Thursday, February 26, 2015

I'll Bite is moving

So The Observer has built a spiffy new website, with more pictures and more features.

What does that mean for my blog? It means we're moving.

Starting Feb. 26, 2015, you'll find I'll Bite, my semi-daily log of food news, food experiences, videos, pictures and recipes, two ways:

1. Posted with the rest of The Observer's food coverage, at

2. Or you can go straight to the blog: I'll Bite.

Kind of a mouthful, isn't it? That's what we aim to do. But you might want to bookmark us.

Come on over. I'll keep a pot of coffee warm.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Get your snow-day recipes lined up

With the weather forecast we're facing (will it snow? will it just rain?), be glad if you have the chance to stay home and cook tonight. We've got you covered over at

Do you get a little flurry of fear when you get invited to a potluck? Don't be ashamed. We've got advice, and even better, we've got recipes: A vegetarian-friendly squash chili, a down-home corn pudding (that's it in the picture at the top) and the easiest batch of blondies you can whisk together in a skillet. If if you're not going anywhere, these will make it easy to be home-bound. 

You definitely don't need to fear when you face a butternut squash: John Simmons and I did a quick video on how to tackle one. 

A trip to Black House in Durham led me to concoct this tropical take on sauteed kale (or as we call it in winter at my house, "the inevitable kale).

Need more soup? OK: Mushroom barley, right here. 

And how about some herb biscuits to go with all that warm, comforting food? OK, this one uses yogurt (not a stick a butter).

After you cook, this might be a good night to settle in with something warm to drink. Catherine Rabb reminds you that this is port season. Get sweet and tawny, people.

If you really want to get out and about, we've got news on a new manager at the Charlotte Regional Farmer's Market, plus changes to have tea in the historic style and learn about hot chocolate.

Monday, February 23, 2015

One Great . . . green curry and coconut kale

I love it when a restaurant's food really stands out. When the setting stands out too, it's even better.

On a trip to the Triangle a few weeks ago, friends took me to Black House at Straw Valley in Durham, a very cool new restaurant (how come Durham gets so many of the fun places?). The setting is unusual, in a California-style mid-century modern house with lots of red wood, low rafters and modernist art.

It was so tough to find, I was glad I was with locals. It's tucked away next to a strip mall. But once we found our way to our table, the menu lived up to the setting, with fresh, contemporary takes on globally inspired food, made with mostly locally sourced ingredients.

One of my favorite dishes was a side dish of Malaysian spinach that was sort of a turn on creamed spinach, with a little heat and a tropical touch from coconut milk.

Back at home, I adapted the idea to use on a batch of Tuscan kale (aka lacinato, aka dinosaur kale). I reached for green curry paste for the heat and a can of lite coconut milk for the creaminess. Green curry paste is easy to keep on hand. Look for the little jars in the Asian section of most supermarkets.

Green curry and coconut kale 

1 bunch of kale, preferably Tuscan-style
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons sliced shallot (or any kind of onion you have handy)
2 cloves minced garlic
2 tablespoons green curry paste
1/4 to 1/2 cup light coconut milk (about a half can)

CUT away and discard the thickest part of the kale stems. Stack the leaves, cut into 1-inch-wide strips and set aside.

HEAT the olive oil in a skillet with a lid over medium heat. Add the shallot, cover and cook several minutes, until starting to soften. Add the garlic and cook about a minute, until fragrant but not browned. Stir in the curry paste and cook about 30 seconds.

ADD the sliced kale, stirring it around to coat with the oil and curry mixture. Cook a minute or two.

SHAKE the coconut milk very well before opening. Pour into the skillet with the kale. Cover and cook a few minutes, until the kale is softened. Uncover and cook a few minutes to reduce the sauce.

SERVE hot.

YIELD: About 4 servings.

Monday, February 16, 2015

One Great . . . biscuit recipe

If you ever want to find out how people feel about biscuits, write a column about making biscuits that doesn’t include the amount of butter.

I spent most of last week picking up my ringing phone and just saying two words: “One stick.” My cubicle neighbor, Mark Washburn, suggested I just change my voicemail message to say, “This is Kathleen Purvis – one stick.”

