Friday, June 29, 2012

Beer and brats for breakfast in Davidson

They're calling it "Breakfast of Champions," but luckily, the food tasting at the Davidson Farmers Market on Saturday morning/June 30 (as in, tomorrow morning) doesn't start until 10:30 a.m. Still . . . you can sample locally made sausages and local beers provided by Summit Coffee.

You still need to get up early, though: There are only 100 tickets and they go on sale at 8 a.m. Tickets are $10. Go early, stay cool, and come back later in the morning.

The Davidson Farmers Market is between Main and Jackson streets, behind Summit Coffee and its neighbors. You can usually find free parking in the lots on Jackson; look for the red farm truck signs.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Serious Eats loves food trucks in the Triangle

Sure, I wish this was a slide show about food trucks here in Charlotte. But we did lag behind for a while, although we have a great crop of food on the roll these days. But the Triangle is certainly ahead of us.

To prove it, the food site Serious Eats has a slide show up featuring food trucks that are mostly around Durham. There's a steamed dumpling food truck called Chirba Chirba (above)? Who knew?

Foodtruck slide show here.

And if the slide show makes you hungry, go here for The Observer's map of food truck locations around Charlotte. (The Tin Kitchen is usually lurking outside my office on Wednesdays. Mm, tacos.)


Charlotte blogger featured for tomato recipe

Kelly Davis, a Charlotte cook who blogs about cooking on Foodie Fresh, has a recipe featured on a web site launched by a company called Lipman, the nation's largest grower of field tomatoes. Davis was one of 11 food bloggers nationwide who was asked to create a recipe for the launch of

The recipe Kelly came up with was Crustless Quiche With Oven-Roasted Tomatoes and Basil. Now that both locally grown tomatoes and backyard basil are growing like crazy, it seemed like a good time to run it.

Crustless Quiche With Oven-Roasted Tomatoes and Basil

3 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
8 Roma tomatoes, sliced 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick
6 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 cup fresh basil, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Use 2 teaspoons oil to coat a large baking sheet and place tomato slices on the baking sheet. Do not let tomatoes overlap. Bake for 3-4 hours or until tomatoes shrivel from dehydration. When cooking is complete, remove tomatoes from oven. Reserve 8 slices of tomatoes and chop the rest of the tomatoes finely.

Increase oven temperature to 350 degrees. In a medium sized mixing bowl, whisk eggs. Add milk, basil, chopped tomatoes, salt and pepper; stir well to combine. Oil a 9-inch quiche dish (or pie pan). Pour egg mixture into dish. Layer reserved tomato slices evenly over the top of the egg mixture.

Bake quiche 25-30 minutes or until the center of the quiche is completely firm.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Cooking Sea Island peas

In my column Wednesday, I wrote about using the internet as a portable recipe search. Here's the recipe I promised, from chef Ashley Christensen of Poole's Diner (and several other restaurants) in Raleigh. It ran in Bon Appetit magazine in February and I found it using the app for iPhone.

Sea Island Red Peas With Celery Leaf Salad

2 cups dried Sea Island red peas or black-eyed peas
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
2 cloves garlic
6 springs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
1/2 cup celery leaves (from the inner stalks)
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley (optional)
2 tablespoons thinly sliced chives
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
Freshly cracked black peppercorns

Place peas in a medium pot. Cover with 6 cups water. Soak 3 hours or overnight.

Bring water with peas to a boil (do not drain). Boil for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to medium; simmer, adding water by 1/2 cupfuls if needed to keep peas covered. Cook peas until they're tender but still hold their shape, 20 to 25 minutes. (They'll cook a little more later.).

Remove from heat and stir in 1 teaspoon salt. Taste and add more salt if needed. (Can be made ahead to this point. Cover and refrigerate. Rewarm when ready to continue, adding a little more water if the cooking liquid is too thick.)

Place the garlic on a cutting board. Sprinkle with salt and chop, occasionally scraping up, until a coarse paste forms. (I crushed mine with salt in a mortar and pestle; it's a little quicker.) Tie the thyme and bay leaf in a bundle with kitchen twine.

Heat 1/4 cup oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Add the garlic paste, thyme and bay leaf bundle, celery, onion and bell pepper. Cook until vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes. Add the peas and their cooking liquid. Bring to a simmer. Cook until the flavors meld and the sauce is thickened, 10 tp 15 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in butter. Set aside.

