Friday, August 30, 2013

Is this the end of farmer's market season?

Funny you should ask: No, it isn't the end of the season at all. We have many farmer's markets in the area that now stay open all year. It is Labor Day weekend, though, and every year, I notice that Saturday morning market traffic drops off considerably after that.

Now, I get why that happens. School has already started, and so have soccer/T-ball/football/track practice. Scouting trips will be cranking up, and all those chores that busy lives involve will start getting funneled into a few available hours on a Saturday morning.

But the food being grown around us doesn't stop. Fall brings apples, scuppernongs, greens and winter squash. In this climate, a lot of things we get in summer keep going right through Thanksgiving.  And sometimes, we get a short return of a few spring crops. One local farmer I know sometimes get a second burst of asparagus when the weather cools off again.

So this is just a short message to plead: Remember your local growers. Their crops and their bills don't stop at the end of August. There are starting to be more options in the fall and winter for buying local food, like weekdays at the Atherton Mill & Market, or local meat deliveries at stores like the Common Market. You can ask the food producers you use regularly if they're doing off-season CSAs, or making mid-week deliveries somewhere.

Or you can team up with a couple of friends and take turns having one person do the local-food shopping on a Saturday morning. Remember that we have a database of farmer's markets in the region surrounding Charlotte, including the ones that are open all year.

 There are ways to make it work. Keep the good stuff in your life. It makes eating more fun.

Monday, August 26, 2013

One Great . . . ginger salad dressing

Salads sound so virtuous, but salad dressings can sink that quickly. I was happy to stumble on this version of one of my favorites, a Japanese-influence soy-ginger dressing.

It packs major flavor, thanks to plenty of garlic and the juice from grated ginger. Put it in a jar with a tight-fitting lid and you can keep it in the refrigerator for up to a week. Give it a good shake when you're ready to go.

Ginger-Soy Salad Dressing
One large piece fresh gingerroot, about 4 to 6 inches
1/4 cup soy sauce
Juice of 1 whole lemon (about 2 tablespoons)
3 cloves garlic, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons honey
2/3 cup olive oil

GRATE the ginger on a box grater or bamboo ginger grater. Squeeze to extract the juice; you should have 2 to 3 tablespoons. Place ginger juice in a small mixing bowl and add the soy sauce, lemon juice, garlic, mustard and honey. Whisk to combine well.

WHISKING constantly, slowly add the olive oil. Place in a jar with a tight-fitting lid and refrigerate 5 to 7 days. When ready to use, shake the jar to remix.

YIELD: About 1 cup.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Non-GMO food contest cancelled

Heck No GMO, a cooking contest scheduled Saturday at Olde Mecklenburg Brewery, has been cancelled. I included information on the contest earlier in the week. The event was sponsored by Food & Water Watch and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Food Policy Council, which announced late Friday that it's been delayed. It may be rescheduled for a later date.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Can we cook our way to racial understanding?

When the brouhaha erupted over Paula Deen's use of racial language and images in court testimony earlier this summer, I swapped a tweet with a colleague: Wouldn't it be interesting if this led to a more open  discussion of race in America?

I wasn't alone in that hope, and author Adrian Miller has taken it a step further with an interesting proposal:

On, Miller, the author of the new book "Soul Food:  The Surprising Story an American Cuisine, One Plate at a Time," has proposed the idea of interracial-cooking book clubs. The proposal is that people would cook from two books, one white and one black, and get together to share their experiences with that.

From his post: "Those of us hungry for a dialogue need not wait. Food is one of the easiest ways to bring people together, and Southern cuisine — with all of its diversity — gives us a great platform to have a racial reconciliation dialogue through food."

Miller's post offers four steps for how to do that, and a date, Aug. 28, in honor of Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech.

Even if you don't do it, Miller has an interesting list of books that could be great pairing for discussion:

For home cooking, "The Deen Family Cookbook" by Paula Deen (2009) and "Gullah Home Cooking the Daufuskie Way," by Sallie Ann Robinson (2003).

For classic texts on rural Southern Cooking, "The Taste of Country Cooking" (1976) or "In Pursuit of Flavor" (1988), both by Edna Lewis, and "Cross Creek Cookery" by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (1942).

For a survey of overlapping cuisines, "The Welcome Table" by Jessica Harris (1995) and "Southern Memories" by Nathalie Dupree (1993) or "Classical Southern Cooking" by Damon Lee Fowler (2008).

For working-class Southern food, "The Soul of Southern Cooking" by Kathy Starr and "White Trash Cooking" by Ernest Mickler (1986).

For "those who like the greener things in life," "Vegan Soul Kitchen" by Bryant Terry (2009) and either "Butter Beans to Blackberries" by Ronnie Lundy (1999) or "The New Southern Garden Cookbook" by Sheri Castle (2011).

If you try the cooking dialogue, let me know how it goes. Adrian Miller and I both have new books from UNC Press, his "Soul Food" and my "Bourbon: A Savor the South Cookbook," and we're both speaking Sept. 21 in New Orleans, at the opening of the new culinary library of the Southern Food and Beverage Museum. I can't wait -- Adrian always gives me something to think about.

What's on the table today?

Tops in today's food section,

Ah, I remember the days when I suggested a book on family cooking to Raleigh food writer Andrea Weigl: She sniffed like it was moldy bread. Today, she has a 2-year-old, a full-time job and a new appreciation of how hard it is to get a fast meal on the table every night. She apologizes and offers tips from her experience and from readers, including Charlotte teacher Merrill Hacker, in today's story The Weeknight Challenge. 

Not all is happy in the life-with-kids lane: Columnist and cookbook author Debbie Moose is tired of people who let the kids run wild at the farmers' markets:  Farmers market free-for-all.

In You Asked For It, Robin Domeier asked for the recipe for the cornbread at Mert's Heart and Soul in Charlotte. Owner James Bazzelle was happy to share, including a secret ingredient. Now, will somebody ask Robin to get the recipe for that fantastic honey butter?

This week's Q&A: Got any good ways to freeze herbs?

Also in Food:

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

No-GMO food and beer

Food & Water Watch and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Food Policy Council are behind the cookoff  "Good Food and a Local Brew" from 4-6 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 25, at Olde Mecklenburg Brewery, 215 Southside Drive.

 People were asked to submit recipes for the Heck No GMO contest. Nine recipes were picked to be made by chefs from Catering by Tara, Local Loaf and Pure Pizza. The final winner will be picked by judges including city council member John Autry, "Food Babe" blogger Vani Hari and Johnson & Wales University instructor Megan Lambert, author of "The Organic Gardener's Cookbook."

Tickets are $10 in advance and $12 at the door, and get you a beer and samples of the nine recipes. Tickets are available at

Can you follow a farm on Twitter?

Of all the conferences that turn up in uptown Charlotte, the 2013 National Agvocacy 2.0 Conference certainly sounds intriguing: Hosted by the AgChat Foundation, it's focused on social media training for farmers.

More than 100 farmers from around the country are expected for two days of sessions on things like mastering the blog, Facebook, Twitter and the like. The keynote address is titled "Youtility: Smart Marketing Is About Help Not Hype." Participants include famrers like Wanda Patsche of Minnesota (@minnfarmer) and Brian Scott of Indiana (@thefarmerslife), a regular blogger for CNN's food site Eatocracy, who stirred up a comment storm in January when he wrote a post on his farm's relationship with Monsanto.

Of course, we've got plenty of farmers who are active in social media around here, from Dean Mullis' longtime newsletter that's excerpted in The Observer (find it at to the online reports from farms like A Way of Life and Gilcrest Farms.

While the breakout sessions aren't open to the public (or the media, for that matter), you can follow along on Twitter by checking the hashtag #ACFC13.

Farm Tweeting: I suppose you could say they're making hey while the sun shines.

Monday, August 19, 2013

One Great . . . frozen peanut butter pie

You know the hardest recipe requests I get? Childhood grails: That's when someone remembers a taste from childhood. Oh, you can find a version of that dish. But will it taste the same? Probably not. Time and youth burnish flavors in a way that things eaten in the present can never match.

When I married my husband 28 years ago next week (ha! bet he thought I forgot again), he came with a grail recipe: A peanut butter pie he had eaten on a trip to the West with his parents when he was a kid. All he remembered was that it was fluffy and tall, and he couldn't stop eating it, even when he was so full, he hurt.

That means I've spent 27 years trying fluffy peanut butter pie recipes. This one must have come close: As soon as he took a bite, he started telling me about a pie he ate when he was on a trip to the West with his parents.

I know, honey. I know.

Frozen Peanut Butter Pie

From "The Mac + Cheese Cookbook: 50 Simple Recipes from Homeroom, America's Favorite Mac and Cheese Restaurant," by Allison Arevalo and Erin Wade (Ten Speed Press, $16.99).

1 1/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 cup heavy cream
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 1/4 cups creamy peanut butter
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons vanilla extract

PREHEAT the oven to 350 degrees. Stir together the graham cracker crumbs and melted butter. Press into the bottom and sides of a 9-inch pie dish. Bake until brown, about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool completely.

WITH  a heavy-duty stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (a regular hand mixer with a paddle will work, but it will take longer), whisk the cream at high speed until it forms peaks that stand up straight. Transfer to a clean mixing bowl and set aside.

FIT the mixer with the paddle attachment and beat the cream cheese, peanut butter, brown sugar and vanilla at high speed until smooth.

FOLD the cream cheese-peanut butter mixture into the whipped cream with a rubber spatula, drawing it up through the middle and turning until it's mixed with no streaks of white showing. Spoon into the cooled pie shell. Freeze for at least 1 hour and up to several days. Take out of the freezer 15 minutes before serving.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Have you hugged a barn today?

Well, you don't have to get that close. But this is your chance to get up close and personal with your local farms. The Charlotte area leg of the Know Your Farms tour is 1-6 p.m. Sept. 14-15, with 30 farms in 9 counties on the list. A ticket is $25 per vehicle in advance, $30 at the farms. You get a map so you can plot your own route, and many of the farms schedule special activities, including cooking lessons and lessons in how to use sustainable growing techniques in your own garden.

The tour is sponsored by Know Your Farms, Carolina Farm Stewardship Association, N.C. Cooperative Extension, Piedmont Grown and the 10% Campaign.

Get the list of farms, details, ticket information and maps at

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

If you could eat anywhere in N.C., where would you go?

Tuesday night at the NASCAR Hall of Fame was the annual N.C. Division of Tourism Showcase. That's when tourism and visitors' center people from places like "Nature's Playground Burke County" and "Fayetteville: History, Heroes and a Hometown Feeling" come to Charlotte to tell writers why we should tell you to visit Burke County and Fayetteville (because one is Nature's Playground and the other has history, heroes and a hometown feeling, of course).

Between picking up packs of "The Andy Griffith Show" playing cards and brochures on Lake James, I decided to ask them what they really know: Where you need to go eat, right now, in North Carolina.

What did they say?

What's on your plate in food news today?

We're serving up a feast of food stories today, all over the paper. Go to, or try these links:

  • Several years ago, a curious Charlotte diner called and asked if I had ever heard of a guy with the crazy name of Rock Stone. Ever since then, I've been talking to Rock and hearing stories about Rock, all while trying to arrange to do a story on him. This week, I finally got my chance, with "Riding With Rock," a profile of the guy who hauls seafood from the coast and sells it to Charlotte restaurants. Don't miss Diedra Laird's photos and video.
  • While we're on the subject of sustainable and local seafood, my colleague Andrea Weigl put together a handy and useful explanation of the various terms used, from gillnets to dredging.
  • A couple of years ago, I wrote a column about a crazy local kid who was starting his career in food photography by going to college football talgates and blogging about it. It was just crazy enough to work: Now Taylor Mathis has a career as a food photographer, and he has a book, "The Southern Tailgating Cookbook." Read about it here.  
  • Once a month, Daniel Hartis brings you a column about something interesting in the Charlotte beer scene. Today: Can beer drinkers and wine drinkers find common ground? Along with that, here's Daniel's pick for the beer he thinks you ought to know about right now.
  • The Food page isn't the only place you'll find food coverage today. Over at Shop Talk, our business page on small businesses, you can read about the business gamble that led Suzie and Todd Ford to open one of Charlotte's most popular beer spots, NoDa Brewing.
  • Also on ShopTalk: Zerrick Bynum has a bakery startup that's aiming to become the Etsy of the cupcake-and-cookie world. Read about Viddlz (say it "vittles").  

But wait -- there's more:
Quick Fix for 2 has a salsa/salad with chicken and a vermouth dressing.

It's time to get tickets for Taste of the World, and more food news.

Entree tells you how to make an amazing French buttercream.

I answer a question about whether to refrigerate eggs, in Q&A.
Welcome to Wednesday -- dig in.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Taste the World, meet East Charlotte

Taste of the World has been doing restaurant tours of the East Charlotte area around Central Avenue and Plaza-Midwood for 11 years now. If you've never gone, it's a fun evening -- you start with a reception at the VanLandingham Estate on The Plaza, then get on a bus to ride around with other food fans, stopping and eating several times, and eventually end up back at the estate for dessert.

Guides come along to talk about the cuisine and the stories behind the restaurants. So you get to learn and eat without the hassle of driving and parking.

This year, 23 restaurants are expected (some are still signing up), and you get taken to  three based on which bus you're on. Tickets are $40 and they're on sale now. The event is Thursday, Oct. 3. For tickets, details and the rest, go to

The restaurants so far (more are expected):

Ben Thanh
Bistro La Bon
Carnitas Guanajuato
Dim Sum
Euro Grill & Cafe
Lang Van
Letty's on Shamrock
Mama's Caribbean Grill
Mily & Lalo
Queen Sheba
Three Amigos

Monday, August 12, 2013

What's your favorite Charlotte restaurant dish?

