Friday, September 28, 2012

Wake up: Discovery Place is featuring coffee

Time to give some serious thought to the subject of coffee. Discovery Place has opened a new exhibit on coffee, sponsored by S&D Coffee and Tea of Concord and featuring information and photography from the book "The Birth of Coffee," by Daniel Lorenzetti and Linda Rice Lorenzetti.

The Lorenzettis traveled the world to capture photos of the people who plant, pick and produce coffee. It took more than a quarter of a million miles to eight countries.

Tracy Ging, director of sustainability and corporate social responsibility at S&D, summed up the Discovery Place exhibit's focus as "relatedness":

"Millions of people are involved in growing, harvesting and caring for the coffee we love so much." That's worth thinking about when you pour your morning cup.

"Birth of Coffee" will run through Jan. 7 at Discovery Place, 301 N. Tryon St. in Charlotte. Go details on visiting the museum, go to .

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

One Great: Black bean and coconut soup

After a constant round of travel, there wasn't much that was fresh in the refrigerator. So I stared into the cabinet where the cans live, waiting for dinner to magically suggest itself. Canned this, canned that. Nothing that seemed to go together.

Except those black beans and that can of coconut milk. Black beans and coconut milk? They didn't seem to belong together, yet something in the back of my brain thought they might. I tapped the two ingredients into a Google search to see if such a crazy idea had occurred to anyone else.

Why yes, actually. I found Caribbean versions and Southeast Asian versions. I ended up making it a real hybrid with a couple of links of chicken-based Italian sausage there were waiting in the freezer. But you could skip the meat or go with something like leftover grilled chicken.

Seriously, you never know what will happen when you stare into a cabinet.

Black Bean and Coconut Milk Soup

Adapted from my brain and several online recipes.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 or 1 whole diced onion
2 cloves garlic, peeled and diced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 or 2 links of Italian sausage, sliced, or 1 cup diced, cooked chicken (optional)
2 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (15-ounce) can coconut milk, preferably light
1 1/2 to 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth (canned or frozen)
1 tablespoon Asian hot sauce, such as sriracha
1 tablespoon peanut butter
2 tablespoons minced cilantro or a squeeze of lime juice (optional)

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion, reduce heat to medium-low, and cover. Cook 5 to 10 minutes, until softened. Stir in the garlic and and cumin and cook 1 to 2 minutes, until fragrant. If you're using meat, add it, raise the heat to medium-high and saute until just cooked through or reheated.

Stir in the black beans, coconut milk and broth.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 10 to 15 minutes. If you want a creamier soup, scoop half the beans into a blender and puree (cover the lid with a kitchen towel so it doesn't splash) or use an immersion blender to puree some of the soup. Or skip all that and leave the beans whole. Stir in the hot sauce and peanut butter and cook a few minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Serve garnished with cilantro or a squeeze of fresh lime juice. .

Makes about 4 servings.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Want to learn how to cook in an emergency?

The phrase "culinary history" can sound like dusty stuff, with "receipts" for strange foods like pumpions and dried green beans.

Ah, but there is much to be learned in how people used to cook. Our local group of culinary historians, the Historical Cooking Guild of the Catawba Valley, wants to prove that to you with a class on Saturday, "Emergency Prep: Eatin' High on the Hog When the Power Goes out."

The class will cover things like equipment and supplies, how to "put food by" (canning, curing, drying, smoking and bucket storage), kitchen safety in the dark and useful resources. You'll get hands-on lessons in cooking in fireplaces, fire pits and gas cookers. You'll learn the tricks to washing up in a bucket. And you get lunch: pork barbecue, baked beans, corn cakes and apple crisp.

The class will be at the President James K. Polk Historic Site, 12031 Lancaster Highway, in Pineville from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The cost is $20, and advance registration is required. To check on whether there are spaces left, email Leila Merims at

PHOTO: Pam Dudeck demonstrating fireplace cooking at the James K. Polk Historic Site. Courtesy of the Historic Cooking Guild of the Catawba Valley.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

"Savor the South" book signings in Charlotte, Raleigh and more

We interrupt our usual newsworthiness to bring the list of book signings.

Yes, I have a book out, "Pecans: A Savor the South Cookbook" (UNC Press, $17.95). In case you missed last week's story, this is a series of books on Southern ingredients. It debuted last week with my book, "Pecans," and Debbie Moose's "Buttermilk."

The series will continue with at least 10 more, released a couple of books at time; I have a second book coming in fall 2013, "Bourbon: A Savor the South Cookbook." I'm tickled to be a part of this series, which includes all kinds of writers I know and admire, including John Shelton Reed on barbecue, Virginia Willis on okra and Andrea Weigl on canning and preserving.

