Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Buffalo shake is back!

It's orange. It's spicy. It's definitely a conversation starter.

And you have Liz Lemon to thank for it.

The Buffalo Chicken Milkshake started as a joke on "30 Rock," part of Liz Lemon's idea of happiness, when she sees a poster in a fast-food restaurant announcing the return.

Of course, it was only a short time before blogger Robert Bishop came up with a recipe for it and convinced "30 Rock" writer Tracey Wigfield to try it on camera. And of course, when I was trying Buffalo dishes for this week's story on Buffalo beyond the wings, I had to whip one up and give it a shot, too.

My reactions:
1. It's actually tastier than you'd think. It's not sweet at all. But the contrast between the spicy heat and the cold was fun.
2. A shot would be a good idea. If you're going to serve it for a Super Bowl party, it kind of cries out for a little tequila.
3. A shot would be a good idea, Part II: Keep the servings small. It's very rich, and it wears on you after 4 ounces or so.
4. Skip the chicken. Bishop's version just sticks a fried chicken strip in the glass. Unnecessary. But a celery stick and a final sprinkling of blue cheese are definitely called for.

Here's Bishop's recipe and my modifications.

Buffalo Milkshake

1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon heavy cream
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon whole milk, plus 1 cup milk, divided
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese, divided
2/3 cup tomato juice
2/3 cup Buffalo wing sauce
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
Celery sticks

Place the cream, 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon milk and 1/4 cup blue cheese in a blender. Blend a few times to mix (Bishop suggests only pulsing so the mixture doesn't get frothy, but I didn't see that it made a difference. It will smooth out in the freezer). Add the tomato juice, wing sauce and Worcestershire. Blend again. Pour into a shallow freezer-safe container with a lid (I used a plastic container).
Place in the freezer and stir with a fork every 30 minutes, until solid.
Measure out 2 cups frozen mixture. Place in the blender with 1 cup milk. Blend until smooth but still cold and creamy. Serve in small glasses with a celery stick and a sprinkling of blue cheese.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

How does your garden can?

In this week's column in Wednesday's food section, I'm writing about Mecklenburg County finally restoring the position of the Cooperative Extension family and consumer specialist. The position was cut in 2004 during a tight budget. But in summer 2010, the county hired Kristin Davis, the state's only family and consumer extension agent with a focus on local foods.

Part of what extension agents do is educate: The Cooperative Extension Service is a service with a long history of providing information. Extension services usually work with universities but are housed in counties, so that all of us can get information we need from universities.

So what classes do you need? If you live in Mecklenburg County, Davis is conducting a survey to find out if you want classes on:
Home canning (waterbath, pressure, pickling, jams and jellies, etc.).
Home food preservation (dehydrating and freezing).
Basic home gardening.
Basic food preparation skills (basic cooking, use of kitchen utensils, food prep and storage).
Nutrition and weight management.
Meal planning and food-budget planning.
Applying for and using Food & Nutrition Benefits (formerly food stamps).
Super Couponing.

You can go here to fill out the survey. Let the county, and Davis, know what you need.

And if you aren't in Mecklenburg but you want to know more about your county's extension service, go to www.ces.ncsu.edu and click on "county centers."

Best chocolate in the world is . . . here?

Travel + Leisure has a slide show with its picks for the 10 best new sweet shops. Click through and the show lists shops in Scotland, Switzerland, Mexico and . . . Raleigh?


Yep, the pink peppercorn flavor at Raleigh's new Videri Chocolate Station is No. 9. (I was expecting the stellar Escazu, but apparently it's not new enough). If you're over in Raleigh, get a taste of Videri at 327 W. Davie St., across from the restaurant The Pit. And go by Escazu, too, on 936 N. Blount St.

