Friday, December 13, 2013


Beets and Goats Bruschetta

I've always fallen for that old holiday song about "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire..." and it conjures up in my head some silly, romantic notion of sitting by the fire and all chores are done, food prepared, gifts wrapped, and there's nothing to do but smell the chestnuts roasting, which I have never, ever done - smelled chestnuts, nor gotten everything done just so. 

Bah Humbug!

Most know that I emit Scrooge-like squawks this time of year.  The holidays just come loaded with such grand expectations, mainly from my Inner Administrator.  And so I stress.

The "holidays" stand the chance of really, truly being that special time of year for making wonderful, magical, fun and humorous memories.  And so, with that in mind, I'm going to push Scrooge aside and plan on gathering with some special friends and my loved ones on several occasions.

And I'll bring one of the following apps, or appetizers, to contribute to the celebrations.  Finger food, each is relatively easy, not very time consuming, and delightfully delicious.  

My wish for all you foodies is to have a relaxing time during this season of sharing gifts, time with loved ones, and sumptuous feasts!

Recipes follow~


            Recipe by Elizabeth Wiegand, author of THE OUTER BANKS COOKBOOK, THE NEW BLUE RIDGE COOKBOOK, and FOOD LOVERS’ GUIDE TO NC’S OUTER BANKS, all from Globe Pequot Press.
This version of bruschetta, a spin on the classic combo of roasted beets and goat cheese, makes a beautiful holiday appetizer.
Chop roasted beets; add chives and thyme; smear goat cheese on toast.  Voila!

3 medium beets, about 2 cups
Aluminum foil
4 to 6 ounces goat cheese
2 to 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
½ teaspoon salt or to taste
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper, or to taste
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme or rosemary
1 tablespoon finely chopped chives
1 baguette
Chopped parsley for garnish

1.     Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Wash and trim roots and stems from beets.  Place whole beets in a large square of aluminum foil and seal tightly.  Place the foil package on a baking sheet, and roast in oven for about an hour, maybe a little more, until the tip of a knife goes into the beets easily. 
2.     Allow the beets to cool.  Peel (you may want to use gloves or a paper towel to rub the skin off the beets).  Dice the beets into tiny cubes, about ¼ inch or less.
3.     Meanwhile, set the goat cheese out to soften at room temperature.
4.     Place diced beets into a medium bowl.  Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, and herbs.  Carefully mix together.
5.     Preheat broiler.  Cut baguette into thin, diagonal slices.  Brush both sides with olive oil.  Lightly toast both sides under the broiler.
6.     Spread goat cheese onto toasts.  Top with beet mixture.  Garnish with parsley.

Shrimp stuffed "Dare" Devil Eggs

*****    DARE DEVILED EGGS  from THE OUTER BANKS COOKBOOK, by Elizabeth Wiegand, Globe Pequot Press, 2nd ed. 2013

Watch me prepare this on WSLS Daytime Blue Ridge:
What’s old is new again. . . . Deviled Eggs, a staple of Southern picnics and Sunday gatherings, are making their rounds at wedding receptions and chic cocktail parties.  Here’s a “Dare Deviled” version that includes either shrimp or crabmeat, two of the bounties from the Outer Banks’ Dare County.
            You would think it a simple matter to boil an egg, but there are many ways to accomplish that.  I’ve found this manner works best if you need to shell the eggs without marring the white.  If you unintentionally dismember too many whites of the eggs, just go ahead and make an egg salad. And as I heard Julia Child exclaim once, during a cooking class I was attending, “Never, ever admit a mistake.  That’s what parsley’s for!”

12 eggs, room temperature
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon finely cut chives
½ teaspoon salt
freshly ground pepper, to taste
¼ cup steamed shrimp, chopped fine OR ¼ cup backfin crabmeat
1 teaspoon Old Bay, if desired or sweet paprika

  1. Place eggs in a large pot and cover with cold water.  Gently bring to a boil over medium heat.  Watch pot carefully, and immediately remove the pot from the heat when the bubbles begin.  Cook for five minutes, then immediately remove from heat.
  2. Drain water from pot, and run cold water over the eggs until water remains cold, about 2 minutes.
  3. Peel the eggs.  The best method is to tap them all over on the countertop.  Start at the big end where there is usually an air pocket, and carefully slide the shell away from the whites.  Rinse each egg quickly in cold water if needed to remove any pieces of shell. 
  4. Slice each egg in two lengthwise, and carefully pop or scoop out the yolk into a mixing bowl. 
  5. Mash the yolks with a fork, then add mayonnaise, mustard, chives, salt and pepper and mix thoroughly.  Then gently fold in either shrimp or crabmeat.
  6. Stuff the middle of each egg white with the yolk mixture, and arrange on a serving plate or platter.  Sprinkle the tops with either Old Bay or paprika.
YIELD:  24 stuffed eggs (if you’re lucky!)