Pamela Duvick’s method for making biscuits is a winner, though, and I’ve already had people sending me pictures of their tall, layered biscuits. You can read my column about Pamela and watch a video of her at work.

And now, here’s a version of the complete recipe, ready to add to your collection.

Pamela Duvick's Tall Flaky Biscuits

1/2 cup (1 stick) frozen butter
2 1/2 cups self-rising flour, preferably White Lily, plus more for dusting work surface
1 cup buttermilk
1 to 2 tablespoons salted butter

PREHEAT oven to 475 degrees. Chill a mixing bowl and rolling pin (preferably marble).

GRATE the frozen butter on the large holes of a box grater onto a sheet of parchment or wax paper. Place flour in a chilled mixing bowl and add the shredded butter. Toss lightly with the tip of a large whisk to coat the butter with flour.

MAKE a well in the center of the flour and pour in the buttermilk. Starting slowly with a wooden spoon, toss flour from the edge into the pool of buttermilk, then continue gently mixing until all the buttermilk is mixed in. Place in the freezer to rest for 10 minutes.

SCRAPE the dough onto a floured work surface. Pat and press the dough gently to form a mound. Using a cold, floured rolling pin, roll in the same direction to flatten slightly, then fold the dough and turn. Repeat five times to form a rectangle of dough that's about 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick.

USING a round biscuit cutter dipped in flour, press straight down without twisting. Place the biscuits on a parchment-lined baking sheet slightly touching. Pull the scraps together, reroll and continue cutting out biscuits until you have 12.

BAKE 12 to 15 minutes, watching carefully so the biscuits don't burn. Remove from oven and immediately brush with melted salted butter. Serve warm.

YIELD: 12 biscuits.

Read more here:

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Put these on your plate for the Wednesday feast

Go out to dinner on Valentine's Day? Why would we do that? It's so much more fun to skip the hype and the reservation fight to stay home and cook. Here's what we've got for your plate this week at

 Those towering biscuits pictured at the top are on my plate when I went to Pamela Duvick's house for a biscuit lesson. After years of "hockey pucks," Duvick conquered the method for making tall, layered (AKA flaky) biscuits. Crisp on the outside, moist and tender on the inside, they are the ideal of biscuits. Read my column for how she does it, and watch the video I put together to see her in action.

Nothing says loving (well, OK, a lot of things say loving, but work with me here) like a jar of your own, homemade version of Nutella. Did you know that the original name for Nutella was Pasta Gianduja? Nutella is really a convenient version of the classic hazelnut/chocolate spread called gianduja. Andrea Weigl has a recipe and a video, and more recipes for making a great Valentine's dessert with Nutella.

For a great dinner, I invest in great pork chops from local farms. So I was tickled to see's story on searing and roasting pork chops -- that's the same way I make them. Seriously, it's hard to ruin a pork chop once you know this trick.

To go with those pork chops, how about a no-fuss shortcut version of orzo risotto? Linda Gassenheimer's recipes are always sized for two, which will be perfect for this weekend.

Finally, after all that chocolate indulging, you could use a little help with your healthful eating the rest of the week. This very easy sweet potato broth is a great staple to keep on hand for cooking quinoa or making a low-fat vegetable soup.

What can I say? You'll love it.

Monday, February 9, 2015

One Great . . . healthful sweet potato broth

The mother/daughter team of Alice Randall and Caroline Randall Williams have a lovely book that landed on my desk, "Soul Food Love: Healthy Recipes Inspired By One Hundred Years of Cooking in a Black Family" (Clarkson Potter, $30).

The book is a mashup of one family's American history, with recipes that have been subtly changed and updated to be healthful while staying delicious, satisfying and true to the Randall family's heritage.

One recipe really caught my eye: Sweet potato broth is a simple way to get a meatless base for soups or grain dishes with plenty of flavor but not a lot of fat. It was so easy to make, I whipped up a pot of it while making a different dinner Sunday night. The result is only slightly thicker than chicken broth, with a sweet/savor flavor and a lovely golden color.

And now I get to use it all week to cook quinoa, kale and maybe even a sweet potato soup. This one will definitely find a spot in my regular rotation.

