Friday, October 26, 2012

One more barbecue story to end the week

OK, I promise to stop after this. But in a barbecue-centric week, I had to share one last thing.

It was such a beautiful fall Friday that a friend and I had to get outside at lunch. So we headed over to the Men's Fellowship barbecue at First Christian Church at the corner of East Boulevard and Dilworth Road.

What's so special about that? For one thing, the barbecue plates include egg rolls made by the church's  Montagnard community. The Montagnard are people from the hill country of Vietnam who worked with American soldiers during the war. And a crispy egg roll is a very cool thing to find inside your barbecue plate.

Second, I opened my little cup of barbecue sauce and noticed that it wasn't a Carolina-style, vinegar sauce. This was thick, brick-red and peppery. It was also very familiar: It was almost exactly the same as my family's traditional sauce, a fourth-generation sauce recipe handed down in my dad's family in South Georgia.

I took one taste and whispered to my friend: "Hey! That's my family's barbecue sauce!"

"It's really good sauce," she said.

"I know," I said. "I'm telling you. That's my family's Georgia sauce."

One of the volunteers was passing, so I hailed him down to ask about the sauce. After the usual joke -- "If I told you what was in it, I'd have to kill you" -- he started to walk away. Suddenly, he stopped and turned back.

"Wait a minute," he said. "I just realized -- the guy who keeps the sauce recipe in his pocket? He's a Georgia native."

Ha! I know my sauce. A few minutes later, the volunteer stopped by our picnic table and rewarded me with a whole quart of it.

The First Christian Church barbecue is still going on Saturday, from 11 a.m. until dark. Plates are $9 and you can drive through and pick them up to go. Enjoy the egg roll. And the sauce.

One Great . . . alternative barbecue sauce

Despite crazy notions about barbecue being a summer activity, I stick to the tradition that barbecue is for fall. So far, this week of late October has been barbecue-focused for me. I started out Sunday at the Southern Foodways Symposium in Oxford, Miss., where the topic was pitmasters and barbecue. And on Thursday, I made the trek to the Mallard Creek Presbyterian Church Barbecue.

Seems fitting to end the week with a barbecue sauce recipe. Instead of the usual vinegar vs. tomato, let's look elsewhere in the South to a delicious sauce that was featured at SFA on a Saturday night.

During the day at SFA, there were scholarly papers on pig history and panel discussions on the state of barbecue in America. But on Saturday night, at Woodson Ridge Farm outside Oxford, they gathered a bunch of barbecue experts to cook up several styles for tasting. Sam Jones of Ayden, N.C., and Rodney Scott of Hemingway, S.C., cooked whole pig. Ed Mitchell of Wilson and Durham cooked Brunswick stew. Tim Byres of Dallas served up beef ribs.

But the one I kept revisiting was Pat Martin's Alabama-style smoked chicken, chopped into quarters and tossed with this stuff. Argue all you want about different styles. This stuff is made for chicken.

MissAlaTenn White Barbecue Sauce

From Pat Martin of Martin's Bar-B-Q Joint in Nolensville, Tenn.

4 cups mayonnaise
2 1/2 cups cider vinegar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 (heaping) tablespoons salt
2 (heaping) tablespoons black pepper
1/2 tablespoon cayenne pepper

COMBINE all the ingredients in a large bowl. Stir well. Put into a squirt bottle and squirt it or brush it on chicken. Or do it how Martin was doing it: Use it as a basting sauce, then chop the cooked chicken into quarters and toss it in a bowl with more sauce. Messy, but seriously good.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Barbecue and beer (not at the same time)

You've never been to the Mallard Creek Presbyterian Church barbecue? This is the 83rd year, so it's not like you haven't had time.

You've never joined that line of cars creeping up Mallard Creek Road, walked through that line of politicians, balanced your plate on the trestle tables while you perch on a wiggly metal folding chair?

You've never contemplated what the white bread is for, and mixed your pork with a little apple sauce and slaw just to see what that's like, and debated their unique formula for Brunswick stew?

You've never waved at people you haven't seen all year -- or desperately searched your brain to identify the person who just waved so enthusiastically at you?

You've never sat with your plate on a perfect, sunny fall day and admired that tin can of flowers on the table and tried several squirts of sauce to decide how you really like it?

You've never stopped by the back of the building where the Brunswick stew pots are, to watch those hard-working women stir?