****   SHRIMP SALAD from NORTH BANKS, from FOOD LOVERS GUIDE TO NC'S OUTER BANKS, by Elizabeth Wiegand, Globe Pequot Press, 2013

            Driving up to Corolla may feel like you’re driving to the end of the earth.  But there’s a heavenly stop before you get to the end of the road.  North Banks Restaurant and Raw Bar, in the TimBuck II shopping center, has a fantastic menu featuring local, coastal cuisine, as well as great dishes from around the globe.  I’ve enjoyed many lovely meals at this casual eatery.
            Here’s a great recipe for Shrimp Salad that can be used to fill lettuce leaves, or sandwich wraps, or in a bun, or enjoyed just by itself.  It makes a vast quantity, perhaps good to have on hand for the start of a vacation.  Otherwise, size it down according to your needs.  If you have time, roast your own red peppers over a hot grill or under the broiler, then peel and chop.
6 pounds shrimp, cooked and chopped
2 cups chopped celery
1 cup whole water chestnuts, rinsed and drained
1 cup chopped roasted red peppers
1 cup chopped red onion
2 to 3 cups mayonnaise, according to preference
1 teaspoon and a pinch of cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon white pepper

Place the celery, water chestnuts, red pepper and onion in the food processor.  Process until all is finely minced.  (Or finely chop all.)
Transfer the mixture to a large bowl, and add other ingredients.  Mix well.  Chill and serve.
YIELD:  About 12 servings

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Sweet Potato

Gingered Sweet Potato Soup with Pork Barbecue

”Song, song of the South, Sweet Potato Pie and I shut my mouth….” Got that song by Alabama going in my head and it just won’t stop… Then there’s the James Taylor song, or the old Sweet Potato Blues by Lonnie Johnson or the soulful instrumental by Booker T and the MG’s.

     Sweet potatoes bring music to my ears, and solace to very being.  I LOVE sweet potatoes and I’m so excited because ‘tis the season.  They’ve been dug up, “cured” to allow the starch to sweeten, and are hitting our markets right about NOW!

Roasted, then smashed, ready for many recipes!

     Beauregard.  Jewel.  Carolina Ruby.  Old White. . . I love these names that describe their colors. There’s even Stokes Purple, a beautiful tater than retains its color even when cooked, developed in Stokes County, NC, in pursuit of more antioxidants.  Those colors of the rainbow help sweet potatoes to deliver a whopping 300 percent of Vitamin A needed each day, as well as another good dose of vitamins C.  Plus, they’re fiber rich.  

In the Kitchen House of the Roanoke Island Farm, Manteo

Sweet potatoes run deep in the South.  NC is the number one producer of this tuber, over 40 % of those grown in the nation.  A few years back, the state’s commission tried to run the spelling of both words together…..”sweetpotato”, which we all know is just wrong, besides driving my Spellcheck crazy.  And we’ve heard or read about the old days when a hot, cooked sweet potato stuck in pockets warmed the way to school or provided lunch when working out in the field.  Most of us have learned not to call them “yams,” which are a completely different root vegetable grown in more tropical climes.

Sweet Potato Biscuits
One of my favorite restaurants in Winston-Salem is Sweet Potatoes, Well Shut My Mouth, run by partners Vivian Joiner and Stephanie Tyson.  You can only guess what’s frequently on their menu, in many shapes and forms, like bread puddings or Charlottes made with leftover Sweet Potato Biscuits.  I also am impressed that many of their employees are those that have been down in their luck but given a chance to turn things around by this couple.  Look for Stephanie’s cookbook, Well Shut My Mouth, published by John Blair.

Whaddya do with Sweet Potatoes?

My fav?  Cook ‘em whole, in the microwave or oven, then slather on some good butter and sprinkle on the salt.

Baskets of grated sweets
Or slice them into “fries,” grease them up with some oil, and bake or grill.

Then you can also cut them up and substitute them in a hash, or, roast chunks with onions and red peppers, all coated with olive oil and seasoned with thyme and/or rosemary.

Sweet potato pancakes, or cakes, or pies, or biscuits, rolls, or fritters, or mashed into the traditional Southern casserole with a pecan topping . . .See how versatile this tuber is?

Coating a Salmon Fillet . . . heavenly!
 I’ve even coated a salmon fillet with thin slices coated with olive oil, which baked was just out of this world good.  (You’ll find several of these recipes in my books.)