Toast the coriander seeds in a small, dry skillet over medium heat, 2 to 3 minutes. Cool. Coarsely grind in spice mill or crush with a rolling pin or the bottom of a heavy skillet.

Combine the celery leaves, parsley, chives, lemon zest and crushed corander seeds in a small bowl. Drizzle with a little oil and toss to coat. Season with salt and cracked pepper.

Serve the peas topped with a little of the celery leaf salad.

Makes about 8 servings.

One Great . . . way to use zucchini

The calls and questions are coming in: What to do with all the zucchini. What with that rainy spring and all, zucchini seem to be growing to baseball-bat proportions overnight.

So a posting by food writer Regina Schrambling on's Epi Log quickly caught my attention Tuesday afternoon: A Turkish-inspired zucchini spread. Just the thing to serve with pita bread and a salad for a simple summer supper, or maybe dip up with crostini or pita chips. I showed it to my zucchini-growing co-worker and we both agreed it needed to be tried.

Luckily, I had everything but fresh dill, which was optional anyway. I even had Aleppo pepper (my spice cabinets overfloweth), but that's really pretty optional too. Otherwise, you just need Greek yogurt, a little mayo, walnuts and garlic. And zucchini. But that part shouldn't be hard.

Turkish Zucchini Spread

Adapted from food writer Regina Schrambling on

1 pound zucchini
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 cup (or less) plain Greek yogurt
3 cloves minced garlic
3/4 cup ground walnuts (see note)
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
A pinch of sea salt
About 3 tablespoons chopped fresh dillweed (optional)
1/2 teaspoon ground Aleppo pepper or coarsely ground black pepper

Grate the zucchini on the large holes of a box grater. (Schrambling suggested peeling a few strips off the zucchini, but I skipped that. Zucchini skin is so thin, there's no reason to peel it.) Heat about 2 tablespoons oil in a skillet over medium-high. Saute the zucchini for several minutes. Remove from heat and cool.

Place the zucchini in a bowl and mix with the yogurt, mayonnaise, garlic and ground walnuts. Season to taste with salt. To serve, spread it on a plate or small platter and sprinkle with fresh dillweed. Mix the pepper and 1 tablespoon olive oil, then drizzle over the top. Serve at room temperature.

NOTE: I ground the walnuts and the garlic together in a mortar and pestle, which worked great. It left the walnuts a little chunky, adding more texture. Or you could mince the garlic and pulse the walnuts in a food processor. One cup walnuts should yield about 3/4 cup ground walnuts.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Changes coming up at Vivace Charlotte

When I heard over the weekend that the restaurant Frazier's in Raleigh was closing, I figured I'd better check on Vivace here in Charlotte.

Vivace, the restaurant in the Metropolitan development with the stunning views of the Charlotte skyline, is owned by Raleigh-based Urban Food Group, which also owns Frazier's (along with Vivace Raleigh, Coquette, Chow and Porter's Tavern).

Kevin Jennings, who co-owns UFG with his wife, Stacey, wasn't surprised to hear from me, and he was quick to say that Charlotte's Vivace isn't going anywhere. "We've very definitely committed to the space," he said. He said sales at the Charlotte restaurant were up 15 percent in the first quarter.

The Frazier’s decision was based on practicality, he says. The restaurant space was too small to justify the kind of staff it had. He wants to focus on bigger spaces with more potential to do bigger numbers.

The Charlotte space, with a patio overlooking the greenway and the Charlotte skyline, is already booked for one night during the Democratic National Convention and he’s fielding a lot of other calls for it.

He also says he’s looking at adding another Vivace in either Denver (yes, Colorado) or Washington.

Jennings is planning changes in Charlotte, though. He's always wanted Vivace to focus on high-quality Italian ingredients. He thinks the current menu has gotten away from that and is planning to bring in a new general manager and a new chef, Meredith Antunez.

“I’m all about having that be one of the best restaurants in Charlotte. Our challenge is doing it with finesse.”

Love chardonnay? Go celebrate

Arthur's Wine Shop at Belk SouthPark is pulling out the corks to celebrate with a Chardonnay Wine Festival from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. It's $10 a person and they'll have more than 50 wines to pour.

You do need a reservation to attend. Call 704-366-8610 or send an email to

Friday, June 22, 2012

Farmers market shoppers: Tips from a pro

Oh, she sees you out there, struggling to figure out what you're going to do with a cardoon, looking all lost and confused because you got there after the best corn was gone, squeezing the peaches when you think no one is watching.