Well, for heaven't sake -- don't start this year. It's a presidential election year and it's going to be crowded enough. And . . . I want to make sure I get my plate before you get there.

Oh, if you insist: Here are the details, prices, directions and hours. If you must. And that picture at the top? I have no idea when I shot it. Because that's really what I love best about Mallard Creek Thursday: Every year is exactly like the year before. And the year before. For 83 times.

On to beer: Here we go, from old Charlotte traditions to new ones. If you haven't started exploring Charlotte's new craft-beer movement, you're missing out on a lot of fun and some darn good beer.

We're up to 9 local breweries now. Nine? Seriously?

Tonight from 7 to 10 p.m., you can explore at least six of them and vote for your favorite at the Battle of the Brews at  All-American Pub, 200 E. Bland St. Tickets are $15 at the door (they were $10 in advance, but I didn't get the information about it in time). It raises money for the 704 Project, a group that gathers money and gives grants to local projects.

And one more barbecue: If you can't make it up to Mallard Creek today, you have another chance at a church barbecue on Friday. The First Christian Church, 1200 East Blvd. at Dilworth Road, will hold its men's fellowship barbecue, with pork shoulders, sauce and coleslaw all made by the church. Plates or pounds are $8, or you can buy a whole cooked shoulder (boned or bone-in) for $30. Stop by between 11 a.m. and sundown on Friday or Saturday.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Who's got the sexiest fried chicken?

My recent book travels included a precious 24 hours in Nashville, one of the few Southern towns I haven't had the chance to visit.

Big problem, though: No car. I had a shuttle from the airport to downtown, but no way to get from downtown to the one restaurant in Music City that I really wanted to visit.

That, of course, would be Prince's Hot Chicken. In the South, there are two poles in the fried chicken world. One would be Price's Chicken Coop, right here in Charlotte. The other would be Prince's Hot Chicken, in Nashville.

As an aficionado of Price's, I felt I owed it to myself to try Prince's. When it comes to fried chicken, Prince's is a bird of a different feather. It's chicken that's dipped in a hot sauce, rolled in spicy flour, deep-fried, then coated with more hot spice and sprinkled with more red pepper. It's served on a slice of white bread that soaks up the spices -- wouldn't want to miss any -- and topped with pickles.

There's more to the legend, of course. Supposedly, the endorphin rush causes addiction. And, um, there are claims of hotter reactions, including to the libido. Never heard that about Price's.

So I skipped all other arrangements for my trip to Nashville to focus on trying to get a ride to Prince's, in a neighborhood too far from downtown to take a cab. I begged and sent around inquiries, and I thought I had a ride secured. All day Saturday, from book talk to book signing to book-tent duty, I kept trying to hook up. Didn't work. They were tied up, or their schedule never meshed with mine.

I expected to walk away from Nashville, denied glory. But then I looked at the line of food trucks stationed outside the Southern Festival of Books, on War Memorial Plaza. At the end of the row, there was an unassuming white bus: Bolton's Hot Chicken.

Part of the Prince's story is that hot chicken is so addictive, versions of it have spread all over Nashville. Since this was the closest I would get, I decided to at least start my hot-chicken education. I got an order of chicken on a stick, "medium hot," (which earned me an "allllll right!" from the guy inside the bus. Medium is a long way past mild, apparently.)

I sat down with Angela and Paul Knipple, authors of "The World in a Skillet: A Food Lover's Tour of the New American South" and old Tennessee hands. The chicken was on the required slice of white bread.

 "It's to soak up the  spices," Paul explained. "Otherwise, you end up in serious pain." As he said this, he was weeping - he had foolishly put a finger near one eye. Meanwhile, his wife Angela didn't show concern for him or slow down in attacking her chicken.

"This is ice cream for Angela," he said. "It's Parris Island for me."

Bolton's version of spicy chicken was chunks of white meat, threaded on a stick, battered and fried, and covered with a bright red coating of what tasted like a mixture of cayenne and seasoned salt. Good? Very. It wasn't Prince's (or Price's, for that matter). But it was seriously hot, with a lot of flavor. I might have been able to tackle extra-spicy.

As for that addiction thing, I haven't stopped thinking about it and plotting ways to return to Nashville, this time with my own car keys.

Have you been to both Prince's and Price's? Let me know how they compare.

Monday, October 22, 2012

New York to Mississippi in 50 bites

Sometimes covering food can be a mad dash from one kind of food event to another without much chance to chew it over. Between a book ("Pecans: A Savor the South Cookbook"), a volunteer job (chair of the James Beard Foundation's Leadership Awards) and a lively interest in Southern food (well, that's just me), I've been to three cities in nine days.