I’m including a recipe below for Sweet Potato Soup with Gingered Shrimp (or you can add crabmeat or even eastern-style pork barbecue!).  And then there’s one for sweet potato baskets, to hold crabmeat, perhaps.  And also a recipe for Sweet Potato Guacamole, a riff on a recipe by my friend Fred Thompson, in his latest, Southern Sides.

If you decide to share, please be nice and give credit.

Sweet Potato Soup with Gingered Shrimp
I try to use local products as much as possible, as in local brown or green-tail shrimp from NC’s coast, Mattamuskeet Sweet onions, and eastern NC sweet potatoes.  Covington or Beauregard varieties of sweet potatoes make a soup with a brilliant color.

1tablespoon olive oil
1 medium sweet onion, peeled and chopped
About 2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into cubes (5 to 6 cups)
4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger root
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1teaspoon salt or more, to taste
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, or to taste

1.     In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium low heat.  Add onions, and stir occasionally until translucent or softened, about 5 minutes.
2.     Add garlic and gingerroot, and stir to coat.  Add sweet potatoes, stir, then pour in just enough stock to cover the veggies.  Add either water or more stock, if necessary, to cover veggies.
3.     Bring to a simmer, and cook over low heat until sweet potatoes are fork-tender, about 30 minutes.
4.     If you have an immersion blender, use that to puree the soup until no chunks or onion pieces remain.  Or, use a blender or food processor.  With a slotted spoon, remove chunks to be processed with a small amount of liquid from the pot.  Be aware that the heat could cause the top of the blender to explode, so place a dish cloth or pot holder on top, and hold it in place.  Process all of the soup until smooth, then return it to the pot.  Keep warm. 
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
½ pound shrimp, peeled, deveined, rinsed and patted dry
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger (or more, if you like!)
½ teaspoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons chopped chives or 2 to 3 green onions, chopped fine
1tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1.     In a small sauté pan, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add shrimp, and stir for about 2 to 3 minutes, until shrimp are pink and cooked through.
2.     Add ginger root, garlic and chives, stirring to combine.  Sprinkle with the lemon juice.
TO SERVE:  Place soup in bowls, then divide and place shrimp in the center of each serving.  Serve immediately.
YIELD:  Serves 6 as appetizer or 4 for lunch


CRABBY SWEET POTATO BASKETS  from THE OUTER BANKS COOKBOOK, by Elizabeth Wiegand, Globe Pequot Press, 2013      
            These little cups made from grated sweet potatoes are perfect backdrops for buttered crabmeat, as both are sweet in flavor plus there’s a refreshing contrast in color and texture.  Surprisingly easy, what elegant finger food, perfect for cocktails, special events, or a buffet.  
For the Sweet Potato Baskets
2 cups grated sweet potato (about one very large)
3 tablespoons flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1 large egg, beaten
1.     Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray or grease a one-dozen mini-muffin pan.
2.     Place grated sweet potato in a mixing bowl.  Sprinkle with flour and salt, then add beaten egg.  Mix well.
3.     Press about one tablespoon of sweet potato mixture into each muffin cup, firming the mixture up the sides, also.
4.     Bake in oven for about 25 minutes, covering with foil, if needed, for the last five minutes to prevent burning.  Let pan cool for a few minutes, then remove baskets to a cooking rack.
For the Crab Mixture
3 tablespoons butter
1/3 pound (about 1 cup) lump or backfin crabmeat
½ teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
1 tablespoon chopped chives
salt and pepper to taste
1.     Melt butter in a small skillet.  Add crabmeat, sprinkle with old Bay and chives.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.
2.     When potato baskets are cool enough to handle, fill each with about one tablespoon of the crab mixture.  Serve warm.
YIELD:  one dozen appetizers

Adapted from my friend Fred Thompson’s new cookbook, SOUTHERN SIDES, this tasty appetizer is healthy and so easy to prepare.  And what a great way to use a fall vegetable – sweet potato – as a substitute for avocado found in traditional guacamole recipes.  Fred likes to spice his up with roasted poblanos, and you can also substitute Serrano or canned chipotle chilies.  Blue corn tortilla chips provide a nice color contrast.

1 large sweet potato, cooked
½ cup chopped cherry tomatoes
½ cup chopped green onions (or red onions, if preferred)
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 to 2 teaspoons chopped fresh jalapeno (or 1 roasted poblano chili or 1 teaspoon chopped canned chipotle), or more if you like it spicy
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
juice from 1 to 2 limes
1.     Scrape the sweet potato from its skin into a medium mixing bowl.  Mash with a fork. 
2.     Add the rest of the ingredients, except for the lime, and stir to mix.
3.     Add just enough lime juice to loosen the consistency for dipping chips, and also to taste.  Adjust salt, and perhaps add more jalapeno or chili if desired.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013


Red sky at night, sailor's delight.  On the Chesapeake somewhere.

