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: