Relishing Thanksgiving

I am already contemplating the contents of my Thanksgiving relish tray. You DO have one on your table, don’t you? I consider it an important grace note to the booming symphony that is the Turkey Day meal.

My family had most Thanksgivings at my grandmother’s. She offered pickled whole peaches and bread-and-butter pickles, both of which she made. Also, red pickled apple rings and olives (purchased), and celery sticks stuffed with a mixture of cream cheese and onions (not technically a pickle, but in the vicinity).

A friend’s mother made pickled cucumber rings that looked like pickled apple rings, and tasted a little like them, too. Large cucumber slices were scooped out in the center and pickled in a sweet mixture that included red food coloring. I suspect this pickle originated as an attempt to use up cukes that were too large for other purposes.

This summer, my pickling and canning was impaired by recovering from a broken left wrist, so I don’t have my usual homemade pickled okra and bread-and-butters. Those I will have to find elsewhere – even if no one eats it but me, I must have pickled okra. Some friends and I were able to make our traditional vegetable relish, which is great on the tray and for turkey sandwiches later.

It wouldn’t feel like a full Thanksgiving meal, to me, without that relish tray. What do you think? What’s on your tray?

Food news roundup

The Winston-Salem Journal in Winston-Salem, N.C. (my hometown), has a recipe today for a black walnut-chocolate pie which won a baking contest at the Black Walnut Festival in nearby Bethania, a historic Moravian settlement. Read about it here. Love those old-time cooks!

If you want to drink at the coast, Liz Biro’s blog in the Wilmington Star News in Wilmington, N.C. has information on a celebration of the history of North Carolina wines. More here.

In honor of Halloween, the Charlotte Observer in Charlotte, N.C. has tales of cooking nightmares and the lobster that would not die. Read more, if you dare, here.

I happen to love Brussels sprouts. Say what you want. I don’t care. The San Francisco Chronicle has an Asian-inspired recipe for roasted ones that might sway the skeptical. It’s here.

Chefs of the Triangle

great chefs triangle cookbookIn the new book “Chefs of the Triangle: Their Lives, Recipes and Restaurants” by Durham writer Ann Prospero (John F. Blair Publisher, $16.95), you can discover interesting nibbles about the area’s top chefs. For example, that Walter Royal, chef of the Angus Barn in Raleigh, grew up in rural Alabama and was inspired to cook by his Aunt Vertal’s tea cookies. And that Jason Smith, chef of 18 Seaboard in Raleigh, cooked in Antarctica. Talk about a walk-in freezer.

The book profiles 34 chefs in Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, Cary, Pittsboro and Hillsborough. A thread that runs through the chefs’ comments is their commitment to locally grown food and quality ingredients, and respect for the ingredients and those who produce them. That’s something I didn’t see much of in this area 10 years ago. You can also trace a line of kitchens that the Triangle’s good chefs have passed through – Magnolia Grill in Durham and La Residence in Chapel Hill, to name two.

There are recipes from each chef. I’m very pleased to see that they have been tested to work in home kitchens, although some may be challenging (these are restaurant recipes, after all). The book would make a great souvenir for food-loving visitors and a fun handbook for residents. Read more about author Ann Prospero here.

Food news roundup

The News & Observer’s food section today had a nice story about my friend Foy Allen Edelman and her new cookbook, “Sweet Carolina.” She has a booth at the N.C. State Fair, which runs through Sunday. Foy was also kind enough to include my cookbooks, and I’ll be signing on Friday, Oct. 23 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. (the books are there all the time). Come by and see us in the Kerr Scott Building. Read the article here.

The St. Louis Post Dispatch has fascinating things to do with green tomatoes, beyond frying them and sticking them in a delicious biscuit (my favorite). Read about it here.

Can it be? A shortage of pumpkin as Thanksgiving nears? Kathleen Purvis of the Charlotte Observer explains it here.

