Thursday, May 30, 2013

Watch and eat Saturday morning at Blue

Blue executive chef Gene Briggs will hold a class/lunch on Saturday. (That's class/lunch as in learning while you eat, not a lunch with class, although all meals at Blue are pretty classy.)

The idea is that you watch chef Briggs demonstrate how to cook the dishes that you eat; wine pairings are involved, so Saturday afternoon is pretty much assured of a nap.

The theme is Local & Fresh Food, and the menu will include a roasted broccoli and spring garlic soup, Moroccan-spiced chicken, pork tenderloin with a market vegetable succotash, and strawberry and rhubarb custard pie. It's $44.95 per person, not including tax and a 19% gratuity.

The class is part of a series on the first Saturday of the month. Next up: Turkey in July on July 13.

Details, registration and the full schedule: or call 704-927-2583.


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Baking winner at the Matthews Community Market

Is that the happiest smile you've seen in a while? Miyako Loesner was the winner Saturday morning at the annual Matthews Community Farmer's Market baking contest. Among her winnings: A copy of Peter Reinhart's book "The Joy of Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free Baking" and a vase of fresh, locally grown flowers.

The theme this year was fresh spring produce and most of the contestants bought everything locally -- and from the market. The judges were myself, Peter Reinhart, Sam Stachon of Kings Bakery and chef Charles Semail of Chef Charles Catering. 
The "carrot" roll is at the top of the picture, toward the back.

The theme was challenging -- no simple strawberry tarts this time. But for creativity, these bakers really pulled it out. Second place was the goat cheese and fresh spring onion tart by Bernadette Franco and third place went to Kohlrabi, Kale and Onion Hand Pies (seriously, much tastier than it sounds) by Roxanne Morgan.

But Miyako Loesner really blew out the stops, winning both first place and the People's Choice award. Her entry was a delicate and lovely carrot rolls, with a gluten-free green cake rolled around a light orange filling: She made the "flour" by drying and grinding up green carrot tops and made a bright orange carrot jam to use in the filling. Seriously, that's getting creative. 

Loesner is a market volunteer in addition to being a waitress at Minoda's Kabuto Japanese Steak House in Charlotte.

Friday, May 24, 2013

So you want to be a butcher?

Grateful Growers Farm is putting together a three-day course that combines farming and hog butchering for "culinary scholars." For $695, including meals and 30 pounds of pork, you get an experience that includes a day learning about farm practices and the raising of Tamworth hogs, a day focused on humane meat-processing, and a day on breaking down and cutting up pork.

The class is limited to six participants, and will be held mainly at Grateful Growers Farm in Denver on June 23-25. Registration is obviously required, and I'd inquire very quickly because it will probably fill up fast.

For information, contact Rene Timpone at 704-502-6445 or email

One Great . . . beer bread

Sometimes you just need that one thing to fill out a menu. And sometimes that one thing is bread.

It's so easy to fall back on rolls from the freezer or something that might be past its prime but can be freshened up by warming. Making bread on a weekday? Forget it. Too much trouble. Too much work. Too many ingredients . . . Wait. What if you could make bread with fewer ingredients than you can count on the fingers of one hand? If you have self-rising flour, you can make it even easier.

Quick bread that isn't sweet? That's . . .  sweet.

Beer Bread

3 cups all-purpose flour (see note)
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup shredded cheese, such as cheddar or a blend (optional)
1 (12-ounce) bottle of beer, or 1 1/2 cups beer
2 tablespoons butter (optional)

COAT an 8-inch loaf pan with nonstick spray, butter or shortening. Set aside. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

COMBINE the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Stir in the cheese, if using. Add the beer and quickly stir together. Spread in the loaf pan, smoothing the top. Bake 1 hour, until golden on top and pulling away from the edges of the pan a little. Remove from oven. Place butter on top of the warm bread if desired, brushing quickly to coat the top.

SERVE warm.

NOTE: If you have self-rising flour, omit the baking powder and salt.

Winner of the grilling giveaway

Congratulations to Neil G. Gimon of Charlotte. Neil is the winner of the random drawing for "The Grilling Book" and a pair of very nifty Trudeau grilling and kitchen gloves.

Thanks, all, for playing. Stay tuned for another giveaway soon.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Are you baking for the Matthews contest?