Since this is the start of a long series, Debbie and I will be making the rounds of bookstores all over the state, favorite pens in hand, for book signings. Here's what's on the list so far:

Thursday, Sept. 20 (yes, as in tomorrow night), 7 p.m., Park Road Books. I'm delighted to start the signings here. Sally and Frazer are terrific supporters of local authors and cookbook authors.
Sunday, Sept. 23, 3 p.m., Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh. I've heard so many great things about this independent bookstore. I can't wait to visit.
Saturday, Oct. 6, Chapel Hill Farmers Market, 8-11 a.m.
This is the one in front of A Southern Season. This will be just me.
Saturday, Oct. 6, Parker & Otis, Durham, 11:45 a.m. Love this store and the deli. If no one buys a book, I have to make sure I don't shop up all the profits.
Saturday, Nov. 3, 2 p.m., Barnes & Noble, Greensboro. Debbie and I will be back together at this one.
Saturday, Nov. 10, 10 a.m.-1 p.m., Atherton Market. Yea, back in my hometown.
Saturday, Nov. 17, 7 p.m., Malaprops in Asheville. Not only will you get three UNC Press authors -- Debbie and I will be there with Fred Thompson and his new book "Fred Thompson's Southern Sides" -- you also get an excuse to hang out in one of the best independent bookstores in the country. I was so happy when they asked us to be there.
Saturday, Dec. 8, 1-4 p.m., Old Salem in Winston-Salem. I haven't been to Old Salem for the holidays in several years. I'm hoping to get at least one bite of hot sugar cake.

There are a few more still being scheduled, but that covers the fall. I hope you'll stop by one of these and say hello, even if you don't buy a book.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Whole Foods: Your favorite / least favorite things?

We've done this with Trader Joe's and Costco. Now that Whole Foods has finally opened in Charlotte, it's time to put our cooking heads together.

Do you have favorite products or things you always buy at Whole Foods? Looking around at online discussions about Whole Foods in other cities, I've found fans of Wise kosher chickens, Fran's chocolate sauce and Siggi's Icelandic yogurt in the ginger/orange flavor.

How about it, Whole Foods vets? What's always on your shopping list? And since no store is perfect, have you found things that don't live up to the price?

Monday, September 10, 2012

Whole Foods starts cooking with the classy Virginia Willis

Last winter, one of my favorite new cookbooks was an imaginative book on Southern cooking called "Basic to Brilliant, Y'All," written by one of the South's most solid talents, Virginia Willis of Georgia.

Virginia's take was to come up with great Southern-inspired recipes and then give a variation to either make it simpler or a little fancier. For instance, one of my favorites is now her version of Mashed Potatoes with Mustard. In the variation, she has you mix the potatoes with eggs and bake it as a casserole. (I ran the recipes for both in my blog last October.)

Now that Whole Foods has finally opened, we have a new spot for visiting cooking teachers, at the store's Salud! Cooking School. Virginia will be one of the first, appearing Wednesday at from 6:30-8:30 in the third-floor restaurant at Whole Foods, 6610 Fairview Road. She'll teach recipes from "Basic to Brilliant."

On Friday, chef Justin Balmes of "The New Food Network Star" also will be at Whole Foods demonstrating a full menu featuring local and regional ingredients. His class is also 6:30-8:30.

Both classes are $55 and are filling up quickly. You do need to register to attend. Go to . You also can find the whole class schedule for the rest of the fall, in case you want to get a jump on things.

As Virginia would say, "Y'all come."

Friday, September 7, 2012

One Great . . . it's-over soup

Cleaning out my purse on Friday, I found two hors d'oeuvre toothpicks, the kind with the frilly plastic tops. That says a lot about my life in the last two weeks, both in the lead-up to the DNC and the actual convention itself.

It sounds glamorous to say I was on party coverage. Reality? I was picking up dinner based on which fast-food line was on the way home at 9 at night, or grabbing what I could from cold appetizers and limp buffets.

My soul is screaming for something simple, soulful and nutritious. I'm craving the chance to get back in the kitchen. Alas, it's still not to be: My book, "Pecans: A Savor the South Cookbook," comes out Monday. So I'm hitting the road right behind the departing conventioners, on my way to the Southern Independent Booksellers Assocation convention in Naples, Fla.

If I had a chance to cook this weekend? I'd aim for something like this.

Noodle Soup With Kale and White Beans

From "Fine Cooking: Make It Tonight," by the editors of Fine Cooking magazine (Taunton, $17.95).

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
3 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
1 medium red onion, chopped
1 cup cappellini pasta, broken into short lengths
2 quarts reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 small bunch of kale, ribs removed, leaved roughly chopped (about 6 cups)
1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add carrots and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft and just golden-brown, about 10 minutes. Scrape the vegetables in a bowl and set aside.

Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in the pot over medium-high heat. Add pasta and cook, stirring often, until dark bolden brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the broth and stir, scraping the bottom of the pot to release any stuck-on pasta.

Return the carrots and onion and add the kale, beans, lime juice, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the kale, carrots and pasta are tender, 8 to 10 minutes.