I went from Nashville's Southern Festival of Books to New York's Hearst Tower for the Leadership Awards to Oxford, Miss., for the annual Southern Foodways Symposium. In other words: More mad dashes  through Atlanta Hartsfield Airport than anyone should have to make in a week.

I'll bring more blog posts and columns out of those activities in the next few days, but in the meantime, a quick roundup:

In the pictures above, the young lady with the salad bar strapped around her waist was part of the hors d'oeuvres before dinner at the James Beard Foundation Leadership Awards. Yes, she dropped microgreens into your hand so you could taste the variety of them. I wouldn't want to eat a salad like that, but it was an eyecatching display.

At the actual awards dinner, the honorees this year were Kentucky poet and farm activist Wendell Berry;  Malik Yakini, executive director of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network; Tensie Whelan, president of the Rainforest Alliance; Kathleen Merrigan, U.S. deputy secretary of agriculture;  and Jason Clay, senior vice president of market transformation for the World Wildlife Fund.

Disclosure: I chair the awards, but my role is procedural. As the foundation's request, I helped to shape and define the award and write the bylaws, and I work with the advisers who do the nominating and voting. But I do not nominate or vote.

Right after the awards dinner, I headed on to Memphis, to rent a car for the drive to Oxford, Miss., for the Southern Foodways Symposium. I've been attending SFA every few years since the second one, about 14 years ago. It's stunning to see how much this group as grown, from 100 people that first year to 350 and not-quite-too-large this year. We almost overwhelmed tiny Oxford, although the people around town have gotten used to us by now.

This year's focus was barbecue and pitmasters, but the real star was the state of North Carolina. That's Sam Jones (above left) of the Skylight Inn in Ayden chopping barbecue at an event on Woodson Ridge Farms outside town. Ed Mitchell also was there with a lovely version of Brunswick stew. But they weren't the only N.C. chefs feeding us. In such a meat-centric gathering, chef Ashley Christensen of Poole's Dinner (et al) in Raleigh managed to bring down the house with an all-vegetable lunch. It was like nothing I had ever eaten: Deviled-egg salad on fried sourdough slices, creamed cider-braised greens, poblano peppers stuffed with kuri squash, coal-roasted sweet potatoes with coffee/sorghum butter, smoked tomato pie topped with cornbread and whipped corn cream, marinated White Acre peas, a mustard green salad with crispy okra and charred onions, and pumpkin hummingbird cake. Seriously, Ashley -- do you ever stop?

One morning's breakfast was the incredible pastrami from Neal's Deli in Carrboro, served on biscuits as big as your hand by Matt and Sheila Neal themselves.

And there were more N.C. folk: Writer Mark Essig of Asheville gave an eye-opening talk on the history of pigs, novelist Monique Truong ("The Book of Salt" and "Bitter in the Mouth") stunned the audience with a beautifully written "love letter:" to Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge that also was a rumination on her childhood as the daughter of Vietnamese immigrants in Boiling Springs, and UNC Chapel Hill professor and novelist Randall Kenan read his own piece on . . . well, OK, it was on hog sex. But it was great. You had to be there.

Finally, the Craig Claiborne Lifetime Achievement Award went to Ben and Karen Barker (below), who recently closed their legendary Magnolia Grill in Durham to spend more time with their family. There was a time when fine dining in North Carolina pretty much was Magnolia Grill. From what I saw, ate and heard this weekend, Ben and Karen are leaving our state food legacy in safe and very lively hands.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Stop fussing about N.C. barbecue - fuss about S.C. instead

"Like everything in South Carolina, we cook barbeque cantankerously. We smoke our meat with hundreds of opinions and often with a sense of injured pride." 

That's the opening line to a new blog post on the state of barbecue in the U.S., the food-related website from news network CNN, has been running the series of blog posts from the Southern Foodways Alliance in advance of this week's annual Southern Foodways Symposium, where the subject is (once again) barbecue.

I end up fielding a lot of heat and flash around N.C. barbecue, but our brethren in South Carolina are just a few miles down the road and have barbecue opinions that are just as heated. I myself have made many stops at Sweatman's Barbecue near Florence, strictly in the interest of paying due diligence to understanding that mustard-based sauce. As the SFA blog post says,"The whole state is a big messy spill of sauces."