And you can’t smoke in most restaurants but you can still get free matches. The New York Times explains the trend here.

Garlic and Thanksgiving

Hey, anyone really load up the garlic in their Thanksgiving meal? Or is that too radical an idea for the sweet potato-marshmallow crowd? Garlic in the dressing? Better than sage, I think. Pickled garlic on the relish tray? (You DO have an relish tray, don’t you?) I think this could be the best advancement in Thanksgiving meals since the deep-fried turkey.

A natural for juice

If you see a big, aqua bus pumping out African or reggae music and the grind of blenders, then you know you’ve found Liberacion Juice Station. Since July, the biodiesel-fueled mobile juice and smoothie bar has appeared at the Durham Farmers Market, Chatham Marketplace in Pittsboro and other spots, most recently the Pittsboro Pepper Festival on Sunday.

The venture’s “Creatrix & Juice Artist Extraordinaire,” as her business cards say, is Zulayka Santiago, former director of El Pueblo Inc., who sees this business as another form of serving the community. ” I wanted to provide fresh food for the community, and be creative,” she said. Santiago, who was born in Puerto Rico, named the bus Dona Victoria, after her grandmother.

Santiago uses organic ingredients and purchases as many of them locally as possible. The menu changes with the seasons and her creative whims. A blend of carrot, Granny Smith apple, ginger and a little agave nectar (sweetener made from the agave plant) results in a beverage with such a striking orange color that you feel healthier just looking at it. The Luscious Monkey includes banana, peanut butter, hemp and almond milk (the stand is vegan friendly with no animal products used, except bee pollen on request). Santiago says a perennial favorite is the Green Liberacion: kale, banana, prune, ginger, flax and apple juice. The vividly green drink is sweet and smooth, and you can see why kids like it, besides the UFO-like color (it might be the only way many of them would ever consume kale). Agave and honey are used as sweeteners, and herbal additions are available.

To keep up with the Station’s travels and see photos of the polka-dotted bus, visit here.

Fair food haiku

Country ham biscuit,

Strawberry ice cream from State,

A Fair healthy lunch.

Feast on rare breeds

Endangered breeds of rabbit and pig will be the stars of a menu designed to raise awareness of the need to save these breeds by, yes, eating them. The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, along with chefs Scott Crawford of Herons in Raleigh, N.C. and Bret Jennings of Elaine’s on Franklin in Chapel Hill, N.C., will offer “The Lost Art of Last Cuts,” a cooking demo and luncheon featuring sheep and rabbit. The Nov. 13 event, which will be held at Herons at the Umstead Hotel in Raleigh, N.C., will use three breeds of rare rabbit and Hog Island sheep.

The ALBC, located in Pittsboro, N.C., works to promote endangered breeds of cows, pigs and other livestock in order to retain genetic diversity in our food supply. Why is this important? If all farmers are raising the exact same breed of chicken or rabbit, then disease could easily wipe them out. Also, in many cases, the meat of the older breeds is more tasty.

The cost is $125. Register and get more information here.

Food haiku

Gray fall afternoon,

A mug of fragrant green tea,

A bit of bright warmth.

Lettuce alone

My fall crop of red leaf lettuce is threatened by a determined squirrel. In lieu of building a bomb shelter or learning to can, it has decided to try to store its nasty snacks in my pots of lettuce plants. My dream was to stroll out my back door and gather crunchy autumn salads. Mere days after planting, I found soil tossed all over the patio and plants flung aside. Today, I caught the stinkin’ thing headed for an as-yet undisturbed pot on the patio table. I waved a cat at him and yelled.

This is not the first time that squirrels have dug my patio plants. The first time I planted oregano, I saw a squirrel jump into the plant and roll around like he was taking a bath. The herbs were flattened. Days later, I saw it happen again – he was definitely rolling, not digging. Was he freshening himself up for a ladyfriend? Who knows.

Anyway, this means war. Cayenne on the soil? That ought to give the ratty critter a hot foot.