Aboard Fidelio a weekend ago, the tuna I was marinating matched the color of the sunset.  The old adage, red sky at night, sailor's delight, proved true, both for the forecast and our dinner.

Fidelio is a cranky, small, old sailboat that belongs to our dear friend Rob Fawcett, Pennsylvania's family doc of the year, and, a published poet, whose good humor and writings have entertained us on each of our 15 annual trips exploring the Chesapeake.

Capt Rob, with me supervising
Turns out Fidelio the boat is appropriately named.  Beethoven revised and cut short his only opera, Fidelio, but it still didn't make it among 18-th century audiences.   "Fidelio will win me a martyr's crown," he reportedly said.  It seems the singing was too difficult to perform well, and the plot, well, is kinda complicated.

The story goes that Fidelio was the new errand boy in a Spanish political prison, who arrived carrying food and supplies for Rocco, the jailer.  Rocco's daughter thought he was cute, and had her heart set on winning him over .....but ..... Fidelio was really a nobleWOMAN from Seville who had snuck into the prison in disguise to rescue her husband, who had been sentenced to death for his political actions.  A complicated plot ensues, but it all works out in the end, with Leonore, aka Fidelio, freeing her husband from his chains.

Fidelio the sailboat is a noblewoman in disguise, too.  She's a sweet sailing vessel, but she's over 40 years old and a bit rundown.  One year her engine blew on us; another the head stopped working.  We've been over-powered, and under-winded.  Some sailors polish and scrub foredecks and railings, but, well, dusty Fidelio is still well-loved by Rob.  Being onboard is a lot like camping on the water, but it's an annual delight that I wouldn't miss.


Tuna Udon, a recipe from THE OUTER BANKS COOKBOOK by Elizabeth Wiegand
So, in spite of having only a tiny charcoal grill that attaches to a stanchion, and a tiny gas burner, with some advance planning and kitchen work before leaving home, we managed to pull off an awesome dinner.  I had chopped and softened onions, peppers and asparagus, mixed up the marinades in jars, and cooked a package of udon noodles before leaving home.

Both red snapper and tuna are seasonal favorites in our markets this fall.
We found the tuna in Raleigh at Saltwater Seafood off Capitol Blvd, another Earp family venture that features local bounties from NC waters, fresh and cleaned on the spot.  The tuna had just arrived from Wanchese, the intake of fresh, local seafood in the Outer Banks.

Tuna being skinned at the cleaning station at Hatteras Village Marina.
After we dropped sails and motored into an isolated gunk hole for the night, I placed the Ziplock bags of noodles and veggies on top of the covered engine to warm them on the residual heat.  Shook and poured the marinade over the bright, red tuna.  We lit the charcoal and candles.

The red of the setting sun was mirrored in the water.  So, as good sailors do, we paid our respects to one fine day.  We poured a sip (or two!) of rum over ice and squeezed in a lime.  Made a toast to a spectacular day on the water, in the wind, and under the bridge.  We then listened to a new batch of poems from our Captain, mulling over his images and metaphors and the stories they told.

With flashlights, we started putting our dinner together.  Usually I sear the tun in a hot pan, but this time, it kissed the hot grill for just a couple of minutes per side.  The marinated noodles were swirled on our plates, then topped with the red-centered tuna.  We poured a fine temperanillo and cut the bread.

And all was well aboard Fidelio, that fine noble mistress.


TUNA UDON,  from THE OUTER BANKS COOKBOOK, by Elizabeth Wiegand, Globe Pequot Press, 2nd Edition, 2013. (c)  Please credit if reproduced.  
            Beautiful loins of dark, red tuna are available fresh from the day boats at O’Neal’s Sea Harvest in Wanchese or at any of the seafood markets along the Outer Banks.  For a fascinating diversion, catch the charter boats when they return to Oregon Inlet Fishing Center or at the docks in Hatteras Village late in the afternoon, to see them unload or rather heave onto the boardwalk the big, torpedo-like yellowfin tunas caught just offshore.  At Hatteras Village, the local watermen at the fish cleaning stations make quick work of peeling the skin, then quartering the tuna to extract the loin.   Loins are then cut crosswise into steaks. 
            This dish makes a beautiful presentation, with the bright colors of the veggies in the udon noodles.  The tuna is very tender, almost like butter, when marinated in oil.  