NC's beer Sexual Chocolate gets attention

Foothills Brewery of Winston-Salem knows how to get attention: The one-a-year release of the beer Sexual Chocolate had people lined, and had the cameras from CNN. And yes, beer fans tell me that SC is worth the hype -- if you can get your hands on any.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Girl Scouts are smart cookies

Who doesn't get a smile over Girl Scout cookies? Well, OK, I still remember the way the old cardboard handle of the cookie cartons cut into your fingers on a long afternoon of slugging cookies door to door back on Old Fort Drive in Ocala, Fla. And the way the crabby old guy three blocks up the street slammed the door in my face when he found out I had already sold out of Thin Mints.

But you know, those memories actually still make me smile.

So, as a former Girl Scout and a fan of all things lemon-flavored, I have to point out the news in the Girl Scout cookie season:
1. It's the 100th anniversary, for those of us who can still hum along to "Juliette, Juliette, Gordon Low/founded the Girl Scouts so long ago. . . ."
2. In honor of the anniversary, there's a new lemon-flavored cookie, Savannah Smiles. ("From Savannah Mrs. Low did roam/But she always called it home.") The cookie is half-moon shaped, sort of smile-like, and it's crunchy, with a light powdered-sugar coating and a bright lemon flavor.
3. Girl Scout booth sales (no one carries cartons door to door anymore) start Feb. 17, and now there's a Cookie Finder app. Dial **GSCOOKIES (**472665437) from your smart phone and you can use GPS to find the nearest cookie booth. (There is no app needed for finding the Girl Scout parent taking advance orders -- there's usually at least one in every office.)

Photo: Huffington Post

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Is it where you eat it?

In his column BA Foodist, Bon Appetit's Andrew Knowlton has an intriguing idea: There are some Southern foods that aren't the same unless you eat them in the South.

His list:
1. Pork rinds. Specifically Hickory Ridge brand from Bartlett, Tenn.
2. Sweet tea.
3. Fried seafood. With shoutouts to Hudson's on Hilton Head and the See Wee in Awendaw, S.C.
4. Okra. Specifically the fried okra at Farmburger in Atlanta.
5. Brunswick stew, particularly the stew at Harold's in Atlanta.
6. Waffle House. "If you don't love Waffle House, you don't belong in the South."

Here's Knowlton's full piece, with his reasoning on the above choices: BA Foodist.

After you read it, let me know: Is there a food - Southern or non-Southern - that isn't as good if it's removed from its place?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

One Great . . . seafood chowder

Gray, damp and drizzly. Is there a better time than January for a good bowl of chowder? After the holiday party-food sales, I still had a container of crab and a bag of shrimp in the freezer, just waiting for a night that begged for something cozy.

I found this very popular recipe on allrecipes.com and made a few changes, dropping the original servings from 10 to 4, and simplifying some of the ingredients. The seafood is adaptable too: Thaw and peel a handful of shrimp and skip the crab, use crab only, or replace both of them with a chunks of firm fish, such as mahi mahi or even frozen wild salmon.

Corn and Crab Chowder

Adapted from www.allrecipes.com.

2 slices bacon
2 teaspoons butter plus 1/4 cup butter, divided
1/2 onion, peeled and chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons white wine
1/2 teaspoon each dried basil and thyme
Pinch cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons Old Bay
2 cups frozen corn kernels
1 to 2 large potatoes, such as russets or Yukon Gold, peeled and diced
3 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup half-and-half
6 to 8 ounces peeled, deveined shrimp (rinsed to thaw if frozen)
6 ounces crabmeat, shell pieces removed

Place the bacon in a skillet and cook over medium-high heat, turning, until browned. Remove to a paper towel, cool, crumble and set aside.

Heat butter in a large Dutch oven or deep pot over medium heat. Stir in onion and celery and cook about 10 minutes, until onion is softened and translucent. Add garlic for the last minute or two.

Pour in the wine and bring to a simmer. Season with the basil, thyme, cayenne, Worcestershire and Old Bay. Add the corn and potatoes, then pour in the chicken stock. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer 10 minutes.