Remove from the heat, stir in the cilantro and season to taste with more lime juice, salt and pepper before serving.

Sit down and enjoy the quiet of a peaceful evening.

Yield: 6 servings.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

DNC: Samuelsson says 'eat brightly'

Get some sleep, people. If you don't, your brain can't help you judge when you've had too much to eat.

Those orders came directly from Arianna Huffington and chef Marcus Samuelsson. Arianna -- it's not only hard to call her Huffington, it's hard not to say "Ari-aaaaaaa-nah" without stretching it out like the old "Ruffles have ridges" commercial -- has set up the Huffington Post Oasis, a rest and relax stop, in the Flex + Fit facility at Stonewall and Church streets, right across from my office.

On Tuesday, she brought Hufflepuff blogger Samuelsson, for a quick Q&A on healthful eating. In the chef world, Samuelsson has a globally interesting story: Born and orphaned in Ethiopia, adopted and raised in Sweden, opened restaurants in New York (the former Aquavit and now Red Rooster in New York), stints on "Top Chef Masters" and now author a memoir, "Yes, Chef." Marcus doesn't say no to much, apparently.

So, what did Samuelsson talk about:

-- In Japan, people only eat until they are about 80 percent full. Americans eat until we're full. Stop that.

-- "You still cannot say if all organic is better for us. It's better to eat a peach in season than an unripe organic peach."

-- "Cook with a spiritual compass, eat with a spiritual compass." That's what Samuelsson calls "eating brightly," or paying attention to what you eat, where your food comes from, when to eat.

-- During the Ramadan fast, Muslims lost 7 percent of their total body mass. During American holidays, we gain weight. Stop that.

-- In the fishing village in Sweden where he was raised, there was a saying: If you catch 40 fish, cook 10, preserve 10, give 10 to elders or people without enough food, and sell 10 to buy something else.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

DNC Eats: Where's the barbecue? And more food

Former Observer writer Dan Huntley is now better known as barbecuer Dan the Pig Man, who sells from a food truck covered with barbecue slogans. Dan was planning to sell barbecue sandwiches and ribs on Tryon Street all week for the Democratic National Convention.

He smoked 3,000 pounds of pork butts and 200 racks of ribs, enough for 6,000 sandwiches. After starting Monday at CarolinaFest, he was moving to Legacy Village, next to the Gantt Center, 551 S. Tryon St., for the reminder of the week.

Late Monday, word rocketed around the newsroom (or at least among my editors, who tend to be a bit obsessive about Dan's barbecue): Dan was sold out already. CarolinaFest turnout was so big, he was done for the week.

Never trust the word from editors: I called Dan on Tuesday morning and he was already back on South Tryon at Legacy Village. He stopped by a WalMart on his way home to York County Monday night, loaded up with 28 butts and started smoking again. So he's back in business for the rest of the week.

If you know a delegate who is desperate to try real Carolina barbecue, take them down to Legacy Village, across from the convention center (and all those hungry journalists). Tell Dan I sent you.

(And if John Oliver wants a barbecue sandwich, tell him to give me a call. I'll buy.)

THIS JUST IN: The Tin Kitchen food truck, with those cutting-edge tacos (pork belly, blackened shrimp, chicken tinga and the rest) will be at Morehead and Tryon Street every day at lunch, roughly from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 or so. They're at a private event Wednesday night (that would be the VIP after-party at ElderArt) in SouthEnd, and Thursday night, they'll be in NoDa near the Dog Bar. (And John Oliver, the offer still holds: You want a taco, I'll buy. I know these guys -- they'll give you extra cilantro rice if I ask them.)

Monday, September 3, 2012

DNC: The view from uptown

Hustling from the Mint to the Bechtler to the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Sunday, especially in the rain and heat, can definitely crimp a girl's party style. So I used a trick I've used several times in New York, when I don't have to go far but I want to save shoe leather: Hail a pedicab.

For $5 and a tip (I'm always generous to pedalers), veteran driver Raymond Dudine gave me some good advice. Worth bearing in mind this week: "You have to be smarter than traffic. Be nice to corner officers. Pay attention."

And since my camera cut off his phone number, here's another way to reach him if you need a ride: 704-668-9496.

Thanks, Raymond.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Delegates: What are you eating?

I can tell you what my diet has been like in the last week of 12- and 13-hour days getting ready for the DNC: Drive-thru, fast food, frozen stuff I barely thawed.

I was interviewing caterers by day and grabbing the fastest thing I could find at night. Ironic that Michelle Obama and her friends drove me to the first Big Mac I've eaten in a couple of years.

But what I'm more interested in is what you're eating: If you're a delegate or a DNC visitor, where did you end up going? Did you get shrimp & grits, did you love or hate our barbecue?

Pass it on, please. After hearing what the big-city papers ate here, I'm more interested in what the ground troops are doing. Email me at or send me a note through Twitter (@kathleenpurvis).