For the tuna:
4 tuna steaks, at least 1-inch thick
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons chili oil
3 strips lemon peel ½ inch wide
3 sprigs fresh thyme
2 large garlic cloves, slivered
salt and freshly ground pepper
For the Udon:
3 tablespoons white sesame seeds
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger root
¼ soy sauce
¼ cup canola or vegetable oil plus 1 tablespoon
½ teaspoon Tobasco or other hot sauce
½ cup chopped red pepper
3 green onions, chopped
½ pound fresh asparagus or 2 cups sugar snap peas
1 package (8 ounces) dried udon pasta

  1. At least an hour before cooking, marinate tuna steaks.  In a plastic, resealable bag, place the olive oil, chili oil, lemon peel, thyme, and garlic.  Squish it around to blend, then add the tuna steaks.  Place bag in refrigerator until time to cook.
  2. Start to prepare the udon noodles.  In a small skillet, over medium heat, place the sesame seeds, and shake the pan to stir them around as they toast.  When lightly browned, after about 3 to 5 minutes, remove from heat.
  3. In a small mixing bowl or jar with a tight lid, combine the garlic, ginger root, soy sauce, oil, hot sauce, red pepper, and onions.  Whisk, or shake the jar, to combine. Let sit so that the flavors will meld.
  4. If you are using asparagus, snap the tough ends off, rinse, then cut into 2 inch pieces on the diagonal to make it attractive. Place in a skillet, barely cover with water, and set on stove.  Turn heat to medium high, and as soon as the water begins to boil, drain the asparagus, then immediately run cold water over the pieces to stop the cooking process and give it a bolder green color.
  5. When you are ready to serve within 30 minutes or less, put a large pot of water on high.  When it begins to boil, add the udon noodles, and time for about 9 to 10 minutes, or until pasta is al dente.  Drain, and place in a large serving bowl. 
  6. In a small skillet, place 1 tablespoon oil, red pepper and green onions, and if using, the sugar snap peas over medium high heat.  Cook and stir for just about 2 minutes, just enough to warm the vegetables but still keep them crisp.  Remove from heat and add to the udon noodles.  Add asparagus, if using.
  7. Whisk or shake the soy sauce combination, then pour over the noodles and vegetables.  Stir to combine.  Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds. 
  8. Remove tuna from the bag and make sure none of the garlic or herbs have stuck to its sides.  Strain the oil into a large saute pan, and place over medium high heat.  When oil is hot, add tuna and season with salt and pepper.  Sear quickly, 2 to 3 minutes for the first side, turn and sear for an additional minute but no more than 3, depending on how rare you desire. We prefer tuna that is still red in the center, about 4 minutes total.  Remove from pan immediately.
  9. Place dressed noodles and vegetables in the center of each plate, and make a well in the center.  Place tuna in center.  Serve immediately. 

YIELD:  4 servings  

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Shrimp Boat rests on Sunday at Wanchese Harbor
               Watch me prepare this super easy, very delicious recipe that makes Shrimp Rolls that rival those lobster things from Maine!  Demo on WSLS 10 Daytime Blue Ridge, Roanoake, VA.  Recipe from North Banks Restaurant and Raw Bar in Corolla, published in my FOOD LOVERS' GUIDE TO NC'S OUTER BANKS, 2013, Globe Pequot Press. 

Click below to watch!

Shrimp Salad
The lighthouse at Corolla
 from North Banks Restaurant & Raw Bar

    Driving up to Corolla may feel like you're driving to the end of the earth.  But there's a heavenly stop before you get to the end of the road.  North Banks Restaurant and Raw Bar, in the TimBuck II shopping center, has a fantastic menu featuring local, coastal cuisine, as well as great dishes from around the globe.  I've enjoyed many lovely meals at this casual eatery.
    Here's a great recipe for Shrimp Salad that can be used to fill lettuce leaves, or sandwich wraps, or in a bun, or enjoyed just by itself.  It makes a vast quantity, perhaps good to have on hand for the start of a vacation.  Otherwise, size it down according to your needs.  If you have time, roast your own red peppers over a hot grill or under the broiler, then peel and chop.

6 pounds shrimp, cooked and chopped
2 cups chopped celery
1 cup whole water chestnuts, rinsed and drained
1 cup chopped roasted red peppers
1 cup chopped red onion
2 to 3 cups mayonnaise, according to preference
1 teaspoon and a pinch of cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon white pepper

Place the celery, water chestnuts, red pepper and onion in the food processor.  Process until all is finely minced.  (Or finely chop all.)
Transfer the mixture to a large bowl, and add other ingredients.  Mix well.  Chill and serve.
YIELD:  About 12 servings
(c) FOOD LOVERS GUIDE TO NC'S OUTER BANKS, by Elizabeth Wiegand, 2nd edition 2013, Globe Pequot Press.