Sweet Potato Broth

1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, peeled and sliced
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 large sweet potato
5 whole cloves
Salt and pepper to taste

HEAT the olive oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Saute the onion, celery and carrot until just softened.

PEEL and quarter the sweet potato while the onion, celery and carrot are cooking. Add to the pot with 6 cups of water, cloves, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer until the sweet potato is completely soft, about 30 minutes.

USE a slotted spoon to remove and discard the cloves. Puree the mixture in a food processor or blender, or with an immersion blender. Cool, cover and refrigerate up to 5 days or freeze up to 2 months. (It will separate, but you can whisk it back together before using.) Use as a base for soup (try black-eyed pea and kale) or for cooking grains or vegetables.

YIELD: About 1 quart. 

Friday, February 6, 2015

Historic Rosedale returns to oysters

There's nothing quite like a chilly afternoon around an outdoor fire with a batch of roasted oysters.

Historic Rosedale, the preserved plantation house on North Tryon Street, will bring back its annual oyster roast, from 2-5 p.m. March 21.

Tickets are $35 for adults before March 12, $45 after, and you get roasted oysters, oyster cocktails, sides "and all the fixin's" and "Low Country Boil" (not sure what they're including in that, but in Charleston, that generally involves shrimp, potatoes and corn). THere are also kids' activities and hot dogs, so children's tickets are available, too, for $12.

Find tickets at or call 704-735-0325.

PHOTO: Coastal Living.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Put even more events on your food calendar

UPDATE: Here's one more to add to your calendar. Sunday night at Triple C is  Farm Hands Charlotte, a sort of crowd-sourcing event for farm projects, from 6-8 p.m. at Triple C Brewery. You buy a $25 ticket, you get to eat food from MODPaleo and drink beer, and you get to listen while local farmers present projects they need help on. Then you vote on your favorite project and the winner gets the proceeds from the evening. That means they need a lot of people to show up -- the more people, the more money goes to a farm project. Get a ticket here and get details here.

A few events, classes and other things to jot on your calendar:

Celebrate a new shop: Remember the booth with the amazingly beautiful gelatin creations that used to be at 7th Street Public Market? Clara D'Tapiero sends word that she's opening a new shop, Gelitas, at 553 N. Polk St. in Pineville. There's an open house and grand opening at 10 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 7. Delgados' creations have to be seen to be believed. They're like edible paperweights with flowers inside.

Taste wine and beer: The Wine Vault, 9009 J.M. Keynes Dr. in University City, has an all-IPA beer tasting from 6 to 7 p.m. Friday. Saturday at 2 p.m.: By-the-glass wine tasting, featuring Delos Crozes Hermitage, Tribouley Orchis and Robert Craig cab. $5 each.

Take a cooking course: Central Piedmont Community College's Charlotte Cooks has a series of courses for home cooks. Coming up: Culinary Boot Camp, Feb. 7-March 28; Baking and Pastry Boot Camp, Feb. 14-March 28; French Cooking Package, Feb. 7, 14, 21, March 6 and 7; Bread-Baking Package, March 10, 11, 12 and 13. There are also single classes on Fridays. Details and prices: email

Share what you know: Want to go to New Orleans in August for Farm to Table International? This is a little ambitious, but the deadline to submit papers for review is Feb. 20. They're looking for presentations on Crop to Cup (brewing, distilling and nonalcoholic beverages), Farming and Production, Food and Beverage Journalism and Media, Farm to School and Food Innovations (science, technology and trends). Details on the conference and how to submit papers:

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

A little ode to rock shrimp

2/4 UPDATE: A reader let me know that Fish On, at Afton Village, 5404 Village Dr. NW in Concord and the Charlotte Regional Farmers Market on Saturdays, has fresh rock shrimp for $17.95 a pound. The season is brief though. Get your scissors ready. OK, back to our regularly written blog post: 

 When you grow up in West Palm Beach, Fla., long road trips come with the hot, humid territory. It's six hours just to clear Jacksonville. Any destination usually takes at least 10 hours of driving.