I'm headed out on the road Tuesday, first to New York for the James Beard Foundation Leadership Awards, which I chair, and then on to Oxford, Miss., for the Southern Foodways Symposium. I'll tweet all the way and will bring back as much wisdom as I encounter.

In the meantime, give the post a read and see what you think. N.C. barbecue brings heated debate. Anyone want to join in with an opinion on S.C. 'cue?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Get a taste of bubbles, bub

There's nothing like a Grande Dame, at least among Champagne fans. The Wine Shop of Dilworth is offering a Champagne tasting -- yes, real French Champagne, hence the capital "C" -- that ought to make you sit up and take notice.

For $25, you'll be led through a tasting of Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin by Rich Buchanan of Moet Hennessy. This is a sit-down, tutored tasting, so you will learn a lot. And the five wines he'll be pouring are definitely special: Veuve Clicquot nonvintage brut, Veuve nonvintage brut rose, vintage 2004 brut and brut rose and that special lady, Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame 2004. And because those are Champagnes that deserve to be tasted with wine, there also will be appetizers prepared by local chef Thomas Carrig.

This tasting is 6:30-8 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 24, at the Wine Shop Dilworth, 2442 Park Road, and you definitely need a reservation. Call 704-377-5373. And I'd do it soon.

One Great . . . easy batch of biscuits

Biscuits aren't hard to make, but they definitely take practice. If you don't have time to practice, you get discouraged and don't make biscuits. See a vicious cycle starting here?

Flipping through the new book "In the Kitchen With David," by QVC host and Charlotte native David Venable, a biscuit recipe caught my eye. A very simple recipe from Venable's mom, Sarah Venable of Charlotte, this is as easy as it gets. In fact, Venable says, this is the bread that's always on the table for holidays and always whenever he served his mother's pot roast recipe.

If it involves a man's mother's pot roast, you know it's got to be good.

Mom's Mayonnaise Drop Biscuits
From Sarah Venable in "In the Kitchen With David," by David Venable (Ballantine Books, $30). This originally used buttermilk, but when they once ran out, Venable's mother improvised and the biscuits turned out even better.

Vegetable oil spray
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons whole milk
3 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
2 cups self-rising flour (see note)
1/3 cup mayonnaise (not light or reduced-fat)

PREHEAT the oven to 450 degrees. Generously spray a 12-cup muffin pan with vegetable oil spray.

COMBINE the milk and vinegar in a measuring cup and stir to blend. Combine the flour and mayonnaise in a large bowl and stir until combined. Add the milk-vinegar mixture and stir with a fork until just combined. Don't overmix. The batter will be stiff.  Evenly divide the batter among the cups of the prepared muffin pan.

BAKE the biscuits for 15 minutes, until puffy and golden brown. Serve immediately.

NOTE: If you don't have self-rising flour, combine 2 cups all-purpose flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

One Great . . . crispy garlic bread

Fall is the time for baked pasta, and baked pasta is the time for garlic bread. From October through March, many of my nightly meal plans can be written as "some kind of pasta, green salad, garlic bread."

After awhile, those frozen loaves in the paper/foil wrapper just don't cut it. Too doughy, too soggy, not enough flavor. If something represents a third of my plate, I'd like it to be more of an event.

I had been hanging on to this recipe from Cook's Country for a couple of years when I noticed it recently in the stack of "recipes I need to try." I'm sorry I waited: It's got a powerful amount of flavor and it turns out garlic bread that is just soft enough inside and just crispy enough outside. The original recipe made 12 slices. I sized it down for 8 slices, the perfect amount for 4 people, but I included the original amounts at the bottom, along with a cheese option. You might want more of this one.

Crispy Garlic Bread

From the October/November 2010 issue of Cook's Country magazine. For the bread, get a loaf of French or Italian bread from the bakery area of the supermarket. You want bread that's kind of soft and not too crusty.

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper
8 (1-inch-thick) slices Italian bread

PREHEAT oven to 425 degrees with rack in the center position. Place a rimmed baking sheet on the rack to warm. (When I tested the recipe, I was baking lasagne at 350 degrees. I turned the oven up to 425 but didn't warm the baking sheet and it worked fine.)

PLACE  the butter in a small mixing bowl. Using a rasp grater or the small holes on a box grater, grate the garlic into the butter. (Or you can minced it finely.) Add the sugar, salt and pepper and beat with a fork until well combined. Spread the butter mixture evenly over both sides of each slice of bread.