Pauline Wood, the manager of the Matthews Community Farmer's Market, is watching, usually with her trademark good humor. In one of her recent newsletters, Wood shared her own list of tips for shopping at farmer's markets. I'm passing them along (with a few extra tips of my own):

The market is busiest between 8 and 10 a.m. That's definitely true at Matthews, where the market bell rings at 7:15 a.m. Later in the morning, you may find some stands with less to sell. "Please understand that farmers come to market planning to sell out, hoping not to bring much with them." (Not all markets are for early risers, though, so check their web site before you go. I have turned up bright and early at markets in some cities only to find there's no one there but me and the truck drivers.)

Come with a flexible shopping list. "Plan your menus once you get to the market and see what farmers have brought that day." (That's the joy of shopping at a market -- finding what's freshest and tastiest that day. Pretend you're French for the morning.)

Carry small bills. Thanks to those little gadgets that fit web-phones and tablets, some sellers can take cards. But those are mostly the folks who carry high-dollar food, like meat. (Don't expect a friendly smile if you drop a $20 bill on someone for two-for-a-dollar cucumbers. It doesn't just slow down the transactions, it also might keep them from making the next sale if they can't make change.)

Chat with farmers. Ask about how the produce is grown and how to cook it. Buy something you haven't tried before. If you don't know how to cook something, there's usually someone around to offer advice.

Don't squeeze the tomatoes - or any other produce. If you have questions about ripeness, ask the farmer. Squeezing produce you're not going to buy just leaves bruised food that no one else will buy, either.

Bring sturdy bags and baskets. There's only so many plastic bags you can hang from your arm. (I have the tennis elbow to prove it.)

Plan to go straight home. Fresh produce, plants or flowers shouldn't be left in a car, especially this time of year. If you have to stop on the way, make sure you bring a cooler and some freezer packs.

Take your children. This is how they learn where food comes from and how it looks when it comes out the field. (And Purvis' addendum: Don't take your dog, no matter how well-behaved. I love my dog as much as you love yours, but she has no business licking and sniffing at a farmer's market. It also puts the market managers in the uncomfortable position of asking a customer to leave.)

The Matthews Community Farmers Market, at North Trade Street in downtown Matthews, is open from 7:15 qa.m. to noon Saturdays through Nov. 18,. and 6:30-8:30 p.m. through July 24. If you want a good list of what their sellers are bringing every week, sign up for Pauline's newsletter or get details at

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Learn to cook: Tacos at Paco's

Owner Frank Scibelli and big chef Tim Groody will lead a cooking (and eating) class next Wednesday, June 27, at Paco's Tacos, in the Specialty Shops at the Park, 6401 Morrison Blvd.

The class will cover three Tex-Mex courses, including Unholy Guacamole and Roasted Tomato Salsa, Angus al Pastor Tacoes with roasted pineapple slaw and peach cornbread cake with peach and tequila caramel. All courses will include beer pairings from George Allen of Carolina Premium Beverage.

The class starts at 7 p.m. and costs $40. Seating is limited, so you need a rez: 704-716-8226 (TACO).

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

One more refrigerator jam: Strawberry

My colleague Andrea Weigl had one more recipe to share with her story on using your refrigerator for pickling and jam-making. The picture with her story shows a strawberry jam, but she didn't include the recipe because strawberries are out of season around here.

But strawberries certainly will be back, and refrigerator jams can be adapted to other fruit. Here's the recipe if you want to try one more.

Strawberry Freezer Jam

2 cups crushed strawberries

4 cups sugar

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 pouch fruit pectin

3/4 cup water

TRIM and mash strawberries in a large bowl. Measure out two cups of crushed strawberries, add sugar and lemon juice. Stir together. Let sit 10 minutes.

COMBINE pectin and water in small saucepan. Bring to a boil for 1 minute. Stir constantly.

POUR pectin over fruit and stir for three minutes.

LADLE into freezer-safe jars, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Close lids. Let sit in refrigerator for 24 hours before freezing.

Yield: 5 pints.


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

One Great . . . arugula pesto

The basil is jumping up, but it's not knee-high yet. But arugula is living up to its name, rocket. Time to change up your pesto game.

We get so used to pesto made with basil and pine nuts that it's easy to forget you can make it with other things. I spotted an arugula version on last week and started thinking how perfect that would be. Arugula is so peppery that it can be too much in a salad with more delicate greens. But it's just right when it's combined with garlic, Parmesan and walnuts.