On a recent Saturday, I had the chore of making the 11-hour drive home to Charlotte by myself. I didn't mind, though, because I had picked out my reward: With no one else along to fret about lost time, I could include a lunch stop at the Dixie Crossroads in Titusville for a platter of rock shrimp.

This is going to be a food story that frustrates you. Rock shrimp aren't something you find just anywhere. But with spring breaks coming up and half the country headed to Orlando, I thought it might be OK to tell this story.

When my family moved to Florida in 1969, we weren't rolling in dough. The economy was even rougher by 1972 than it was by 2008 and my mother always had her eye open for a deal. On Sundays, our drive home from church went by a Zayre's parking lot where there was usually an old truck with a sign that said "Rock Shrimp." Shrimp wasn't something we could afford much, but my mother quickly discovered that rock shrimp were a bargain. They were trash fish in those days, a meaty morsel hidden under a very hard shell. Most people didn't want to fool with them.

That didn't stop my mom: With three able-bodied kids she could order to stand at a sink and cut through the shells, and my dad always ready to fire up the charcoal grill, rock shrimp were a treat she couldn't pass up. Once you get inside that hard shell, the meat is firm and sweet. Grill them quickly and brush them with butter and you'd swear it was lobster. Or as close as people in our income bracket were going to get.

For years, we kept rock shrimp as our family secret. Then suddenly, the rock shrimp truck disappeared. A family restaurant up in Titusville had come up with a machine to slit those hard shells. All the rock shrimp ended up there, at the Dixie Crossroads, where they used to offer all-you-could eat rock shrimp.

Over the years, I've managed to stop a few times. When my son was small, he couldn't handle 11 hours in a car without a break, so we'd work in a lunch break. It's a classic Old Florida place, with a boardwalk over a fish pond where kids can toss food pellets to the fish and try to hit the alligator fountain while their parents wait for a table. Inside, there are at least three dining rooms, all decorated in manatee murals and wildlife paintings.

When I stopped for an early lunch last Saturday, I was happy to see most things about the place haven't changed. The alligator fountain is still spitting water, the waitresses still call you hon. They've added a bunch more things to the menu, like mullet and something called Royal Red Shrimp.

These days, you don't get all-you-can-eat anymore. A dozen and a half rock shrimp will set you back $21. But the platters come with two sides, and the basket of fritters, Florida's version of a beignet, still comes to your table warm and piled with an avalanche of powdered sugar.

And the rock shrimp? Still sweet, firm and buttery. Like lobster for poor people.

As my dad always said when I was a kid, "I wonder what the poor people are eating tonight?" Rock shrimp, Dad. Rock shrimp.

The Dixie Crossroads, 1475 Garden St., Titusville, Fla. From I-95, take Exit 220 and go east about 2 miles. Open 11 a.m.-9 p.m/. Sunday-Thursday, until 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. 

What are you eating?

Welcome to Wednesday's weekly cornucopia of food news. What do we have for you this week?

Better brush up on your calorie knowledge. You'll see calorie counts on a lot more menus by the end of the year, thanks to new regulations from the FDA. What does it mean . . . and how good are you at guessing which menu items have the most calories? We've got a quiz with results that might surprise you.

Yes, she has the best food-writer byline ever: Welcome Jen Lover as the new writer of our You Asked For It column.

And here's the return of the You Asked For It column: A fan from upstate New York wanted the Buffalo wings from Charlotte's own Tavern on the Tracks.

Even in winter, farm life is going on out there. Cindy Barlowe tells you about how birds shape her life, and Dean Mullis is already thinking about his CSA plans for spring.

Yes, it's true: Charlotte is No. 21 on the list of the 25 unhealthiest cities. But we also know where you can get a free map to find sonker in Surry County.

And don't forget to tune in "Flip My Food" Thursday morning to see Dilworth Neighborhood Grille.

If you're planning your weekend cooking projects, we've got some good recipes to consider:

Friday, January 23, 2015

Are you ready for some football and barbecue?

If the Super Bowl is coming in a week, people in the Sardis Road area of Charlotte know what that means: The smoke signals that alert them to the annual Boy Scout Troop 33 barbecue at Sardis Presbyterian Church.

This barbecue is a massive undertaking, with all the pork shoulders cooked over wood coals in temporary pits, chopped and prepped at the church kitchen and sold to people who line up at the Boy Scout hut, 6100 Sardis Road.