Don't forget that Saturday is the annual baking contest at the Matthews Community Farmers' Market. I hope so -- I'm a judge, along with Peter Reinhart and Sam Stachon from King's Bakery.

This year's theme is local produce -- the main ingredient has to be in-season market produce, from spinach to strawberries. You can get all of the rules at, including the deadlines for entering, but here are the main ones:

  • This is a baking competition, so there must be a baked component to the entry.
  • All entries must be made from scratch.
  • The recipe used, including ingredient list, must be provided at time of entry along with the
  • baker's name, address and phone number. Index cards taped to submissions work best.
  • Each entry should be ample enough for at least 25 tastes. If your recipe makes only a small
  • number of servings, please consider doubling or tripling it. There needs to be enough for the
  • judge's table and enough to be submitted for the public tasting table.
  • Please use disposable dishes or pans.
The first prize is a package that includes a market tote and T-shirt, $25 in market gift certificates and a signed copy of Peter Reinhart's book "The Joy of Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free Baking." And since the gluten-full and sugar-full among us need something, too, I'll throw in a signed copy of my book "Pecans: A Savor the South Cookbook."

If you're there, say hey. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Cookbook giveaway: Enter to win The Grilling Book and gloves

I almost hate to give this one away. But I'm going to share my copy of  "The Grilling Book: The Definitive Guide From Bon Appetit," edited by Adam Rapoport (Andrews McMeel, $45). It's definitely a heavyweight among this year's books on outdoor cooking. With more than 300 recipes and 432 pages, it covers both gas and charcoal grills, and pretty much everything you can grill, including a raft of tips and pictures. (Great slogan, too: "The Grilling Book" is not your dad's grill guide -- but it should be." Nice.)

And because you don't just read about grilling, I'll throw in a set of flame-resistant Trudeau grilling and kitchen gloves.

So how do you enter the giveaway? Send an email to me, at, and put "Grilling Giveaway" in the subject line. We'll pick a winner by random drawing. The deadline to enter is 10 a.m. Friday, May 24.

Whether you use the book for charcoal or gas grilling is entirely up to you.

Monday, May 20, 2013

One Great . . . peas and beans salad

Fava beans are a rare sight in our local farmers markets. I spot them once or twice in the spring, and then they're gone. This time, when I found them on Saturday, I had already bought a bag of the first sugar snap peas of the season. Perfect timing for a crisp, green salad treatment. If you don't get that lucky, you can easily adapt this for green peas, snow peas and edamame.

If you've never worked with fava beans, here's a quick primer: First, you shell the giant pods, freeing the individual beans. Then bring a small pot of salted water to boil and place a bowl of ice water nearby. Cook the fava beans briefly, about 1 minute, then remove them from the boiling water and drop in ice water, to shock them and stop the cooking.

Now, you might notice that the beans are oddly white. That's because there's an skin on the beans that needs to be removed: Nick one end with your thumb nail or a small paring knife and squeeze; the bright green inner bean will pop out. Then you can use them in a salad, or reheat them, even cook and puree them. Some recent sources are suggesting you can leave the inner skin on, but personally, I think they work better (and they're brighter and prettier) if you take it up. But try it both ways and see what you think.

Peas and Fava Bean Salad
From Cooking Light.

About 1 cup fava beans (from about 1 pound of pods)
4 to 8 ounces fresh sugar snap peas
About 1 cup frozen green peas
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped
1/4 cup prosciutto, sliced
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon each salt and freshly ground pepper

Shell the fava beans and set aside. Trim the stems from the sugar snaps. Bring a small pot of lightly salted water to boil and place a bowl of ice water nearby.

Add the fava beans to the boiling water and cook 1 minute. Use a slotted spoon to remove them and drop in the ice water. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the sugar snaps to the boiling water and cook 1 minute. Remove with a slotted spoon and drop in the ice water. Drain and set aside. Remove the boiling water from the heat and cool for a minute or two. Add the frozen peas and let sit for a few minutes, until just thawed. Drain and set aside.

Nick the end of each fava beans and squeeze out the bright green bean (if it splits in half, make sure you get both halves). Place in a serving bowl. Blot the sugar snap peas dry with a paper towel and add to the favas. Drain the peas well and add to the bowl. Stir in the mint leaves and prosciutto.

In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, olive oil, Dijon, salt and pepper. Pour over the beans and peas and mix well. Refrigerate until ready to serve or serve immediately at room temperature.