ARRANGE  the bread slices on the baking sheet. Bake 8 to 10 minutes, until golden brown on the bottom. Turn the slices with tongs and return to the oven to bake the other side for 5 minutes. Serve warm.

MAKES  4 servings.

NOTE: For 12 slices of bread, or a whole loaf, use 12 tablespoons butter (1 1/2 sticks) and 4 cloves garlic, but keep the sugar, salt and pepper the same.

VARIATION: To make a cheese version, sprinkle the bread with 1 to 1 1/2 cups of shredded Monterey Jack or cheddar in the final 1 minute of baking time. You also could add 1 to 2 tablespoons minced chives to the butter mixture.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Road Trip: 8 hours in Chapel Hill

There are only so many meals you can fit in a day. Luckily, a food editor doesn't mind doubling up. Headed to Chapel Hill and Durham for weekend book events for "Pecans: A Savor the South Cookbook," I had a longer list than I could possibly reach, especially since Saturday was taken up with book signings from 7:30 a.m. until after 2 p.m.

I had hopes of picking up a pound of the Best Pastrami In the Universe from Neal's Deli in Carrboro, and loading up a cooler with a couple of pounds of Allen & Sons barbecue. Alas, too many miles, not enough hours. For a longer look at the options, bloggers Eric and Sarah Mine did a nice job of rounding up all the Chapel Hill options on a recent post for

Yes, driving the interstates is faster, but my favorite route to either Chapel Hill or Raleigh is U.S. 49/U.S. 64 if I have the time. It takes you past farms and towns like Harrisburg and Denton, and it feels more like North Carolina than Generic Interstate World.

That brought me through Siler City on U.S. 64 in time for an early lunch at Johnson's (above). You have to aim early for Johnson's - the six booths and maybe a dozen seats at the counter fill up and a line forms along the wall well before 12. Claxton Johnson grinds his beef fresh daily and he closes down when he sells out, which is sometimes as early as 1 p.m.

You can get a hot dog but hardly anyone does. Cheeseburgers are the thing, served all the way in true N.C. style - chili, mustard, onions and slaw. They toast the bun, which is a nice touch, and the cheese is Velveeta cut in slabs for the best soft meltability. The sizzle from the griddle never stops and your burger lands in front of you on bakery paper hot and dripping juice.

My second lunch was sheer luck. I tried to find Merritt's Store & Grill on the outskirts of Chapel Hill on another trip but didn't have the address right (1009 S. Columbia St., if that helps you).  This time, I didn't need the address: Coming in from the south on 15/501, following the "downtown" signs on U.S. 86, I glanced over and . . . how can you not spot a chalkboard sign that says "We (Heart) Bacon"?

Merritt's sells all kinds of sandwiches for both breakfast and lunch. But the thing is the BLTs, that come in single, double and triple. I gather that refers to the amount of bacon. And I have to say, a single is so generously porked, a triple must take a whole pig's worth of output. The toughest choice isn't whether to get the BLT or even the size, it's the bread. You can get a BLT on anything from marble rye to potato bread. I went with sour dough, toasted, and I'd highly recommend it.

Is there room for dinner after that? Amazingly, yes. It's been years since I've had time for more than a drink and appetizers at Crook's Corner on West Franklin Street. What to choose? Well, I knew that chef Bill Smith Jr. had recently added a new West Indies Crab Salad, a nice dish of crab meat flecked with either pimento or diced red pepper and served with mustard-topped deviled eggs and plenty of crackers. And that left me with a problem: It was the end of softshell crab season, and I know that Smith really likes to cook soft-shell crabs. We've had some good conversations about it.

So I did what had to be done: A crab symphony. Cold crab salad, followed by hot soft shell crabs topped with a powerful dose of garlic butter and parsley beside soft grits and two flavors of coleslaw. Yes, I was a crabby girl. And a happy one.

So, how did I do for 8 hours? Where would you have eaten instead? With college-tour season coming up, consider it a community service.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Have dinner, raise money for RAIN

The Dining With Friends event Saturday for RAIN -- the regional AIDS Interfaith Network -- reminds me of the days in the 1990s when one of Charlotte's biggest events every year was "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner," a fundraiser for the Metrolina AIDS Project.

Both of them have a simple idea: Have a party or go to a party and raise money. The old "Guess" was always held in early May and it always ended with a big dessert party. The newer Dining With Friends ends with dessert and champagne at 9 p.m. at the McColl Center for Visual Art, 721 N. Tryon St. And it's held in October -- Oct. 6, or Saturday night, to be exact.