It happens Jan. 30-31, meaning you can stock up on barbecue just in time for Super Bowl parties.

If you're new to the South or to Charlotte, it's a don't-miss experience. If you're not new, you know that it helps to put in your order in advance to make sure you get what you want.

Prices will be up a little this year, to compensate for the cost of pork. Barbecue is $11 a pound, Brunswick stew (limited availability) is $10 a quart. On Friday only, they have plates and two-sandwich plates for $8. Baked beans, coleslaw, rolls and sauce are all available for various prices too.

Want to put in an order? Call John Hall, 704-996-0391, or email Pick up your order from 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday, Jan. 30, or 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 31.

Proceeds from this barbecue event help the troop take their boys on high-adventure trips.

PHOTO: Observer files.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Want that hot artichoke dip recipe?

Happy Wednesday, food readers. It's that day when I try to give you lots of cooking inspiration.

Up today, at, think about these:

Get a sheet pan. They're heavy-duty, double-duty and cheaper than you'd expect at restaurant supply stores (here in Charlotte, I like to drop by Fadel's for half-sheet pans and other cheap-but-useful cooking gear). Andrea Weigl gives you a rundown on why sheet-pan cooking will make your dinner prep easier.

Do you need red velvet Oreos on your life? We gave them a quick taste test. Results? Go here to find out.

Need a tasty but healthful little bite of sweetness while you're trimming calories? The Kitchn gives you Carrot Cake Bites.

You don't have to make huge amounts of soup to make soup. Linda Gassenheimer has a good, warming small-batch soup.

Need a short list of food-related things to do? We've got haggis and new cooking classes.

What's the difference between Dutch-processed cocoa and regular cocoa? I tried to clear it up a little. 

If you don't want to use canned cream-of soup, you can make your own. 

And finally, my column on how great it is to have a few go-to recipes for special occasions. If you read the column online, there is a link to my Broccoli Pecan Salad. And yes, everyone wants the Hot Artichoke Dip. As your reward for reading my blog, here it is:

Hot Artichoke Dip

From Mary Stewart Duffy, who got it from a Junior League cookbook.

1 (14-ounce) can artichokes, drained and chopped

1 clove garlic, mashed

2/3 cup mayonnaise

1/2  teaspoon  Worcestershire sauce

1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Paprika (to sprinkle on top)

COMBINE all ingredients in small baking dish (greased).  Sprinkle with paprika.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes.  Serve hot with Triscuits, taco-flavored chips or your favorite crackers.  (She serves it with Wheat Thins.)

YIELD: 12 servings.

Friday, January 16, 2015

One Great . . . pantry shortcut

In some circles, "Cream Of" soup is the worst thing you can say about a dish. Opening a can of Cream of Mushroom or Cream of Chicken is a shortcut that's loaded with sodium and artificial ingredients, the very definition of glop.

But there's a reason it's such a common ingredient: Opening a can is an easy way to get a bechamel without cooking a roux.

Is there a way to get the best of both worlds? In the new book "The Southern Pantry Cookbook," author Jennifer Chandler includes a handy idea: "Cream Of" soup from scratch. You can make chicken or mushroom, and it makes just over a cup, the equivalent of one 10.75-ounce can of soup. Even better: You can control the sodium, lower the fat by using reduced-fat milk and there are no artificial thickeners. You can also make it when you need it.

Handy idea. Thanks, Jennifer.

Homemade Cream of Chicken Condensed Soup

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup 2% or whole milk
1/2 cup chicken stock
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

MELT the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. When the butter starts to foam, add the flour and cook, whisking, until it turns golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes.

CONTINUING to whisk, gradually add the milk and the chicken stock. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens, 5 to 8 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

VARIATION: For Cream of Mushroom, cook 1 cup finely diced mushrooms in the butter before adding the flour, milk and stock.

YIELD: 10.75 ounces, or just over 1 cup. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Need pork carnitas? Make your own tonight

With pork missing from a big chunk of the Chipotle locations nationwide, including all of the restaurants in Mecklenburg County, we reached into The Observer's recipe archive for a quick solution. 