Monday, September 16, 2013


No, I do not eat Turtle Soup.  Although many years ago, sea turtles, especially loggerheads, were once fished in waters of the Outer Banks, as they were considered a prized ingredient for soup or stew.

As I explain in THE OUTER BANKS COOKBOOK, catching sea turtles involved much cruelty that would be little tolerated today, though some Bankers learned to catch the 50-plus pound creatures by hand, diving into the water to grab their shells and wrestle them to shore.

This past week, I hoped to catch a sea turtle myself, on camera, as hopefully dozens of them would emerge from their sandy nest and awkwardly flip-flop their way into the water.

This nesting site was our destination for several of our power walks while  vacationing at Atlantic Beach, NC last week.  We learned from the volunteers sitting watch over the nest from 7 in the morning until 2 a.m. that this was one of 11 nests found within the Atlantic Beach township this year.  Last year, there was only one.

The army of volunteers are with the Sea Turtle program based at the NC Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores.  Sea gulls and other poachers, like raccoons, like to pick off the newbies, we were told, so the  volunteer "aunties" wanted to be able to "help" the baby turtles get to the water safely once they emerged from their sandy nest.  They had erected a barrier fence on either side of a slicked -down sandy runway, and like an "auntie," would guide any baby turtles going astray.

These eggs were laid 62 days earlier.  Most turtle eggs hatch between 55 to 62 days in North Carolina.  Three babies had escaped two days before, we were told. So the volunteers didn't know if they had missed the hatching during the middle of the night, or if they had hatched during a severe thunderstorm that had run a volunteer and maybe their tracks off the beach, or perhaps, if the other eggs had yet to hatch, or even, sometimes the turtles get caught in the sand and struggle to get out, thereby getting low on oxygen. They also worried that either crabs or raccoons had feasted on the buried eggs.

If nothing had happened by Day 64, they would dig up the nest at 7 pm.  I didn't mind giving up my sunset drink to witness this caesarean delivery!

Anxiously Waiting for the Babies
Donning sterile gloves, two volunteers carefully began to scoop sand away from the indentation in the center. "Oooh, I feel wiggling!" one said.  The crowed oohed and aahed.  As they went deeper, bits and pieces of broken shells were found.  Carefully another woman picked the fragments out, some with the moist egg sack still attached. Five whole eggs were dug up.  More broken shell fragments.  But no live babies.

"That's it," one of the diggers said.  A sigh of disappointment ran through the crowd.

"Hey," said the lead volunteer.  "That means the rest of them made it out.  That's a good thing!"

She then starting laying the shell fragments in a row, and there were about 82 of them.  Eighty two hatchlings!  Another walked around with the five whole eggs, showing us the yellowed, squishy shell that meant those eggs were no longer viable.  She "cracked" each of them open, their yellow innards running out just as if they were a chicken's egg ready for the frying pan.

I hate to admit my disappointment in not witnessing their sandy little beings and their frantic hobble to the sea.  There seemed to be an agreement among those in the know, the volunteers, that the babies had hatched during the storm, which had also washed away their tracks.  The three that were seen early that morning were stragglers, not early risers.

Let's see this as a victory, my husband said.  That means they escaped.  They did what nature intended, without any help from us. 

Yay loggerheads!

     Since I don't eat Turtle Soup, here's another classic and delicious recipe from the coast of North Carolina.

            Any time you have to peel shrimp, save the shells in the freezer until you have a big bag full.  Then make a simple stock:  place the shells in a large pot, add a stalk or two of celery chopped up, about two carrots, and a small chopped onion.  Cover with water, and bring to boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes.  Strain, and you’ve got a delicious base for soups or to make grits for that classic shrimp and grits. 

SHRIMP BISQUE ~ ~ ~ ~ from THE OUTER BANKS COOKBOOK, by Elizabeth Wiegand, 2nd edition 2013, Globe Pequot Press. (c)
Shrimp stock gives this soup an intense flavor.  Add more shrimp to each serving, if desired.