NOTE: If you need to use edamame, snow peas and green peas, cook the shelled edamame and trimmed snow peas in the same way you cook the fava beans and sugar snaps, cooking briefly and blanching in ice water.

YIELD: 4 servings.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Thank Garden & Gun for this party tip

I'll always give credit where it's due. So thank you, Garden & Gun, for two recent finds.

First, an item on the Charleston-based magazine's web site sent me over to the Kenilworth Harris Teeter in search of Big T Crab Dip, made by a company called Big T Coastal Provisions of Mount Pleasant, S.C.

Few things are better than good crab dip and few things are more disappointing than most commercial versions. Big T, $6.99 for an 8-ounce tub (on sale for $4.99 when I stopped in) is . . . oh man, that's real crab dip. Not crab-flavored dip. Like crab dip you'd make yourself, thick with shreds of crab.

Some of the tasters in my office actually like the jalapeno even better, for the bite of pepper. Great on a cracker, but I could also see it as a worthwhile shortcut to stuffed mushrooms.

And back at you, Garden & Gun, with this one: While searching the store for the crab dip, which turned out to be in the seafood section, I stopped by the section near produce where they stock the pimento cheeses. I was following the logic that spreads in tubs tend to flock together. That's how I found out that Pawleys Island Specialty Foods, makers of the crazy-popular Palmetto Cheese, now sells an onion dip - OMG (for Onion Made Goodness). As you'd expect, it's also very good, with caramelized sweet onions in a creamy base.

So there you go: Two options, ready to take to a party. I'd call that a special occasion.

N.C. tastes: Dan'l Boone Inn

How's Sunday lunch at the Dan'l Boone Inn  in Boone? It's almost more than you can say grace over. And since I was eating lunch with my friend The Rev. Canon Beth Ely, an Episcopal priest, I have actual experience. Even the Rev. Canon Beth could barely say grace over it all.

Stopping at the Dan'l Boone Inn on my way back from the mountains has been on my list for years. But I've been scared off by tales of long waits. On a Sunday about a month ago, though, it was raining so hard that I figured even students from nearby App State wouldn't be induced to crawl from their dorm rooms for food. So on the way back to Charlotte from the Episcopal conference center at Valle Crucis, we pulled in at the rangy, white building at Hardin and West King (U.S. 321 and 421, which has got to be the easiest address in the state to remember).

It was so gray and rainy that it was the perfect day for Sunday lunch at a place so homestyle, they can't spare enough letters to spell out "Daniel." Dan'l it is, right down to a display case of historic guns where you stand in line for a table and enough knotty pine to build a 1950s subdivision. If you sit still long enough, you'd get ginghamed.

In the low-ceiling dining room, family groups fill long tables set with lazy Susans and the waitresses wear "Little House"-style dresses with black aprons. You get real china, for heaven's sake.

All of which is sweet, but how's the food? Folks, it is sweet, too. It's served family-style, meaning every table gets the same spread. I was relieved that I wasn't alone, because for $16.95 per person (cash or checks only) you get:

A steaming, cast-iron cauldron of very good, home-style vegetable soup.
Fried chicken.
At the Dan'l Boone Inn, even the breakfast menu is served on china.
Country ham biscuits (2 per person).
Plain, warm biscuits (so you can spread them with the inn's own black cherry jam).
Country-fried steak.
Cooked-to-falling-apart green beans.
Real-tasting mashed potatoes.
Creamy/sweet green coleslaw.
Stewed apples.
A choice of desserts that includes chocolate cake and peach cobbler.
Endless refills of ice tea.

And a gift shop where you can stretch your legs and buy a coon-skin cap before you go.

There are places in North Carolina that never change. Say amen, Dan'l.


Friday, May 10, 2013

Farmers market action around Charlotte

The traffic at some of the local farmers market has been like spring this year: Slow to warm up and get started. That's why we held our annual list of markets for a couple of weeks. But look for it on Wednesday, including an online database with Google mapping and a story on the developing market scene around here.