Just get some pork and get out your slow cooker. You'll be filling your own burrito bowls by lunch time tomorrow. 

Slow Cooker Carnitas

2 pounds pork shoulder, Boston butt or picnic, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
2 teaspoons dried oregano (preferably Mexican)
1/2 large onion, cut into 4 pieces
1 avocado, halved, pitted, sliced
Fresh cilantro sprigs
Sliced red bell peppers (optional)

TOSS pork in bowl of slow cooker with salt, black pepper and dried oregano to coat. Place onion pieces atop pork. Cover slow cooker and cook pork on low setting until meat is very tender and falling apart, about 6 to 8 hours.

TRANSFER pork to cutting board. Discard onion pieces. Using fingers, shred pork; transfer carnitas to platter. Place avocado slices, cilantro sprigs and sliced red bell peppers, if desired, alongside.

WRAP tortillas in damp kitchen towel; microwave until warm, about 1 minute. Serve carnitas with warm tortillas.


NOTE: Leftover pork also freezes well, or you can reheat it in a skillet before using. 

What are you eating today?

How's it going with your resolutions to eat better in 2015? Have you got the meal-planning part down yet?

Take it from an experienced cook: Meal planning is the most important thing you can do to improve your eating life. And yet, it is the hardest thing many of us struggle to figure out. The trick to it is the time commitment, to sit down with 10 minutes to think about your household schedule in the next week and think through what you're planning to cook. I do it on Saturday mornings, but whenever it works for you is the right time.

With the weekend coming up, here are a few stories we have today that might inspire your meals in the next few days:

Winter Salads. Yep, you heard that right. Who says you can't eat salads in the winter? Hearty greens are in season, but you don't have to cook them. This story has great recipes, but it also has some excellent tips on making salads better.

Pizza. This isn't about making pizza, but it might get you warmed up if you disagree: Daniel Neman of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch is upset about what Wolfgang Puck did to ruin pizza.

Veal Gorgonzola for 2. It sounds warming and delicious, doesn't it? I get constant requests for recipes that will serve 1 or 2. Linda Gassenheimer's column does that every week.

Pounded Chicken With Herbs. In my One Great column this week, I share a technique from Marco Canora's new book on healthful eating and it just might change your cooking life.

Everybody needs a treat, particularly a healthful spin on something delicious. These granola bars use raspberry jam to go in the sweet directions. 

For one more sweet-but-healthful treat, Ellie Krieger uses dates, dried figs and coconut to roll up a batch of truffles. Who says you have to have chocolate?

Make a plan, and we'll see you in the kitchen.

Friday, January 9, 2015

One Great . . . ramped-up chicken cutlet

Chefs don't cook like the rest of us. That can be good and bad for people who love recipes.

Sometimes, their cooking is complicated and involves lots of pots and obscure ingredients. That's bad for recipe lovers.

Sometimes, their cooking is so simple, anyone can do it. And that is very, very good for us.

New York's Marco Canora can do the first kind of cooking very well at his restaurant Hearth and his former restaurant Insieme. But in his new book, "A Good Food Day," he does the second kind with healthful recipes. That's where I spotted this smart method for the usually bland skinless, boneless chicken breasts.

It sounds harder than it is, but you're really flattening chicken breasts so they cook really fast. And when you flatten them, you beat herbs into them. How smart is that? The herb topping is endlessly adaptable, and the cooked breasts can be sliced and used on anything from pasta to salad.

Flavor-Pounded Chicken 

From "A Good Food Day," by Marco Canora (Clarkson Potter, $30).

4 (6- to 8-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
12 large fresh sage leaves, roughly chopped
Leaves from 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary, chopped
Grated zest of 2 small lemons
2 small garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon fine sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
8 teaspoons olive oil, plus 4 tablespoons for cooking
4 lemon wedges

STARTING at the thicker side, make a lengthwise cut into the chicken breast, stopping before you cut all the through. Fold it open like a book. Place between two pieces of plastic wrap and pound it out thinly with the flat side of a meat tenderizer, working from the inside out, until it's about 1/4 inch thick. Repeat with the remaining breasts.