What to do with it? Just for starters, I can think of tossing it with pasta, spreading it on grilled chicken, using it as the base for a salad of chilled, cooked green beans or topping grilled baguette slices for bruschetta.

Arugula Pesto

2 cups arugula leaves, packed (I discarded the heavier stems)
1/4 cup walnuts
4 cloves garlic
1/3 cup of olive oil or a little more if needed
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan
2 teaspoon lemon juice
About 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

Place the arugula, walnuts and garlic in a food processor and pulse to chop. With motor running, drizzle in olive oil to form a moist paste. Stir in Parmesan, lemon juice and salt. (You might want to skip pepper, since arugula is naturally pretty peppery.)

Cover with a thin film of oil and cover tightly to refrigerate. Keeps about 3 days refrigerated.

Makes about 1 cup.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Come out of your shell: Oyster Fest on Wednesday

Vin Master, the wine shop at South End near Atherton Market, will kick off both summer and the Summer of Riesling with Oyster Fest at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday/June 20.

For $25, you get oysters (raw and cooked) from Lucky Fish in the Atherton Market and at least four wines curated by Vin Master's Chris Woodrow.

The Summer of Riesling is a real thing, by the way: It's a wine event that started in New York in 2008 to encourage people to try the different kinds of riesling. Sort of like if rose wines had a festival to kick off the first day of spring (which is good idea, come to think of it).

Reservations to Oyster Fest are encouraged but not required, and when we checked with Woodrow on Monday, there were still openings. Call 704-996-7471 if you just want to check before you go.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Going to the secret chocolate party?

Wait -- you mean I wasn't the only person Andy Cordia invited to the Secret Chocolatier anniversary party?

Sorry, Andy. When you sent me that invitation, I didn't know I was supposed to pass it on.

OK, chocolate fans, before Friday runs out, make a note to run by the Secret Chocolatier Saturday afternoon from 4 to 7 p.m. to celebrate the first year of the sweet little shop at Providence Road and Sharon Amity.

They promise lots of free chocolate stuff.

Happy anniversary, you guys. You had me at "Sea Salt Chocolate Butter Toffee."

How do you grill your corn?

My recent column on grilling brought an email from Barb Scott, who wanted to share her family's method for grilling corn. Try it and let me know what you think.

With all the rain and warmth we're having, I'm hoping this will be a stellar year for local corn. Have a great corn trick? Pass it on and I'll share.

OK, here's Barb:

"My father-in-law's method for making corn on the grill does not involve soaking, and turns out the best! There is plenty of moisture in fresh corn, so soaking is not necessary. Sometimes the kernels get caramelized, making the corn even sweeter. More people have complimented corn made this way.

Walt's Grilled Corn

1. Make sure the corn is still totally in the husk -- do not take any of it off, do not trim the bottom. Do not strip the husk back. Do not trim ANYTHING and make sure the husk is intact. (Avoid any corn in the store that has been stripped back. If the corn is stripped, ask the produce manager to get some that are unstripped from the back room.)

2. Start the grill fire, direct method. On a charcoal grill, light the coals and once the coals are halfway gray or so, put the corn on the grill. (This is a great method to make sure of the grill before it is really ready for burgers, steaks, etc.) Have a paper bag handy.

3. Roast the corn on an uncovered grill, turning once in a while to ensure uniform cooking on all sides, until you start to see the outlines of the kernels on the husk. (They will char that way.)

4. Once the husks are charred on all sides, take off the grill and immediately put into a paper grocery bag. The corn will continue to steam, and will stay hot while the rest of the meal is being grilled.

5. Strip the husks and silks off just before eating and you'll have hot, delicious steamed corn with your main course. (Be careful, the corn will be hot. You can strip the husk and silks inside the bag or in a seperate one to control mess.)

Photo: What'

Atherton Market: Eat pancakes for firefighters

What's better than helping a firefighter? Well, nothing, actually. Supporting firefighters is right at the top of our good-things list. But helping a firefighter by eating pancakes is pretty great, too.

The Atherton Market will hold the second annual Firefighters Pancake Breakfast Saturday morning (as in tomorrow morning, June 16). It benefits the Charlotte Fire Department Auxiliary, a nonprofit that helps take care of firefighters and their families when bad stuff happens.