2 tablespoons butter
½  cup chopped onion
½ cup chopped celery
1 tablespoon minced garlic
3 cups shrimp stock, chicken stock or water
1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 bay leaf, crushed
½ pound (2 cups) small shrimp, peeled and deveined, chopped in half
1 cup heavy cream
Garnish:  sprinkle of paprika or Old Bay

  1. In a large pot, melt butter over medium heat.  Add onion and celery and cook for about five minutes, or until soft.  Add garlic, and stir for one minute.
  2. Add shrimp stock, Tabasco sauce, salt, pepper and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 15 minutes.
  3. Raise the heat and allow the mixture to almost come to a boil, then add shrimp.  Stir, and cook until shrimp are thoroughly cooked, about 3 to 5 minutes.
  4. Lower the heat, and stir in cream.  Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper if necessary.  Continue to cook until thoroughly warm. 
  5. Remove the bay leaf.  Ladle the soup into bowls, and sprinkle with paprika or Old Bay, if desired.

YIELD:  4 generous servings

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


Okra.  Watermelon rind.  Peaches.  We Southerners like to pickle just about anything.

Even shrimp!

Pickled shrimp have graced our tables up and down the Southeast coast for decades.  And that's because they're so easy to do, and make such a lovely appetizer or first course, or even a meal.  

Usually they're presented in a large, pretty glass bowl, where the layers make such a beautiful presentation.  I like to layer the shrimp, sweet onions, sliced lemons and bay leaves in a glass jar, especially if I'm headed to a picnic or covered dish supper.  The nice thing about this dish is that it can be done up to three days ahead, and served chilled.

Place the shrimp on a bed of tender lettuce for easy finger food, or serve them with toothpicks.

Pickled Shrimp make a great appetizer.
Watch me making pickled shrimp on WSLS Daytime Blue Ridge

                   from THE OUTER BANKS COOKBOOK, by Elizabeth Wiegand, 2nd edition, 2013, Globe Pequot Press
            Some feel they get more flavor when shrimp is boiled with the shells on, then peeling them. However, it’s easier to remove the vein with that special shrimp peeler tool if done while raw.  Then you can also freeze the shells to use to make shrimp broth.  You decide.

3 pounds shrimp, unpeeled
3 sweet onions (try NC’s Mattamuskeet Sweets)
1 large lemon, very thinly sliced
2 tablespoons capers
4 bay leaves
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon celery seed
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
½ cup tarragon or white wine vinegar
                                                                                    2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
                                                                                    1 cup olive oil

  1. Fill a large pot with 3-inches of water and bring to a boil.  Add shrimp, and bring to a boil again, then cook for about 2 more minutes or until shrimp are pink.  Drain, then peel under running water, leaving the shrimp tails attached.
  2. In a large serving bowl, layer shrimp, onions, lemon slices, capers and bay leaves.
  3. In a small mixing bowl, blend the remaining ingredients, whisking well.  Pour over the shrimp layers.  Cover tightly, and refrigerate for at least 8 hours, up to 3 days.  Be sure to stir the mixture occasionally. 

YIELD:  8 or more servings

Friday, July 26, 2013

HWY 12 SOUTH - Hatteras & Ocracoke

FRESH & LOCAL - that is what I preach.  And that is what you'll find on the Outer Banks.  Tender, flaky tile fish, at Ketch 55 in Avon or the Blue Moon Beach Grill in Nags Head.  Sheepshead at The Back Porch on Ocracoke.  Fresh crab cakes with remoulade at the Flying Melon Cafe, also on Ocracoke.

And beautiful dry scallops, brought in fresh that day in big, muslin bags to the Ocracoke Seafood market.  A pound of those beauties found their way to my ice chest, to appease those left working back home.  Check out how they were cooked, and a recipe, below.


Bodie Island Lighthouse
NC HWY 12 is open.  Flowing south (and north!).  Past one of my favorite haunts, the Bodie Island Lighthouse, now re-opened for climbing.  The heat and I rolled past the Oregon Inlet Fishing Center, where I stopped to see if any boats were in yet with the day's charter haul.  I was too early.

Charter Boats lined up at the Oregon Inlet Fishing Center

Down HWY 12, past the temporary bridge, where the sand seems to be gathering on either side, past the high buildup of sand, pushed there ever too frequently to keep the ocean at bay, and on into Rodanthe, Waves, Salvo, past Avon to Buxton, where I stopped to chat with Gee Gee at Buxton Books, one of the greatest little indy bookstores, and for dinner at Rusty's Surf & Turf.

Summertime on the Outer Banks is a real trip.  Patience must rule, with traffic, the heat, and frequent thunderstorms.  There's usually a wait anywhere you want to eat, but take it from this foodie, it's worth it.  Like at Ketch 55, in Avon, where a delightful filet of tilefish balanced on a bed of orzo with fresh veggies spilling out.

THE GRAVEYARD OF THE ATLANTIC MUSEUM is a fascinating place to explore and cool off. And they have frequent talks, about the civil war and World War II on the island, as well as culinary demos and talks by folks like myself, promoting both THE OUTER BANKS COOKBOOK and my newest, FOOD LOVERS' GUIDE TO NC'S OUTER BANKS.