In the meantime, put these on your market calendar:

  • This Saturday, May 11, is Strawberry Shortcake Day at the Davidson Farmer's Market. From 9:30 to 11 a.m. (or until they're sold out), you'll be able to buy homemade strawberry shortcakes with local strawberries and local whipped cream for $5. The market is open from 8 a.m. to noon next to the Davidson town hall, between Main and Jackson streets. 
  • Friday, May 17, is Strawberry Day at the Charlotte Regional Farmer's Market, 1801 Yorkmont Road (off Billy Graham Parkway). There are plenty of strawberries at the market this weekend; that Friday is the day when they'll have picking and storing information and free recipes.
  • This Sunday at 6:30 p.m. is the Funds to Farms dinner at Triple C Brewing, co-sponsored by  the Atherton Market. Take your mom out -- they will sell tickets at the door. Get details on that here.  
  • Two Saturdays from now, May 25, is the annual baking contest at the Matthews Community Farmers Market. For this year's competition, you have to incorporate in-season market produce. You can find the rules, as well as market details, at    

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Emeril: Pork fat doesn't rule anymore

 On Monday night, I was in the audience at Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center in New York, watching Emeril Lagasse choke up a little when he accepted the James Beard Foundation Award for Humanitarian of the Year. (Disclosure: I serve on the JFB awards committee, which chooses both the humanitarian and Lifetime Achievement honors).

On Wednesday night, I was in a tiny office at Belks, one of a line of local journalists waiting for a few minutes to interview Lagasse. The video at the top is the one the foundation produced for Lagasse's honor. (Seriously: Hang on until the last seconds for the "Bam!" from the kids at St. Michael's Special School in New Orleans. Have a tissue ready.)

We only had a few minutes before his cooking demonstration, so we talked briefly on a few points:

Getting the Humanitarian Award: Chefs are constantly asked to donate their time or faces to causes. "For me, it's hard to ask. It's a big ask." So it was gratifying to get the award in an auditorium filled his peers, as a way of reminding them all, this is why they do it. The money his foundation raises provided 400,000 summer meals for kids who don't get breakfast or lunch when they're out of school. "That's why I do it -- I'm trying to make life better."

How cooking in America has changed: "I started 20 years ago with Food Network. I see the evolution that's happened. People are becoming aware. Finally, the light's going on - 'oh, string beans,' 'oh, the farmer's market.' . . . We still got work to do, people like you and me that teach people. God thanks, because we have jobs."

How he and his cooking have changed: "I've gotten older, my diet has changed. I'm eating healthful, eating in combinations, making choices. In the old days, we'd go to six restaurants in a day and then go to three bakeries. Now, we plan for, let's eat light at lunch and go here at dinner."

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Fini: James Beard Awards gala, at last

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

James Beard weekend, continued

Monday, May 6, 2013

Storify report from New York

Sunday, May 5, 2013

My first Storify: Friday at the James Beard media awards

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Stupid kitchen tricks: Knife holder hack

My editor, Roland Wilkerson, is the guy who compiles the weekly "I'm So Clever" column for the Saturday Home section. After I saw this trick, maybe we should rename him "I'm So Cleaver."

When I brought in bagels on a recent morning, he pulled out a big knife he keeps in his desk for office cake-cutting occasions and such. (No, he doesn't use it on my stories.)  To keep it safe, he had created his own quickie knife holder: You know those mailing envelopes lined with bubble wrap? He cut off one long side, stapled the cut-side closed, and had a perfect and portable knife carrier. No muss, no fuss, no cost.

Clever cleaver indeed.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

One Great . . . rosemary sauce

With this year's long, cool spring, it's going to be awhile before we have fresh basil. Even the mint is taking its time. But if your herb bed is like mine, the rosemary is always there -- and threatening to take over.

So I was glad to spot a use for more than a sprig or two of rosemary. This is an adaptation of Argentina's chimichurri, a fresh herb sauce that adds a powerful punch of flavor to steak. Until we're ladling pesto over everything again, you might be able to use something else that's fresh and green.

By the way, Debra Ponzek's new "The Dinnertime Survival Cookbook" is filled with simple, approachable recipes that are aimed right at working families. It's worth a look if you're trying to juice up your dinner game plan.

Rosemary Chimichurri

From "The Dinnertime Survival Cookbook," by Debra Ponzek with Mary Goodbody (Running Press, 2013).

2 cups packed flat-leaf parsley leaves
1/2 cup fresh rosemary leaves
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 whole cloves garlic
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes

Combine all the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor. Blend until smooth.

Use right away, or cover and refrigerate up to a week.

YIELD: About 1 cup.