From 8:30 to 10:30 a.m., you can spend $5 to get an order of pancakes, toppings that will be "as locally sourced as possible," coffee and juice. Firefighters and fire trucks also will be present.

In other Atherton developments, keep an eye out for an announcement on new market hours, coming soon. In the meantime, market hours are currently 3-7 p.m. Tuesdays, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Wednesdays and 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturdays. And the address is 2104 South Blvd., near Tremont, in the Atherton Mill complex.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Southern Barbecue Network is training judges

The Southern Barbecue Network usually operates barbecue competitions around the S.C. coastal area; their office is in North Charleston, after all. But if you're going to be in the mountains near Spruce Pine in July, they're certifying judges in advance of the Spruce Pine BBQ Championship and Bluegrass Festival, put on by the local Rotary Club on July 20-21.

The judge certification seminar will be held from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. July 14 at the First Baptist Church Social; Hall, 125 Tappan St. The cost is $25 and includes a barbecue lunch. You'll be certified to judge SBBQN-sanctioned competitions held around the Carolinas, although it isn't the national certification that you'd get from the Memphis in May or Kansas City Barbecue Society organizations. (The SBBQN does recognize those certificates for judging if you already have one.)

Although I'm not a certified judge, I've done a lot of competition judging around the state. And I can tell you that you really do learn a lot about the nuances that separate good barbecue from great barbecue. There's a lot to be said for being able to read a rib bone.

If you want to register for the certification seminar, go to or call 843-568-2220. If you just want to go to the Spruce Pine event, get details on that at

Congratulations to Cassie Parsons

Global Green USA, the American arm of an international organization that promotes environmentally sustainable policy, held a contest to identify Citizen Entrepreneurs nationwide. Out of 130 nominations, the winner is: Cassie Parsons, of Grateful Growers Farm and the Harvest Moon Grille. (That's Cassie with her partner and half the driving energy behind it all, Natalie Veres.)

Parsons was recognized for her work helping to start a community garden with Seigle Avenue Presbyterian Church in an neighborhood with limited access to fresh food. The Global Green award comes with a grant for that project.

The second- and third-place winners were a high school student in Auburn, Calif., who grows aquaphonic food for his school's cafeteria, and a Los Angeles high school student who started a recyling program at her school.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Eating and driving on the Blue Ridge Parkway

If you're Blue Ridge Parkway-bound this summer, you need to see this piece by Matt and Ted Lee in Travel + Leisure. Cruising from Asheville up into Virginia, they find seriously good stops for eating and food-shopping, like Hickory Nut Gap Meats, the Knife and Fork in Spruce Pine, and the Admiral in Asheville.

They also brought the sad news that the Bluffs Coffee Shop at Doughton Park is closed. I'm crushed -- I've had its fried chicken on my food wish list for years. Drat.

He's cooking steak and more

I had a blog post earlier in the spring on a cooking class that later changed its date. So, let's update:

Chef Ben Miles of BLT Steak will teach a class this Saturday (June 16) from noon to 2 p.m. at Reid's Fine Foods, 2823 Selwyn Ave. The class costs $75 and the menu includes Parisienne Gnocchi, Alaskan halibut, beef strip loin with grilled ramp Hollandaise, and poached peaches with cornmeal shortbread and creme fraiche ice cream, plus wine pairings for each.

In addition, the store and the chef will collect donations to help buy uniforms for the Sterling Elementary basketball team. Miles established Sterling Elementary's garden, which is used to help the Meals on Wheels program at Friendship Farms and Gardens.

Reservations are required, so call quick: 800-998-9855.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Mecklenburg wants to help you fill those cans

Canning fans, forgive me: I've had the list of canning classes from the Mecklenburg Cooperative Extension on the top of my stack for weeks and haven't gotten it posted up on the blog.

That doesn't mean the classes aren't worthy. And while you've missed "Basics of Home Food Preservation" and "Basics of Waterbath Canning," you still have a couple of helpful classes ahead. And a whole summer's worth of food to use them on.