With beautiful, brilliant red pieces of yellowfin tuna from Harbor House Seafood in Hatteras, we chatted about foods and stories while I prepared TUNA UDON, this time with sugar snap peas, red peppers, garlic, ginger and sesame seeds over udon noodles.  The smells permeated the gift shop and artifacts, with folks seeking out where the delicious smell was coming from!


At Dajio's, right on the main drag as you crawl through the village of Ocracoke, I smelled their delicious flatbread pizzas coming from their pub-side kiosk, now available during dinner through midnight. As usual, their terrific sandwiches and dinner menu, crafted from local catches, continues to impress my tastebuds.

Turning down the Back Road, I found where the Flying Melon Cafe had built their new, gorgeous facility, using artifacts and designs from their native New Orleans, like the charming interior doors to bathrooms and offices.  There's a beautiful spiral staircase that leads to a urbane waiting area.  But the thing that has not changed is the marvelous menu and local seafood.  As usual, it was outstanding, as was the service.

Eduardo has a new and improved Taco Truck, at the same location on the left as you come into the village.  He's added more outdoor seating in the shade.

Books to be Red, as always, is super friendly and carries a nice variety of books, including mine!  Stop in and see what best sellers you can find.  And of course, the Ocracoke Coffee Shop on the Back Road is THE place to catch up on politics wherever and the latest gossip, with the group of locals, mostly men, who gather on the porch.  Be patient, for I have never NOT had to wait in line for my morning coffee.  If you're on the waterfront, look for the relatively new Live Oak Coffee shop for a cup brewed "with intention."


Miss Della made my day.  Actually, she made my trip.

The winner of this year's Fourth of July Ocracoke Traditional Recipe, Mrs. Della Gaskill has been making fig cakes with her own fig preserves just about her whole life, she says.  But now, "old age is bringing me good luck," she added with a grin while adjusting her gray topknot.  She hobbled with her cane to the backyard to show me her fig trees.

Ocracoke is famous for its figs, with either 9 or 11 varieties grown on the island, depending on whom you're talking with.  Just about every single house with any age on it has a fig tree or two in a sunny corner.  Islanders cover the base of their fig trees with clam and oyster shells, to allow the minerals to leach down into the soil and to provide a mulch to protect them from sun and cold.  Legend has it that fig trees will mourn when their owner dies....but more likely, they are languishing from neglect.

"Miss Della" has several HUGE trees, one that almost blocks the steps leading to her tiny shop, WOCCOCON NURSERY & GIFTS.  She points to one budding fig.  "It's started swelling.  I been praying for it, otherwise, there will be no fig cakes."  She takes phone orders and ships her cakes all over the country.  (252) 928-3811.  Her husband Owen, until his death, sold veggies and fruits at the nearby stand, and she has self-published her memoirs, A BLESSED LIFE:  Growing Up on Ocracoke Island, sold at several of the island's shops.

Ocracoke Fig Cake, recipe from THE OUTER BANKS COOKBOOK

 About that recipe?  She grins.   "Well, I do add more nuts.  And it's real moist, because I use a full pint of preserves."  But she's not about to divulge any more about her winning recipe.  I'll have to stick with the one I extracted from Dale Mutro for THE OUTER BANKS COOKBOOK.

Before the ferry left the dock, headed to Cedar Island and home, I visited with Patti at the Ocracoke Seafood market, run and owned by the Ocracoke Working Watermen Association.

There are 40 of these dedicated souls, commercial fishermen, who worked and fought to save the last remaining fish house on Ocracoke Island.  Everything sold is caught locally, brought in by one of the members, except for the wild Atlantic salmon they contracted and bartered for in Canada.  "Our folks here asked for it.  They like a little variety, too," says Patti.

The scallops she showed me were huge, firm, fresh, smelling like the brine of the sea.  And they were packed dry, meaning they had been treated with the utmost care from the water, while stored on the boat, shucked, and then brought into the shop.

Don't crowd scallops while searing.
I find the that scallops scream for a simple prep.  Sear them quickly in just a little oil, cooking on one side for about 2 to 3 minutes.  Don't crowd them in the pan, or else they'll steam.  Flip them, and add a nugget of butter.  After a minute or two, no more, take them off the heat.

I served these with a quick saute of spinach with garlic and mushrooms, a little red pepper strips, on top of some leftover, warmed up udon noodles.  A little dusting of chopped chives, salt and pepper, and there you have it.

Delicious.  Simple, easy, fresh.  Wow!