PILE the herbs, lemon zest and garlic on a cutting board and chop together. Place in a small bowl and add the salt, a few grinds of pepper and 8 teaspoons olive oil. Spread half the paste evenly on one side of the chicken breasts and rub it in.

COVER with plastic wrap again and lightly pound in the seasoning with the toothy side of the meat tenderizer. Flip the breasts and rub the remaining past into the other side, cover and pound again.

HEAT 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over high heat until it's very hot. Add 1 chicken breast, put a weight on it (like a kettle or heavy pan), cook about 45 seconds. Flip it, weight it again and cook 45 seconds. Transfer to a plate and let it rest 3 minutes while you cook the remaining chicken. Squeeze a little lemon over each, then cut in slices.

YIELD: 4 servings. 

8 N.C. companies grab Good Food Awards

Remember the Good Food Awards we reported on a couple of months back? This is a California-based group that recognizes producers of artisan, craft foods using local ingredients in a number of categories, including beer, charcuterie, cheese, chocolate, coffee, confections, honey, oils, pickles, preserves and spirits.

There were 11 N.C. companies on the list when finalists were announced in November. The winners were announced this week in San Francisco and while Charlotte's Cloister Honey didn't make the final cut for its bourbon-infused honey, a solid list of Tar Heel foods did. (No N.C. beer makers, though? I'm surprised by that, too.) April McGreger, maker of Farmer's Daughter pickles and preserves in Carrboro did particularly well.

Find the full list on the Good Foods website above, and put these N.C. winners on your shopping list as you roam the state:

Looking Glass Creamery, Connemara.
Black Mountain Chocolate, Mountain Milk Bar.
Escazu Chocolate, 70% Tumbes.
French Broad Chocolates, 68% Percent Nicaragua.
Videri Chocolate Factory, Strawberry Anise Ganache.
Farmer's Daughter, Sweet Corn & Pepper Relish.
Two Chicks Farm, Kimchi.
Farmer's Daughter, Strawberry Honeysuckle Jam.
Crude Bitters, Rizzo Bitters.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

What can you eat in winter?

Eating locally grown food is easy in summer. In winter, it gets a little harder . . . right?

Not necessarily. In this part of the world, where the ground may not even freeze in winter, there is still a lot of fresh food. Farmers are growing it, farmers markets are selling it, and we, the cooks, well, are we buying it?

Here's a little video I made about my trip to the Charlotte Regional Farmer's Market the week before Christmas. A couple of things to note: Yes, for a few vendors, December is the end of their year until things pick up again in March. But a lot of times, that's because the customers aren't coming out, not because they don't have anything to sell.

If you go in January, pickings will be a little more sparse. But they won't be nonexistent.

I'll be out this weekend. Will you? Say hello if you spot me. And don't worry: I'll only point a camera at you if you tell me it's OK.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

What's on our plate for Wednesday?

Brisk temperatures in the 30s, body temperatures in the 102-degree range for those of us who missed those flu shots? Sounds like a good time to break out the comfort food.

Sounds like you could use a steaming bowl of grits, dressed up with an easy topping. Those of us who were raised on grits know that they make a great basic, comforting base for all kinds of toppings, and they can get you from breakfast to dinner. What you need is a simple guide that will make you a grits expert.

If you keep your eating local in winter, you're all too familiar with the inevitable kale (as we call it at my house). Gardening blogger Cindy Barlowe (mother of Heirloom chef Clark Barlowe) has a sweet story about cooking for people in need and an equally sweet recipe for an easy (and warm) variation on the inevitable kale salad.

Get your tickets here: Load your calendar with food events, including the annual Soup on Sunday fundraiser for Hospice and Palliative Care and the Troop 355 Boy Scout barbecue. (Don't worry, fans of Troop 33, they're coming up in a few weeks.)  

If the one thing that will warm you is the hottest drinks trend, look toward the cinnamon whiskeys.

Need more recipes? Try:

Easy burritos that serve 2 (or 1 with leftovers for lunch).
Vegetable stock, the secret recipe for your healthful freezer.
Leek, potato and fennel soup.
Onion and mushroom tart.

 Find all that and more, including our searchable database of recipes, at