Thursday, February 26, 2015

I'll Bite is moving

So The Observer has built a spiffy new website, with more pictures and more features.

What does that mean for my blog? It means we're moving.

Starting Feb. 26, 2015, you'll find I'll Bite, my semi-daily log of food news, food experiences, videos, pictures and recipes, two ways:

1. Posted with the rest of The Observer's food coverage, at

2. Or you can go straight to the blog: I'll Bite.

Kind of a mouthful, isn't it? That's what we aim to do. But you might want to bookmark us.

Come on over. I'll keep a pot of coffee warm.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Get your snow-day recipes lined up

With the weather forecast we're facing (will it snow? will it just rain?), be glad if you have the chance to stay home and cook tonight. We've got you covered over at

Do you get a little flurry of fear when you get invited to a potluck? Don't be ashamed. We've got advice, and even better, we've got recipes: A vegetarian-friendly squash chili, a down-home corn pudding (that's it in the picture at the top) and the easiest batch of blondies you can whisk together in a skillet. If if you're not going anywhere, these will make it easy to be home-bound. 

You definitely don't need to fear when you face a butternut squash: John Simmons and I did a quick video on how to tackle one. 

A trip to Black House in Durham led me to concoct this tropical take on sauteed kale (or as we call it in winter at my house, "the inevitable kale).

Need more soup? OK: Mushroom barley, right here. 

And how about some herb biscuits to go with all that warm, comforting food? OK, this one uses yogurt (not a stick a butter).

After you cook, this might be a good night to settle in with something warm to drink. Catherine Rabb reminds you that this is port season. Get sweet and tawny, people.

If you really want to get out and about, we've got news on a new manager at the Charlotte Regional Farmer's Market, plus changes to have tea in the historic style and learn about hot chocolate.

Monday, February 23, 2015

One Great . . . green curry and coconut kale

I love it when a restaurant's food really stands out. When the setting stands out too, it's even better.

On a trip to the Triangle a few weeks ago, friends took me to Black House at Straw Valley in Durham, a very cool new restaurant (how come Durham gets so many of the fun places?). The setting is unusual, in a California-style mid-century modern house with lots of red wood, low rafters and modernist art.

It was so tough to find, I was glad I was with locals. It's tucked away next to a strip mall. But once we found our way to our table, the menu lived up to the setting, with fresh, contemporary takes on globally inspired food, made with mostly locally sourced ingredients.

One of my favorite dishes was a side dish of Malaysian spinach that was sort of a turn on creamed spinach, with a little heat and a tropical touch from coconut milk.

Back at home, I adapted the idea to use on a batch of Tuscan kale (aka lacinato, aka dinosaur kale). I reached for green curry paste for the heat and a can of lite coconut milk for the creaminess. Green curry paste is easy to keep on hand. Look for the little jars in the Asian section of most supermarkets.

Green curry and coconut kale 

1 bunch of kale, preferably Tuscan-style
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons sliced shallot (or any kind of onion you have handy)
2 cloves minced garlic
2 tablespoons green curry paste
1/4 to 1/2 cup light coconut milk (about a half can)

CUT away and discard the thickest part of the kale stems. Stack the leaves, cut into 1-inch-wide strips and set aside.

HEAT the olive oil in a skillet with a lid over medium heat. Add the shallot, cover and cook several minutes, until starting to soften. Add the garlic and cook about a minute, until fragrant but not browned. Stir in the curry paste and cook about 30 seconds.

ADD the sliced kale, stirring it around to coat with the oil and curry mixture. Cook a minute or two.

SHAKE the coconut milk very well before opening. Pour into the skillet with the kale. Cover and cook a few minutes, until the kale is softened. Uncover and cook a few minutes to reduce the sauce.

SERVE hot.

YIELD: About 4 servings.

Monday, February 16, 2015

One Great . . . biscuit recipe

If you ever want to find out how people feel about biscuits, write a column about making biscuits that doesn’t include the amount of butter.

I spent most of last week picking up my ringing phone and just saying two words: “One stick.” My cubicle neighbor, Mark Washburn, suggested I just change my voicemail message to say, “This is Kathleen Purvis – one stick.”

Pamela Duvick’s method for making biscuits is a winner, though, and I’ve already had people sending me pictures of their tall, layered biscuits. You can read my column about Pamela and watch a video of her at work.

And now, here’s a version of the complete recipe, ready to add to your collection.

Pamela Duvick's Tall Flaky Biscuits

1/2 cup (1 stick) frozen butter
2 1/2 cups self-rising flour, preferably White Lily, plus more for dusting work surface
1 cup buttermilk
1 to 2 tablespoons salted butter

PREHEAT oven to 475 degrees. Chill a mixing bowl and rolling pin (preferably marble).

GRATE the frozen butter on the large holes of a box grater onto a sheet of parchment or wax paper. Place flour in a chilled mixing bowl and add the shredded butter. Toss lightly with the tip of a large whisk to coat the butter with flour.