RAIN hosts are holding more than 25 parties all over town, from sit-down dinners to parties at nightclubs and restaurants. Some people have theme parties; others keep it as simple as barbecue. All the money raised from donations and tickets goes to RAIN.
If you aren't going to or giving a party, you can still donate. Or you can sign up to go to the McColl dessert party ($30 in advance or at the door). Or sign up to go to a public party given by the Drex and Maney Show for KISS95.1 FM at Blackfinn American Saloon at the Epicentre from 7-9 p.m. Saturday.

Get information on all of it at

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Want to make sausage?

Of all the things I've made in my kitchen, making my own sausage is one of the most fun. It's just so cool to have control over what goes in it, to watch how it comes together and to end up with a whole bunch of sausage that's all your own.

You can learn how to make sausage and and other things in Central Piedmont Community College's community cooking classes, Charlotte Cooks.

Coming up:

The Art of Sausage Making, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Oct. 20 or Dec. 1 on the Central Campus; $125. Hands-on class that includes equipment selection, proper handling of meat and equipment, and how to use casings.

A Taste of Italy, 6-9 p.m. on Tuesdays from Oct. 23 to Nov. 6 on the Central Campus; $135 for the series. Covers regional foods from northern, central and southern Italy.

Wrap and Roll, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Nov. 3, Harris Campus; $85. Learn how to work with a variety of spring roll wrappers and fillings.

To register, go to and click on "register now," or call 704-330-4223. Deadlines are the Friday before the start of the class.

Monday, October 1, 2012

One Great . . . roasted red pepper relish

Most of the year, recipes with red peppers are what I call "snorters." I look at the recipe, then look at the price of red sweet peppers, usually up around "worth their weight in gold." Then I snort with derision and either grab the cheaper green bell peppers or go without peppers all together.

But there is a brief time in early fall when there are suddenly red peppers everywhere. At the Charlotte Regional Farmers Market on Saturday, one farm stand had a big basket of beauties, all striped in various shades from green to red to yellow. And a price tag on the basket was one I liked even better: 16 for $4. That's more like it.

I grabbed a small bag and picked up another bag of small but meaty tomatoes that were the size of cherry tomatoes but promised more flavor. Then I searched my memory of good food writing and remembered that Regina Schrambling had run a nice piece on recently on Jacques Pepin's method for using roasted red peppers.

Regina adapted Jacques, I adapted Regina, and now I have a lovely pot of peppers and tomatoes in my refrigerator. I've already added them to sauteed zucchini, spread a few on a turkey sandwich, tossed some in a green salad and added a few tablespoons to scrambled eggs. Even the oil alone will find uses all over my cooking for a couple of weeks.

I'm definitely getting my money's worth from these babies.

Roasted Red Peppers and Tomatoes

Adapted from Regina Schrambling, who adapted it from Jacques Pepin, who probably wouldn't recognize it by the time I finished with it.

3 to 4 mostly red sweet peppers (AKA bell peppers)
About 2 cups small tomatoes
2 to 3 large cloves garlic, peeled and minced
Salt and pepper to taste
About 1/3 cup good-quality olive oil

Preheat oven to 500 degrees, then turn on the broiler. (Or just heat the broiler, depending on your oven.) Place an oven rack close to the broiler element. Place the whole peppers and tomatoes on a baking sheet and place under the broiler. Broiler, turning the peppers occasionally with tongs, until the skin is blacked or well-blistered and the skins of the tomatoes show black spots. (I left mine get much darker then the ones in the picture at the top.)

Remove from the oven. Using tongs, drop the peppers in a paper or plastic bag, close and let them steam for a minute. Just leave the tomatoes on the baking sheet and let them cool for a few minutes, then grab the skin of each with the tongs and pull most of it away. Remove the peppers from the bag, pull out and discard the core with the seeds attached, then pull away and discard the papery skin.

In a glass container with a tight-fitting lid (or use a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap), layer some of the tomatoes and pieces of peppers, then sprinkle with garlic and a little salt. Continue layering in the container. Pour the olive oil over it all, cover and refrigerate.

Use peppers and tomatoes on bruschetta, in a salad, with eggs, or pretty much anywhere you want. Also use the oil to add flavor when you saute vegetables.

Makes about 2 cups. Keeps in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks.