Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Cooking up a Mother's Day story

M is for the many things she taught us, especially in the kitchen.

For Mother’s Day, I’d like to hear from anyone who is a mother or has a mother (and that’s just about all of us, isn’t it?)

For mothers, is there one thing you wish your children -- adult or otherwise -- knew about cooking and feeding themselves?

And for the rest of you: What’s the most important thing your mother taught you about food and cooking?

Post your comments here, or e-mail them to me at

Monday, March 29, 2010

Food calendar: Make sure you have these on the list

Coming up:

How's this for the perfect name for a chef? Patrick Maisonhaute. Maisonhaute is executive chef at The Eseeola Lodge at the Linville Golf Resort, the featured restaurant for Wednesday's annual Taste of the New South, the fundraiser for the Levine Museum of the New South. Tickets are $85 for Levine members and $100 for nonmembers. Call the Levine, 704-333-1887, for details.

It's not too late to get a ticket for Taste of the Nation, 7-10 p.m. April 14 at The Atrium in uptown Charlotte. Tickets are $60 ($85 for a VIP ticket that gets you to the restaurant tables an hour earlier). For that, you'll get food samples from more than 20 local restaurants, from 131 Main to The Liberty. You also get wine and beer, a mixologist's table, live and silent auctions and live music. It all raises money for the childhood-hunger organization Share Our Strength. Tickets and details:

Breakfast: It's not just for cupcakes anymore. Polka Dot Bake Shop, 1730 E. Woodlawn, has added muffins to the lineup and is now open for breakfast. If you need a muffin fix, the shop now opens at 7:30 a.m. Muffins are $2.50 each; flavors include sweet potato cream cheese, lemon poppyseed, blueberry streusel and bran.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Roundup the 'Pioneer Woman' fans: A special giveaway

Ree Drummond calls her story "Green Acres Meets Harlequin Romance": City girl meets a cowboy, falls in love and moves to the ranch. She turned it into a popular blog, then an even more popular cookbook, "The Pioneer Woman Cooks." (Even Hollywood can't resist: There are rumors of a movie in the works, with Drummond played by Reece Witherspoon.)

Drummond is coming to Charlotte for a book signing at Joseph-Beth Booksellers at SouthPark, Friday, May 7, at 6 p.m. Sounds like a girls-night occasion to me. They'll also feature some of her recipes in the bistro that night.

Tickets are free, but you'll need to act fast. You have to go the Jo-Beth store to pick one up (you can't just call to have one held). It's first-come, first-serve and they'll be available starting Saturday morning.

In honor of Drummond making the trip here, let's give away a copy of the cookbook. I used a couple of her recipes when I was doing a Super Bowl story last month and I can say she does good versions of down-home dishes. You know the drill: Post your name as a comment and we'll draw a winner at random next Friday.

Dave Ballard, and more on Molly

Sad news from farm world: Dave Ballard, 50, of New Moon Organics in Mount Ulla died Wednesday, after a long fight against kidney cancer. My sympathy goes out to Dave's wife Suzanne, a regular at several farmers markets around here. Dave's memorial service is 1 p.m. Saturday at Back Creek Presbyterian in Mount Ulla.

Thanks, all, for the kind words about my column Wednesday on the death of Molly Mullen, who was featured in my story last summer on tomato sandwiches. Tomato farmer Maria Fisher has offered 20 pounds of tomatoes (if they're ripe in time) for the party for Molly in July. And Kris Reid of Hope Haven says she will donate a tomato plant from the HH fundraiser to any of Molly's friends who would like to grow tomatoes to use at the party. Nice touch.

Cookbook winner: Singing it out for Trisha

Happy Friday, Stephanie Grant. You're the winner of "Home Cooking With Trisha Yearwood." Send your mailing address to me at and I'll get it in the mail for you.

Thanks for playing, everyone. I gather Trisha -- and Garth -- are both very popular. Stay tuned. We'll do another cookbook giveaway soon.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Cookbook Giveaway: Any Trisha Yearwood fans?

Country singer and Garth-spouse Trisha Yearwood just released her second cookbook, "Home Cooking With Trisha Yearwood." Home cooking it is, too. Recipes are definitely Southern, mostly easy -- and like a true Southern cook, her dessert chapter is the best.

I've got a copy of the book to give away. Just post a comment right here with your name, or a nickname you'll recognize when I pick the winner at random on Friday.

Monday, March 22, 2010

James Beard Foundation finalists: Reinhart, other Carolina ties

From the live Twitter feed from New Orleans of the finalists for James Beard Foundation Awards:

Charlottean Peter Reinhart is nominated for "Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every Day," along with "Baking" and "Dam Good Sweet."

Best chef, Southeast: Bill Smith of Crook's Corner, Chapell Hill; Andrea Reusing, Lantern, Chapel Hill; Sean Brock of McCrady's, Charleston. Also Hugh Acheson, Five & Ten, Athens, Ga.; and Linton Hopkins, Restaurant Eugene, Atlanta.

Matt and Ted Lee are finalists for Book Awards/American Cooking, for "Lee Bros. Simple Fresh Southern." Also "My New Orleans" and "Real Cajun."

Bunch of Southerners/New Orleanians made the list for Who's Who: Leah Chase, Jessica Harris, Paul McIlhenny, Susan Spicer, among others.

Full list of nominees will be posted by noon at

Friday, March 19, 2010

Friday Food Roundup

Here's a taste of what's going on:

  • Charlotte Craft Beer Week officially started Thursday night with a keg tapping at Rock Bottom Brewery. The 11-day week continues with events all around the area. Get the full list at
  • The Davidson Tailgate Farmers Market is on for 9 a.m.-noon Saturday. Remaining winter dates are April 3 and 17. The market returns to the weekly schedule May 1.
  • Speaking of market schedules, the Matthews Community Farmers Market isn't on this week, but market manager Pauline Wood says opening day for the regular season will be April 10. Regular hours at 7:15 a.m. to noon Saturdays through November on North Trade Street in downtown Matthews.
  • Rita's Italian Ice in Ballantyne is celebrating the first day of spring Saturday with free Italian ice from noon to 10 p.m. Rita's is also launching a new flavor -- Peeps. Rita's is at 16631 Lancaster Highway (the corner of N.C. 521 and Ardrey Kell.)
  • Country singer Trisha Yearwood will sign copies of her new cookbook, "Home Cooking With Trisha Yearwood," at noon April 8 at Williams-Sonoma, 6401 Morrison Blvd.

"Top Chef: The Tour" is coming back

"Top Chef" will be parking the tour truck at the Center City Green Market on The Square at Trade and Tryon on April 22, according to Charlottte Center City Partners.

Part of a 21-city tour, the truck now includes table seating for 64 guests, including on-site activities like cooking demos, a Quickfire Challenge, a "Top Chef" putting green contest and a chance to have your picture taken at Judges Table. Yes, you can pack your camera and go.

No word on which "Top Chef" contestants will be on hand. Come on, Kevin Gillespie -- it's just a quick drive over from Atlanta.

It's free, but you have to sign up for admission. Go to

Monday, March 15, 2010

Cookbook winner: 'Best Potluck'

Will in Pineville: You're the winner of "Cook's Country: Best Potluck Recipes." Contact me at with your mailing address and I'll get the book in the mail.

Thanks for playing, everyone. And check back later this week, when we'll have a really special cookbook on the block.

Friday, March 12, 2010

A weekend made for cooking

A few weeks back, I was pondering which winter dishes I haven't had enough of this year. And now I'm facing a perfect weekend for comfort food cooking. Wet, chilly but not really cold, and I have a weekend at home between two troughs of travel. Nothing to do but clean house, dig in the freezer and cook things.

The problem is, how to decide what it will be? There are those packages of Grateful Growers pork necks I've squirreled away in the freezer, waiting for the time to make a ragout. I definitely won't be in that mood in April.
There's the package of frozen duck confit I picked up at Costco on a whim and haven't gotten around to using. I have a nice bag of flagolet beans from Kalustyans in New York, too, so I have makings for cassoulet.

There's the recipe for chicken and rice with curry mustard sauce from my friend Janie Schneider at the James Beard Foundation. (How can someone small enough to fit into dresses from Top Shop come up with such comforting food?) Janie and I both are from South Florida, and this reminds me of a shortcut version of the arroz con pollo I knew growing up.

And while I'm picking through all those choices, I need to make a dessert to tuck away in the freezer a next weekend's mountain trip. I made another James Beard House recipe for a bake sale a couple of weeks ago, and it was almost my bar cookie ideal -- crispy crust with a chewy topping of salty cashews and butterscotch. But I thought the crust should be thicker, so I want to try it again using a smaller pan. The original came from Amy Scherber of Amy's Bread, and she used a pan size that isn't usually found in home kitchens.

Here's the original recipe. I'll try again and report back.

And in exchange, I'd love to hear what you end up cooking this weekend. Chilly, rainy -- how can you miss a comfort-food weekend like this?

Butterscotch Cashew Bars

From "The Sweeter Side of Amy's Bread," by Amy Scherber.


2 2/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 1/4 cups unsalted butter, cold

1 1/8 cups light brown sugar, packed


1 2/3 cups butterscotch chips

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons light corn syrup

3 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons water

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

2 cups cashew pieces, roasted and salted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the center position. Great a 17-by-12-inch sheet pan (see? who has a 17-inch sheet pan? I'm thinking 13-by-9 should work -- kp) lightly with softened butter and line it with aluminum foil, pressing the foil up the sides of the pan and into the corners. Grease the foil with softened butter.

Combine the flour and salt in a food processor and pulse to mix. Dice the butter into 1 inch pieces. Place half the butter in the food processor. Pulse a few seconds. Add half the brown sugar and pulse again, then add the remaining butter and brown sugar and process 20 to 30 seconds, until a coarse meal forms and the dough is just beginning to gather into a ball.

Spread the crust in the prepared pan and pat it gently into the corners. Don't pack it down too much or it will be tough. Bake 5 minutes, then prick all over with a fork. Return the pan to the oven and bake 10 minutes longer. Crust should be slightly browned and soft to the touch. Remove from oven and cool a few minutes. Leave the oven on.

Place the butterscotch chips, corn syrup, butter, water and salt in a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until the chips and butter have melted and the topping has just begun to get bubbly, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the cashews.

Spread the topping over the crust. Try to get it in the corners, but it will spread out as it bakes. Bake again for 11 to 15 minutes or until the surface is brown and very bubbly.

Cool completely on a rack before cutting into squares. The original pan size made 25 pieces, but since you'd get thicker pieces in a smaller pan, you can cut the pieces small. They'll be very rich.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Cookbook Giveaway: Ready to take 'Potluck'?

I love potlucks, but I dread the pressure: How to pick a recipe that will please the most number of people, transport well -- and won't be too hard to make?

"Cook's Country Best Potluck Recipes" is a new collection from the editors of Cook's Country magazine. The recipes focus on classic and heirloom dishes that have stood the test of potluck time. It's got a durable, wipe-off cover and a ring binder, so it's a cookbook that will stand up to real-kitchen abuse.

I almost hate to part with it, but I've got a copy to give away. If you want to try for it, post a comment here with your name or a name I can use to recognize you. Check back on Monday, when I'll post the winner of the random drawing.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Simple Supper: Wednesday Edition

Could you use something simple to make tonight? This might brighten your dinner plans at the end of what is turning into a dreary late-winter day. It's from a new book, "The Best Simple Recipes," from the editors of America's Test Kitchen. The America's Test Kitchen people usually don't do anything the simple way, so I'm finding this book a pleasant change. (That's the dish on the cover of the book, by the way. Looks good, right?)

Parmesan Chicken With Cherry Tomato Salad

Serves 4.

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

2 large eggs

1 cup panko bread crumbs

1 cup shredded Parmesan

4 thin-cut skinless, boneless chicken cutlets (about 1 pound)

Salt and pepper

7 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered

1 clove garlic, minced

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil

Spread flour in a shallow dish. Beat eggs in a second shallow dish or plate. Combine panko and Parmesan in a third shallow dish. Pat chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Place each cutlet in flour and turn to coat both sides, then dip in egg, then place in panko mixture, pressing light to make crumbs adhere.

Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Cook 2 cutlets until golden brown and crisp, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate. Add 3 more tablespoons oil to pan and repeat with remaining cutlets.

Toss cherry tomatoes, garlic, basil and remaining 1 tablespoon oil in bowl and season with salt and pepper. Transfer cutlets to individual plates and top with cherry tomato mixture.

She saves but doesn't clip

My colleague Andrea Weigl at the Raleigh News & Observer has an interesting article this morning about, a Web-based service started by Betsy Szczypinski of Chapel Hill.

Szczypinski made herself an expert on saving money by planning her family's meals around what's on sale at her local grocery stores. She's not a coupon-clipper, she's a sale shopper.

Her Web service lets you enter your local store and get a weekly meal plan based on what's on sale that week. You get a free 30-day trial and then it costs $5 a week for recipes, a shopping list and a meal plan.

Recipes are aimed at simple recipes for families with kids, and she focuses on both cooking for yourself and avoiding processed foods. If you try it, let me know how it works for you.

Monday, March 8, 2010

What's in the bag, Oscar?

Colin Firth may not have scored an Oscar for "A Single Man" (pity -- his performance was amazing). But he might be able to console himself on the long flight back to the U.K. with Lone Cone Toffee, made in Charlotte by Nancy Boru.

I wrote about Boru and her incredible toffee back before Christmas. Boru provided toffee to an organization called Hollywood Baskets. She got the news Monday that her toffee was used in "SWAG Bags" that were given to Firth, Gabourey Sidibe, Jeff Bridges, Vera Farmiga, Anna Kendrick, Morgan Freeman, Stanley Tucci, Zoe Saldana, James Cameron, Carey Hannah Mulligan, Stephen Lang, Sandra Bullock, Jamie Foxx, Mo'Nique, Ryan Seacrest, Maggie Gylanhall, Susan Sarandon and Oprah Winfrey, among others.

SWAG, by the way, is the nickname for gift bags, taken from the phrase "Stuff We All Get."

Bullock will probably get more than her share of sweet stuff after her Best Actress award. Her sister Gesine Bullock-Prado is not only the owner of a bakery in Vermont, she's also the author of a very funny memoir-with-recipes, "Confections of a Closet Master Baker."

We have a cookbook winner

Meghan H., you're the winner of "Everyday Food: Fresh Flavor Fast," from Martha Stewart Living. Send your mailing address to me at and I'll get the book on its way.

And for the rest of you Martha (and kale) fans, thanks for playing. Check back later in the week, when we'll have another great cookbook to give away. I'll give you a hint: You'll have to take potluck.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Cows, pigs and, um, porkiness

I'm on the road for the next couple of days. Let's do a fast roundup before I go:

-- Proffitt Family Farms believes that a calf born to one of their cows is the first USDA Certified Organic beef cow born in the Carolinas. Their pastures were certified organic in September.

-- Good pork is a terrible thing to waste. So Grateful Growers Farm is adding the Porkalicious Cooking Academy, for classes specifically about cooking pork. It's a 5-week series, held from 6-8 p.m. Thursdays starting March 18 at the Friendship Trays facility near SouthEnd, 2401 Distribution St. Classes are $45 each or $200 for the series. Class size is limited and registration is required. Get information at

-- Fit City Challenge, the Mecklenburg County Health Department's weight-loss program, is starting its annual 12-week Lose Weight Donate program: For every pound you lose, Lowe's Foods will donate $1 for Second Harvest Food Bank. The challenge starts Thursday, but you can join any time before March 26. The person who loses the most wins a $500 gift certificate for USAirways. Get details at

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

You've got kale - and a book giveaway

For tomorrow's Food section, we're celebrating that great mid-winter vegetable, kale. Aw, what do you mean, you don't like kale? With all the ways you can cook kale -- even not cook kale, you can eat it raw -- you can surely find one way you like it. We'll have kale salad, kale soup, crispy kale and roasted kale.

To celebrate, here's the return of a book giveaway, the new book version of the Martha Stewart Living mini-mag "Everyday Food: Fresh Flavor Fast." The 250 recipes really are practical and simple.

To enter, post your name (or a nickname if you sign in as anonymous) in the comments below. Check back on Monday, when I'll pick a name at random to win a copy of the book.

So what's the connection between kale and a big giveaway? The book has an easy side dish recipe for kale:

Sauteed Kale With Garlic and Lemon

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

1 1/2 pounds kale (2 large bunches), stems removed, leaves torn into bite-size pieces

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add a generous amount of salt. Cook kale until just tender, 4 to 6 minutes. Drain well.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium. Add garlic; cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add kale; season generously with salt and pepper. Cook, tossing often, until tender, 4 to 6 minutes. Sprinkle with lemon juice; toss to combine and serve.

Serves 4.