Melt 1/4 cup butter in a small saucepan while soup is simmering. Stir in the 1/4 cup flour and cook, stirring constantly, until flour has turned the color of peanut butter (be careful not to let it burn). Stir into the soup and add the cream, half-and-half, crumbled bacon and shrimp. Simmer about 10 minutes, until the shrimp are cooked through, the potatoes are tender and the soup has thickened. Stir in the crab meat. Taste and adjust seasoning and serve.

Yield: 4 servings.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Sandra Lee magazine bites the dust

Sandra Lee Semi-Homemade magazine is ending publication with the January/February issue, according to Hoffman Media of Birmingham, Ala.

Editor Alice Head wasn't available for comment when I called Monday. A spokesperson said, "It was just a business decision, that's the only comment."

Paid subscribers will get transferred to Taste of the South magazine instead. If you're a subscriber and have questions, contact Hoffman's customer service department, 888-647-7304.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Who won?

The copy of "Food Everyday Light," from the editors of Martha Stewart Living, is going to Faye Bennett. Congratulations, Faye, and thanks to everyone who sent in an entry.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

One Great . . . lighter casserole

Everyday Food, the magazine from Martha Stewart's kitchen staff, does a good job of quick, straight-forward recipes. Now the magazine's lighter recipes, with less than 500 calories, have been gathered in a cookbook. If you're still tackling a better eating plan in 2012, it's a handy book for getting dinner on the table.

So today, we're offering a two-fer: A lighter version of Chicken Enchiladas, suitable for a good weeknight meal, and I'll give away a copy of the book. To enter the drawing, send an email with Everyday Light in the subject line to me, at kpurvis@charlotteobserver.com. I'll announce the winner Wednesday afternoon.

And to get the recipe, just look here:

Lighter Chicken Enchiladas
I tried two changes when I made this. I added about 1/2 cup green tomatillo salsa just to increase the amount of sauce. And I used pepper jack instead of regular Monterey Jack. The first change was a good one, but watch out for the pepper jack. It was too hot even for me. I also saved time by microwaving frozen chicken breasts, rather than steaming them.

2 to 3 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 to 2 tablespoons minced canned chipotle en adobo (freeze the rest for later)
1 3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth (or a 14.5-ounce container)
1/2 cup water
8 (6-inch) corn tortillas, wrapped in damp paper towels and microwaved briefly
1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack

Bring 1 inch of water to boil in a large skillet. Add chicken, cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer 5 minutes. Remove skillet from heat. Let chicken steam, covered, for 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to a bowl. When cool enough to handle, shred with two forks and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat while chicken is steaming. Add garlic. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add flour, cumin and chipotles. (Chipotles may clump; they'll smooth out later.) Cook, whisking, about 1 minute. Whisk in the broth and water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, whisking occasionally, until thickened, 5 to 8 minutes. (Stir in about 1/2 cup tomatillo salsa if needed.)

Transfer 1 cup sauce to the bowl with the chicken and toss to coat. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spread 1/4 cup sauce in the bottom of an 8-inch-square baking dish. Fill each tortilla with chicken mixture; roll up and place snugly in baking dish with the seam down. Top with remaining sauce and cheese. Bake 15 to 20 minutes. Cool 5 minutes before serving.

Friday, January 13, 2012

One Great . . . lamb stew for a winter night

The rest of you might be happy about our unusually warm winter, but not me. I love winter, the more bracing the better. Give me a couple of good snow storms, at least one ice event and enough cold Saturday nights to get through the whole canon of great cold-weather cooking.

We haven't had that many good, cold weekends to trot out the heavy-duty comfort food this year. So a burst of chill this weekend is a cooking excuse you don't want to miss.

Lamb, Fig & Olive Stew

From "EatingWell One-Pot Meals," from Jessie Price and EatingWell magazine (Countryman Press, 2011). If you can't find lean ground lamb, pick a lean cut, such as leg or loin, trim the fat, cut it into bite-size pieces and pulse it in a food processor just until ground but not turned into paste. Or ask the meat department to grind it for you - some stores will do it.