Have you ever wanted the recipe for something from a local restaurant? In food writer Robin Domeier's new column, You Asked For It, you have the chance to ask. So far, Robin has gotten recipes for the Tempura Green Beans with Dill Pickle Tartar Sauce from Local Dish in Fort Mill and the Cajun Carbonara from Boudreaux' in NoDa.

Do you have more favorites from Charlotte-area restaurants? We'll have more luck with locally owned restaurants rather than chains (chains usually won't share), and as a personal chef, Robin tries to make sure the recipe is doable for a home cook.

Send your requests to her, at Remember to include your name and a little bit about why you like the dish so much.

One Great . . . roasted zucchini with mint

At the Charlotte Regional Farmer's Market on Saturday morning, I asked other people what they were cooking. How about me? 

The combination of zucchini and mint had never occurred to me until I saw several other recipes putting the two together recently. Makes sense, though: If you follow the old wisdom that what grows together goes together, late summer is certainly the time when we're overrun by both zucchini and mint. 

My favorite zucchini is golden zucchini, which has the long, straight shape of zucchini with a golden color that's like crookneck squash in Technicolor. The flavor is the same, though, once you cut it and cook it. Still, it makes me think of vivid flavors whenever I see it. If you can't find it, any kind of zucchini will work with this treatment. 

Roasted  Zucchini With Mint

2 to 3 zucchini, each about 4 to 5 inches long
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and ground pepper to taste
About 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
2 to 4 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves

PREHEAT oven to 400 degrees. Cut the zucchini into circles, each about 1/2 inch thick. Place in a single layer on a large jellyroll pan (you may need to use two pans). Pour the olive oil over them, then sprinkle with salt, ground pepper and red pepper flakes.

ROAST about 30 minutes, until the circles of zucchini are soft and browned on the bottom, but not burned. Remove from oven and pour the vinegar over the hot zucchini. 

SCRAPE into a serving bowl and sprinkle with the fresh mint. Toss to miss everything together and serve warm or at room temperature.

YIELD: 3 to 4 servings. 

Saturday morning at the market: What do you cook?

At the height of summer, it's all so hard to resist. What are people doing with what they buy? I asked a people at the Charlotte Regional Farmer's Market on Saturday morning.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Another chance to learn butchering

If you read my recent story about the pig-raising and pork-butchering seminar offered by Harvest Moon Grille and Grateful Growers Farm, there is another opportunity coming up. This time, it will be a two-day event for $550 on Aug. 25-26.

The seminar will include time at the farm in Denver, at the processing plant and at the restaurant, includng hands-on lessons in cutting up pork and making cured meat dishes like pancetta and guanciale. Participants will get 15 pounds of pork to take home.

Registration is required. Contact Rene Timpone, 704-502-6445 or email

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Jerusalem, fake burger and fried green beans: Today in Food

Don't miss these today at

  • Fans of the cookbook "Jerusalem" are already weighing in with how much they love this cookbook. Even if you're not looking for the latest falafel, the book's popularity raises interesting points about the power of social media to give old-tech printed books new relevancy. 
  • Robin Domeier's new column, You Asked for It, finds the tempura green beans from Local Dish in Fort Mill. I'll admit that I wasn't familiar with that restaurant - thanks to reader Ann Cricchi for shouting it out. 
  • Mmmm, burger raised in a petri dish. In my column, I ruminate over the latest news for ruminants.

And more:

Iced coffee.

Cooking classes and new flavors of mac-n-cheese.

A summer braised chicken. 

Mango pork tenderloin for 2.

And as usual: Searchable guides to past recipes, farmers' markets and pick-your-own farms.

Dig in.  Happy Wednesday.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

What's new in Charlotte cooking classes?

Looking for things you can learn? Here are a couple of resources to know:

Alyssa Gorelick, the former chef at the Central Avenue vegetarian restaurant Fern, is getting ready to open a new cooking school, Chef Alyssa's Kitchen, at Atherton Mill & Market, 2104 South Blvd.

Gorelick will offer classes at five skill levels for up to 20 people on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings. The focus is on sustainable cooking using local produce.

The opening schedule: Healthy Southern Classics, 6:30 p.m. Aug. 21, $55; Vegetarian at Heart, 6:30 pm. Sept. 12, $60; Hearty Italian Dishes, 6:30 p.m. Sept. 18, $60; and Party Platters, 7 p.m. Sept. 24, $55. 

