton, NC.


(C) From THE NEW BLUE RIDGE COOKBOOK:  Authentic Recipes from VA's Highlands to NC's Mountains, by Elizabeth Wiegand, Globe Pequot Press, 2010.  

Trout with Green Tomatoes & Blackberry Sauce, from Early Girl Eatery
            Blackberry thickets grow along roads and mountainsides in the Blue Ridge, although you may avoid scratches and chiggers by purchasing gorgeous berries at local farmers markets.  Those cultured varieties are generally seedless and more plump without sacrificing flavor. 
            John and Julie Stehling have been leaders in the farm-to-table movement in the Asheville area.  “That relationship has to work both ways, with accountability and responsibility on both parts,” says John.  Many of the young farmers that supply Early Girl Eatery have become friends, sharing potlucks suppers with young kids racing around.   
            John features two favorite Blue Ridge foods – mountain trout and fresh blackberries – with this recipe.  The green tomato prevents the sauce from being overly sweet. 
1 green tomato
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon minced lemon zest
¾ cup sugar
pinch of ground cinnamon
pinch of ground nutmeg
¼ cup water
1 pint fresh blackberries
salt, to taste
4 trout filets, 5- ounces each
olive oil
1.     Core the green tomato and puree in blender or food processor.
2.     In non-stick saucepan, bring the puree to a low boil on medium heat.  Add lemon juice and zest, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and water.  Lower the heat and let simmer until the mixture is the thickness of a rich marinara.
3.     Remove from heat and gently stir in blackberries.  Add salt to taste.  Set aside while you prepare the trout.
4.     Preheat oven to 450°.  Lightly oil and salt both sides of the filets.
5.     Place trout on a rack over a baking pan and bake until fish is flaky, about 10 minutes per inch of thickness.
6.     Place baked trout filets on plate and top with sauce.
YIELD:  4 Servings