1 pound lean ground lamb
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup plus 2 teaspoons minced garlic, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons herbes de Provence (see note)
1/2 cup dry red wine
2 (14-ounce) cans reduced-sodium beef broth (3 1/2 cups if you have homemade beef broth)
2 tablespoons cornstarch
4 plum tomatoes, cored and diced
1/2 cup chopped dried figs
1/4 cup finely chopped pitted green olives
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest

Heat a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add lamb and cook, breaking up with a wooden spoon, until browned, 4 to 6 minutes. Transfer to a sieve set over a bowl to drain. Discard the fat.

Wipe out the pot. Add the oil and heat over medium-high. Add 1/4 cup garlic and herbs and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add wine and cook, scraping up any browned bits, until slightly reduced, 1 to 2 minutes.

Combine broth and cornstarch in a small bowl. Add to the pot, increase the heat to high and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly. Add tomatoes, figs, olives and pepper. Return to simmer, stirring often. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add the reserved lamb and cook, stirring occasionally, until heated through, about 2 minutes.
Combine the remaining 2 teaspoons garlic, parsley and lemon zest and sprinkle over servings of stew.

NOTE: It's not exactly the same, but if you don't have herbes de Provence, add 1/4 teaspoon each dried thyme, oregano, rosemary and marjoram.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Coffee News, Part II: BoCo to Go

Can you call it a food truck if it only has drinks? Maybe we should call the new red BoCoffee a coffee-bar on wheels. It does have an gas-powered espresso maker and a few other nifty features, including a flat-screen TV on the side so you can watch the news while you grab a morning cup, and teas from TeaRex.

The truck is the mobile art of Boquete Mountain Coffee, the roastery owned by David Haddock, who used to be with Counter Culture. Haddock named it after a coffee-growing area of Panama, although not all of his lines come from there. (It's pronounced bo-KET-ah, although the guy behind the window told me, "If you want to get fancy, say it 'bo-ke-TAY.'")

The roastery is at 2113 N. Davidson St., between Amelie's and K-9. And while the truck can move around, including showing up at events, it's parked for now in the area of Stonewall and South Tryon. (It was in the parking lot next to the Harvey Gantt Center for the Arts, although Tuesday's traffic shutdown moved the truck to a spot on South Tryon right beside the Observer building. There was so much morning pedestrian traffic along there that Haddock said he might move there for a while.)

Coffee bar prices range from $1.60 for a small regular coffee up to $7.45 for an extra-large flavored latte. One nice touch: I got a hot caramel on a chilly lunch hour recently and found it topped with espresso-flavored whipped cream. Nice. Details on the coffee (although none on the truck yet): www.bocoffee.com.

Coffee News, Part I: Magnolia

A question on my Q&A online led me to a conversation with Jay Gestwicki, owner of the small-batch coffee roastery Magnolia Coffee. Gestwicki previously worked for both Caribou and Dilworth before opening his own local roaster.

Gestwicki focuses on socially conscious coffees and also works with nonprofits. You've had his coffee if you had a cup of joe at Amelie's, Terrace Cafes and Julia's at Habitat ReStore on Wendover. He also has it the Common Market on Plaza-Midwood, with the SouthEnd Common Market coming soon.

Which led to the question posted last week: Where can you buy the stuff? All of the above, according to Gestwicki. Wherever his coffee is served, it also should be sold. It's available ground and whole-bean, in sizes ranging from 1/2 pound, 12 ounces and 1 pound. Prices generally range from $10 to $11.

Want more details? There is a website, www.magnoliacoffeeco.com, that links through to Julia's Cafe (although it's never bad to have a reason to remember Julia's).

One Great . . . dinner casserole

Is imitation the sincerest form of flattery? Paula Deen's son Bobby has started his own form of imitation, with a new Cooking Channel show, "Not My Mama's Meals" - lighter, more healthful versions of his mother's down-home stuff.