Gorelick also will offer private classes that can be scheduled separately. For the schedule and other news, sign up for a newsletter at

Kabuto Lake Norman, 16516 Northcross Dr. in Huntersville, offers beginner sushi-making classes for $29.95. The next one is this Sunday, Aug. 11, from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Bring a knife and small cutting board and expect to leave with leftovers. The class is $29.95 and registration is required by calling 704-655-0077.

Monday, August 5, 2013

One Great . . . roasted broad beans

Every summer, I watch for those flat, meaty green beans that are sometimes called Roma beans and sometimes called broad beans. But you rarely see recipes for using them. Late last summer, I saw one in Gravy, the newsletter of the Southern Foodways Alliance, for a roasted version from Sheila and Matt Neal of Neal's Deli in Carrboro.

Since Matt is the son of the late Bill Neal, I figured the boy had been raised to cook some good pole beans. It was too late in the summer to use the recipe last year, so I set aside and waited. And waited. And waited: This summer's rains played havoc with all kinds of produce, even cutting into the usual plethora of green bean varieties.

I never have spotted Roma beans this year, but I finally happened on some thick string beans that I knew would work. For this treatment, you need something solid and meaty -- green beans at least as thick as a finger. Those are the kinds of beans that will be tough unless you take a little extra time. This method is perfect, and you can cook a mess of them to eat for several days.

Slow-Roasted Big Green Beans

From Matt and Sheila Neal in Gravy, from the Southern Foodways Alliance.

1 to 1 1/2 pounds thick green beans, preferably Roma, flat or broad beans
1/4 cup peeled, sliced garlic
1 cup diced yellow onion
1 medium-size tomato
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Sprinkling of red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup olive oil

STEM the green beans and pull off the strings. Place in a roasting pan with the garlic and onion. Cut the tomato in half and squeeze lightly to remove most of the seeds. With a wide grater, grate the tomato over the green beans until you get down to the skin. Sprinkle with the sugar, pepper, pepper flakes and salt. Add the water and oil.

PLACE a sheet of parchment directly on the green beans, then cover the roasting pan tightly with foil or a lid. Roast at 350 degrees for about 1 hour 15 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes, until beans are tender.

YIELD: About 6 servings.

NOTE: For more on Gravy and SFA, go to

Friday, August 2, 2013

Making a salad this weekend?

If you saw Wednesday's story about chefs who grow their own food, you may have noticed Diedra Laird's lovely picture of the heirloom tomato salad from CustomShop in Elizabeth. Reader Jeanne Spragins contacted me later and asked about the herbalicious dressing that is draped over the tomatoes.

Sorry, Jeanne. Sometimes photographers go out separately from reporters, and I didn't know that Diedra had come back with that picture. I had already gotten chef Trey Wilson's recipe for mussels with a variety of hot peppers.

I asked chef Wilson if he would be willing to share the topping as well, and he sent the recipe on Friday. So here you go, ready to go for your weekend salad needs. Thanks, Jeanne, Trey -- and Diedre, of course.

Salsa Verde
From chef/owner Trey Wilson of CustomShop.

Use fresh herbs:
1 sprig rosemary
2 tablespoons fresh oregano
1 tablespoon fresh  thyme
1/2 cup parsley
1/4 cup chives
4 cloves shaved garlic
1 cup olive oil
1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)

Finely chop all herbs and combine with oil and vinegar. Store in refrigerator. 

Get to your wine faster

Yes, there are plenty of ways to get the cork out of a bottle of wine. But before you use them, you have to get the capsule - the foil cover - off the bottle. (And yes, you can push the corkscrew through the top, but that either gets bits of foil in your wine or leaves a ragged hole at the top. You can do better.)

Here's my favorite stupid-kitchen trick for wine. Just grab the capsule, give it a test turn to make sure it will move, and then: Twist it off.

Now, before you get yourself into a bar bet, there are a few things to know:

1. Not all bottles have a capsule that will come off. In my experience, Australian bottles have tighter caps. They either use extra-strong Aussie glue, or they're stronger than the rest of us, or maybe there's some weird effect from being upside down when they put their capsules on.

2. Chilling bottles will make the capsule tighten up. If you're going to open a bottle of white wine, pull off the cap before you put it in the refrigerator to chill.

3. Some capsules take a tight grip. But they're great for working your triceps.

And yes, you can get a cutter thing that tightens around and turns. I have one, too. But if you're out in the wilds of the world with a bottle of wine and no cutter, this will get you a little closer.

(My thanks to Cheryl Carpenter, Andrew Dunn and the four bottles of wine it took to make this Vine video!)