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.