Food Network Magazine kicked off the show with a "He Made She Made" feature this month contrasting the Deens' versions of that ol' crowd-pleaser, Baked Spaghetti. Paula's had more cheese and a pound and a half of ground beef. Bobby's used whole-wheat angel hair pasta, half as much cheese and 8 ounces of chicken sausage. I also discovered it was simple and fast to put together when I needed a quick family dinner in the week after the holidays.

I made a few changes: Instead of removing the sausage from the casings, I just sliced it into half-moons. I used shiitake mushrooms because I had some on hand. I skipped the basil because it's out of season. And instead of baking the whole thing in a big 13-by-9-inch baking dish, I divided it into two batches. I baked one in an 9-inch square baking dish and put the other in a foil-lined 9-inch baking pan and froze it for another night. The smaller serving still had 4 graciously large servings - more if one of your diners isn't a teenager.

Light Baked Spaghetti

From Food Network Magazine, January/February issue.

Kosher salt
6 ounces whole-wheat angel hair pasta (such as Barilla Plus)
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, peeled and minced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1/2 pound sweet Italian chicken sausage, casings removed (or left whole and cut into half-moon slices)
2 green bell peppers, cored and diced
1/2 pound button or cremini mushrooms, sliced (or shiitake caps, sliced)
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning (or 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano)
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes (or 2 14-ounce cans diced tomatoes)
1 cup torn fresh basil (optional)
Cooking spray
1/2 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella
1/2 cup shredded cheddar

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions; drain.

Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat while pasta is boiling. Cook onion, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes or until soft. Stir in the garlic and cook 2 minutes. Add the sausage and cook, breaking up or stirring slices until browned, about 5 minutes. Stir in the bell pepper, mushrooms, seasoned salt and Italian seasoning and cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are soft, about 4 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, 3/4 cup water and basil (if using) and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer until the sauce reduces a little, about 15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 2-quart casserole dish with cooking spray. Add the pasta to the skillet and toss to combine. Spoon half the pasta mixture into the prepared casserole dish. (If you have to, use tongs to lift the pasta and then spoon about half the sauce from the skillet on top.) Sprinkle with half the cheese. Spoon the remaining pasta mixture and sauce on top. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Spray a sheet of foil with cooking spray and place it loosely over the top (try not to let the foil touch the cheese.)

Bake until the cheese is melted and everything is bubbling, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from oven and let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Monday, January 9, 2012

looking for something different in cooking classes?

  • First, how can we resist Hog Butchering the Old-Fashioned Way? They're holding a hog-butchering day Saturday at Historic Brattonsville, the living history plantation outside Rock Hill. From 10 a.m.-4 p.m., they'll have demonstrations of butchering, meat preservation and cooking. Local barbecuer (and former Observer writer) Dan Huntley will do a presentation on barbecue culture at history at 1 p.m., and a barbecue lunch by Gardner's Barbecue will be available starting at 11:30. Tickets are $6 for adults, $5 for seniors, $3 for ages 4-17 and free for children younger than 3. And before you freak out, we checked: The hog will be killed in advance. The museum is at 1444 Brattonsville Road in McConnells. Details: 803-684-2327, or www.chmuseums.org.
  • McConnells, S.C., is quite the busy place for barbecue this winter: Carolina Outdoor Cooking will hold a barbecue class from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Feb. 11 at the McConnells Community Center. The class is $250 and covers Carolina-style pulled pork, Texas-style brisket, Memphis ribs and smoked chicken. Lunch and "all-day barbecue sampling" is included. Registration is required by Feb. 3. Details: www.carolinaoutdoorcooking.com.
  • Proffitt Family Cattle Co. of Kings Mountain will hold a cooking class, wine tasting and farm tour from 3-6 p.m. Jan. 28. The recipes will focus on Super Bowl appetizers made with their grass-fed beef. Cost is $65. Reservations: Email hlnc@carolina.rr.com or go to www.proffittfarms.com.

Friday, January 6, 2012

No good bakeries in Charlotte?