MAKE a well in the center of the flour and pour in the buttermilk. Starting slowly with a wooden spoon, toss flour from the edge into the pool of buttermilk, then continue gently mixing until all the buttermilk is mixed in. Place in the freezer to rest for 10 minutes.

SCRAPE the dough onto a floured work surface. Pat and press the dough gently to form a mound. Using a cold, floured rolling pin, roll in the same direction to flatten slightly, then fold the dough and turn. Repeat five times to form a rectangle of dough that's about 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick.

USING a round biscuit cutter dipped in flour, press straight down without twisting. Place the biscuits on a parchment-lined baking sheet slightly touching. Pull the scraps together, reroll and continue cutting out biscuits until you have 12.

BAKE 12 to 15 minutes, watching carefully so the biscuits don't burn. Remove from oven and immediately brush with melted salted butter. Serve warm.

YIELD: 12 biscuits.

Read more here:

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Put these on your plate for the Wednesday feast

Go out to dinner on Valentine's Day? Why would we do that? It's so much more fun to skip the hype and the reservation fight to stay home and cook. Here's what we've got for your plate this week at

 Those towering biscuits pictured at the top are on my plate when I went to Pamela Duvick's house for a biscuit lesson. After years of "hockey pucks," Duvick conquered the method for making tall, layered (AKA flaky) biscuits. Crisp on the outside, moist and tender on the inside, they are the ideal of biscuits. Read my column for how she does it, and watch the video I put together to see her in action.

Nothing says loving (well, OK, a lot of things say loving, but work with me here) like a jar of your own, homemade version of Nutella. Did you know that the original name for Nutella was Pasta Gianduja? Nutella is really a convenient version of the classic hazelnut/chocolate spread called gianduja. Andrea Weigl has a recipe and a video, and more recipes for making a great Valentine's dessert with Nutella.

For a great dinner, I invest in great pork chops from local farms. So I was tickled to see's story on searing and roasting pork chops -- that's the same way I make them. Seriously, it's hard to ruin a pork chop once you know this trick.

To go with those pork chops, how about a no-fuss shortcut version of orzo risotto? Linda Gassenheimer's recipes are always sized for two, which will be perfect for this weekend.

Finally, after all that chocolate indulging, you could use a little help with your healthful eating the rest of the week. This very easy sweet potato broth is a great staple to keep on hand for cooking quinoa or making a low-fat vegetable soup.

What can I say? You'll love it.

Monday, February 9, 2015

One Great . . . healthful sweet potato broth

The mother/daughter team of Alice Randall and Caroline Randall Williams have a lovely book that landed on my desk, "Soul Food Love: Healthy Recipes Inspired By One Hundred Years of Cooking in a Black Family" (Clarkson Potter, $30).

The book is a mashup of one family's American history, with recipes that have been subtly changed and updated to be healthful while staying delicious, satisfying and true to the Randall family's heritage.

One recipe really caught my eye: Sweet potato broth is a simple way to get a meatless base for soups or grain dishes with plenty of flavor but not a lot of fat. It was so easy to make, I whipped up a pot of it while making a different dinner Sunday night. The result is only slightly thicker than chicken broth, with a sweet/savor flavor and a lovely golden color.

And now I get to use it all week to cook quinoa, kale and maybe even a sweet potato soup. This one will definitely find a spot in my regular rotation.

Sweet Potato Broth

1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, peeled and sliced
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 large sweet potato
5 whole cloves
Salt and pepper to taste

HEAT the olive oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Saute the onion, celery and carrot until just softened.

PEEL and quarter the sweet potato while the onion, celery and carrot are cooking. Add to the pot with 6 cups of water, cloves, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer until the sweet potato is completely soft, about 30 minutes.

USE a slotted spoon to remove and discard the cloves. Puree the mixture in a food processor or blender, or with an immersion blender. Cool, cover and refrigerate up to 5 days or freeze up to 2 months. (It will separate, but you can whisk it back together before using.) Use as a base for soup (try black-eyed pea and kale) or for cooking grains or vegetables.

YIELD: About 1 quart. 

Friday, February 6, 2015

Historic Rosedale returns to oysters

There's nothing quite like a chilly afternoon around an outdoor fire with a batch of roasted oysters.

Historic Rosedale, the preserved plantation house on North Tryon Street, will bring back its annual oyster roast, from 2-5 p.m. March 21.

Tickets are $35 for adults before March 12, $45 after, and you get roasted oysters, oyster cocktails, sides "and all the fixin's" and "Low Country Boil" (not sure what they're including in that, but in Charleston, that generally involves shrimp, potatoes and corn). THere are also kids' activities and hot dogs, so children's tickets are available, too, for $12.

Find tickets at or call 704-735-0325.

PHOTO: Coastal Living.