  • "Basics of Pickling Your Harvest" is still ahead on Thursday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at the Piedmont Natural Gas Technology Kitchen, 4301 Yancey Road. Cost: $15. You can sign up if you call by the end of the day Wednesday. Call 704-336-2082 and ask for Class Code 35694.
  • "No Pressure! Basics of Canning Low-Acid Foods" (ie, when and how to use a pressure canner) is 10 a.m.-2 p.m. June 21 at the Piedmont Natural Gas kitchen, 4301 Yancey Road. Deadline for signup is also Wednesday. Cost is $15; call 704-336-2082; class code is 35692.
  • "Jam Party! Canning Jams, Jellies and Fruit Spreads," is at Harvest Moon Grille at the Dunhill Hotel, 237 N. Tryon St., from 2-5 p.m. June 24. The cost is $24. Call 704-332-4141 to register.
  • Finally, "Canning and Preserving the Harvest," covering both pressure and water-bath canning, will be from 2-5 p.m. July 22 at Harvest Moon Grille. Cost is $25. Call 704-332-4141.
And if canning isn't your thing, hang on for next Wednesday, when my colleague Andrea Weigl will have a story on refrigerator pickles and preserving. See? We've got you covered.

One Great . . .grilled chicken trick

Why does summer feel busier than winter these days? More places to go, more recipes to try, more fresh food to snap up and cook.

I was looking for something simple when I saw an idea from French's mustard: Smear plain ol' yellow, ballpark mustard on chicken before you grill it. The mustard keeps the chicken moist and adds plenty of flavor.

Of course, like all grilled chicken recipes, keep on eye on the pieces and keep moving them around the grill so they don't get too dark. But a three-ingredient grilled chicken is just what we need.

Super Juicy Mustard-Rubbed Chicken

3 pounds frying chicken, cut into 8 pieces (or any combination of chicken pieces you like, particularly thighs and leg quarters)
1/2 cup yellow mustard
3 teaspoons Montreal Spice

Preheat gas grill to medium heat, or build a charcoal fire with coals on one side of the grill.

Coat the chicken on all sides with mustard and sprinkle with Montreal spice.

Place the chicken on the grill, skin side down. Grill about 30 minutes until juices run clear or a thermometer inserted in the thickest parts registers 160 degrees. Turn pieces often and move them to a cooler area on the grill if needed to keep them from burning.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings.

Monday, June 4, 2012

One Great . . . boiled peanut hummus

For a guy who was born in Canada, Hugh Acheson certainly makes a good Southerner. He chef/owns the restaurants Five And Ten and The National in Athens, Ga., and Empire State South in Atlanta; he shared a James Beard Foundation award for Best Chef: Southeast with Linton Hopkins, and his book "A New Turn in the South" won a Beard book award for its fresh takes on traditional Southern dishes and ingredients.

And, yes, he got known as "The Unibrow" in his appearances on "Top Chef" and "Top Chef Masters." (Oh-yeah 2: He also occasionally writes some pretty interesting blog posts, mostly on Southern cooking, at the Epicurious blog roll, Epi Log.)

Paging around looking for something to serve with cocktails, I came across this tasty and simple spread from "New Turn in the South." If you make your own boiled peanuts, green peanut season isn't until late summer. But there's a boiled peanut stand at the Charlotte Regional Farmers Market, or you could use canned boiled peanuts in a pinch.

Tahini is sesame paste; it keeps forever in the refrigerator.

Boiled-Peanut Hummus

1 cup shelled boiled peanuts (almost exactly the amount you get in one of those little paper bags)
2 tablespoons tahini
1 medium clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
Tiny pinch of cayenne
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt if needed
Dippers: Pita chips (particularly good), flatbreads, chips or raw vegetables

Combine the boiled peanuts, tahini, garlic, lemon juice, cumin and cayenne in a food processor and process on low or pulse. Drizzle in olive oil slowly with motor running. Add 2 tablespoons water and process again to thin to spreadable consistency. Season with salt to taste (taste first - the peanuts may be salty enough.)
Serve with dippers. Keeps a couple of days in the refrigerator.

Makes about 2 cups, maybe a little less.

PHOTO: Garden and Gun

Friday, June 1, 2012

Walk and eat: Charlotte food tours start Saturday

Tour De Food, based in Winston-Salem, starts offering every-other-weekend food tours in Charlotte neighborhoods on Saturday, June 2. For $45, you stop for samples at a half-dozen restaurants, with some stops including beer or wine.

The tours will be held every other Saturday starting at 1:30 p.m. The first one covers downtown Davidson; NoDa and downtown Charlotte will eventually be added. The tours are led by Lisa Schnurr, formerly with Taste Carolina Food Tours of Winston-Salem.

For details on the Charlotte food tours, go to or call 336.406.6294.