When it comes to magazine and web sites doing "best of" Southern food lists, we in Charlotte are used to the dis. No, we can't hold a candle to Charleston on a "best food city in the South" list (subject of a poll in Southern Living that will be announced in April - go, Raleigh).

But Charlotte doesn't have a good BAKERY? Maybe 10 or 15 years ago that was true, but we've had an absolute rebirth of baking. We've got Amelie's. We've got Sunflour. We've got good ol' Suarez. We've got Great Harvest and Cloud Nine, Edible Art and Polka Dot, Nona's and Tizzerts and Down Home Baking in Waxhaw. Around here, bakeries are definitely on the rise.

So picture our sadness when we got the January issue of Southern Living, with a big article on Best Bakeries in the South. Atlanta food writer Bill Addison was sent in search of great places for cakes, pies, cookies and breads. And did Charlotte end up with a toe on the list? Nope.

Addison must have driven right by here, too: He went from Atlanta to Durham, for the justifiably wonderful Scratch. He managed to find Maxie B's in Greenboro, and two in Sugar Bakeshop and Wildflour in Charleston. But apparently, our reputation as the White Bread Capital of the South wasn't enough to justify a stop.

I'd have gladly bought him a twice-baked almond croissant at Amelie's. How about it, bakery fans? If Bill Addison had stopped in Charlotte, which bakery favorite would you offer him?

14 schools are growing their own pizza

If you're going to teach gardening to kids, you better make it real. Pizza is real, so that's the focus of the Mecklenburg Health Department's Field to Fork Pizza Garden Program, using a grant from The 704 Project. Fuel Pizza, CMS and Charlotte Green are all partners in the program, which just awarded garden projects to 14 CMS schools.

Winning schools are:
Barringer Academic Center
Polo Ridge Elementary
Elizabeth Traditional Elementary
Allenbrook Elementary
J.H. Gunn Elementary
Winterfield Elementary
Providence Spring Elementary
Endhaven Elementary
Pinewood Elementary
Selwyn Elementary
Highland Mill Montessori
Sharon Elementary
Chantilly Montessori
Shamrock Gardens Elementary.

The schools get nutrition, gardening and cooking lessons and an end-of-the-year pizza party from Fuel. For details and pictures, go here.

Way to grow, guys.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Toast yourself, Charlotte - Zane is buying

Does Charlotte have a thriving bar scene? Of course it does. And the world will get to see that at 8 p.m. Jan. 25 on HDNet's "Drinking Made Easy." Consider it a warmup for all those DNC delegates next fall.

"Drinking" host Zane Lamprey (above), also known for an earlier travel-and-drinking show called "Three Sheets, crawled through our bars with his heavily bearded sidekick Steve and a costumed sock monkey mascot. Silliness ensues. Also much drinking.

Venues that get star time: Loft 1523 (many cocktails made with bacon-flavored things, including a Wakin' Bacon breakfast cocktail and something involving chocolate, cherries, bacon and bourbon), VBGB (beer and a beer cheese dip made with bacon fat), Dixie's Tavern (no bacon, just Hurricanes), Prohibition (moonshine but no bacon), Crave (hookahs and fondue), Philosopher's Stone (all beer, I think, but watching all of this in the middle of the afternoon was making me woozy) and the U.S. Whitewater Center, where rolling a raft looks like more fun after you get fried on bacon.

Bearded sidekick Silent Steve got his sticker likeness added to the refrigerator at Philosopher's Stone. Drop by and let me know if it's still there. If you need details on the show, where they went and the recipes they collected, find them on drinkingmadeeasy.com. Check listings for the show channel. It's available on DirecTV, Dish and AT&T U-Verse.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Say whoa to worries about horsemeat

You know 2012 is going to be an interesting year when one of the first question I fielded this week was on horsemeat. In this case, I couldn't tell if the person was for or against: The questioner wanted to know if it would be available soon in Charlotte meat markets or if I knew any Charlotte chefs who were preparing it.

I'm not the only person getting horsemeat queries, apparently. Interest was triggered in November, when Congress passed a federal spending bill that included a provision lifting a five-year ban on inspecting facilities that slaughter horses.

Before horse fans get in a lather, bear a couple of things in mind: First, while lifting the ban allows the USDA to inspect a facility if one were opened, it provided no money for the USDA to do inspections. The agency's budget is so tight, that's not considered likely. Second, while there has been no U.S. facility to process horsemeat since 2007, it is allowed in Canada and Mexico and has been allowed the whole time the U.S. ban has been in effect. Most horsemeat for human consumption is exported to Europe. And finally, the ban was only in effect for five or six years. Prior to 2005, there wasn't exactly a booming market for horsemeat in the U.S. and allowing inspections probably won't create a big market.

So, where is North Carolina in all that? Nowhere new, apparently. According to a spokesman for the NCDA, there are no slaughtering facilities in North Carolina. If there were an attempt to open such a facility, it wouldn't be inspected by the NCDA, it would have to be federally inspected. And the federal office in Raleigh has no knowledge of any plans to open a facility. If a new facility opened, it would be more likely to happen in the West, where there is a higher population of horses.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

One Great . . . side dish

January is named for the god with two faces, Janus. I'll take that as a cue to take a second look at collards. Last week, I offered an easy version of the traditional Southern good-luck foods - collards, black-eyed peas and ham hocks - cooked into a simple soup.

Collards are still piled on tables at farmer's markets and in supermarkets. That's a good reason to remember that you don't have to cook collards for hours with lots of pork seasoning. They can take a faster, more healthful treatment, too. One of the new cookbooks that landed on my desk over the holiday break is "Everyday Food Light," from the editors of Martha Stewart's Everyday Food magazine. All the recipes have less than 500 calories a serving. I found this in the section on winter side dishes. It's fast, flavorful and affordable - definitely worth making more than once.

Sauteed Collards With Almonds and Raisins

From "Everyday Food Light."

1/4 cup slivered almonds
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/4 pounds collard greens (about 2 bunches), stalks removed, leaves sliced crosswise
1/2 cup raisins
2 teaspoons white-wine vinegar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread almonds on a rimmed baking sheet and toast until golden, about 8 minutes, tossing halfway through. Watch carefully to keep them from burning.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat while almonds are toasting. Add collards and raisins. Cook, tossing occasionally, until collards are tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from ehat and stir in vinegar. Sprinkle with almonds and serve.

Yield: 4 servings. Per serving: 168 calories, 4.4g protein, 22.7g carbohydrates, 8.1g fat (0.8g saturated), 4.5g fiber.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Grits With Attitude: The Times says we're cooking a revolution

The New York Times sent Julia Moskin to South Carolina in search of the latest proof of a Southern cooking revolution. While Moskin focused almost entirely on South Carolina (mostly Charleston, actually), she sussed out some interesting thinking from the new crop of Southern-centric young chefs and farmers (mostly Emile De Felice of Caw Caw Creek Farm).

De Felice is the heirloom-pig farmer who inspired people like Natalie Veres and Cassie Parsons of Grateful Growers and Sammy Koenigsberg of New Town Farms to try growing better pork chops.

Two interesting bits from Moskin's article: "Like California in the 1970s — when Alice Waters collaborated with farmers, foragers and cheesemakers on the food at Chez Panisse — the South today has just the right combination of climate, culinary skill, regional chic and receptive audience."

And this:

"Today, purists believe, Southern cooking is too often represented by its worst elements: feedlot hams, cheap fried chicken and chains like Cracker Barrel. 'My mother didn’t cook like that, and my grandmother didn’t cook like that,' Mr. DeFelice said. 'And if you want to come down here and talk about shrimp and grits, well, we’re tired of that, too. Southern cooking is a lot more interesting than people think.'"

The link is here, although remember that the Times has a paywall: If you're a member, you can only get a limited number of articles in a month.