Menu madness

Be prepared with the right kind of fuel for the long month of madness that is March. It’s been a long season, basketball fans – longer for some than for others, if you get my meaning; and, yes, I’m feeling…blue… But my secondary favorite from my hometown of Winston-Salem, N.C. Wake Forest University, is still alive. All of us must maintain our strength.

The traditional food that stokes basketball fans is wings. Usually, hot wings, obtained greasily from some dubious take-out emporium. People, you can do so much better. And your favorite team deserves better. It is so easy (and less expensive) to prepare your own wings. Whether fried, roasted or grilled, there’s a world of flavor in this little package. Save even more by purchasing whole wings and cutting them into parts yourself. It’s easy: Cut at each of the three joints with a sharp knife. Discard the pointy flapper.

Here’s one of my favorite easy recipes for mild-but-flavorful wings that will please the crowd around the TV. Just don’t let them throw the bones at the set to protest bad calls. The recipe is from my cookbook “Wings: More Than 50 High-Flying Recipes for America’s Favorite Snack” (John Wiley & Sons, 2009). Add more cayenne if you like heat or remove it if you don’t, although this recipe is not hot.

Hoisin Honeys

1/3 cup hoisin sauce

2 tablespoons orange juice

1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh ginger

1/2 teaspoon chopped garlic

1/2 teaspoon honey

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

12 wings, cut in half at joints, wing tips removed and discarded

In a small bowl, stir together the hoisin sauce, orange juice, ginger, garlic, honey and cayenne. Set aside 3 tablespoons of the sauce.

Place the wings in a large reclosable plastic zipper bag. Pour the remaining sauce in over wings and coat them well. Refrigerate the wings in the marinade for 2 to 3 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cover a rimmed baking sheet with foil and spray the foil with nonstick cooking spray.

Remove the wings from the marinade and discard the marinade. Place the wings on the baking sheet.

Roast the wings for 25 minutes. Brush the wings with the reserved sauce and bake another 5 minutes or until the wings are done.

Makes 24 pieces.

From “Wings: More Than 50 High-Flying Recipes for America’s Favorite Snack” by Debbie Moose (John Wiley & Sons, 2009)

Beer here

After having a great time at Carolina Brewing Company in Holly Springs, N.C. last Saturday, my husband and I are continuing our beer adventures. This Saturday, we’re taking a beer class at Aviator Brewing Company in Fuquay-Varina, N.C. We’ve always wondered what the differences are between a tripel and a dubbel. I assume it has nothing to do with baseball. More on what we find out next week.

Durham, N.C.’s Fullsteam Brewing will be selling beer at the Carrboro Farmers Market’s Wednesday market starting in June, according to News & Observer food editor Andrea Weigl’s blog, Mouthful.

And I’m glad I still have some of that Spring Bock from Carolina Brewing Company. It’s easing the pain of my beloved Heels’ early demise in the ACC Tournament. Guess I’ll have to say….Go Pack!

Food news roundup

Peanut butter is on the mind at The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.) today. Andrea Weigl’s article is about uses for this economical ingredient that most people love. But it does not address the eternal question: Why does the bread always land peanut-butter-side down when you drop it on the floor? Read more here.

But what’s really in that jar of peanut butter could be pretty jarring. Kathleen Purvis rips the lid off the ingredients in commercial spreads in the Charlotte (N.C.) Observer, here.

The Winston-Salem (N.C.) Journal explains how to make great pizza at home. And, no, you don’t have to be able to toss the crust in the air. Read more here.

Harissa is a fiery African condiment, made from peppers, garlic and spices, that will heat up any dish. The Oregonian (Portland, Ore.) says that it’s especially good for pumping up the flavor in vegetarian recipes. Check it out here.

The Los Angeles Times has an interesting piece about how restaurants are installing gardens on site and trying to be more sustainable in their practices. Read it here.

Beer Run: Carolina Brewing Company

My husband and I have taken up a new spring hobby: visiting breweries. There are so many in the Triangle area

carolina brewing company spring bock pint glass

carolina brewing company spring bock pint glass

now, and they’re producing interesting and delightful beers. And it’s a lot more fun than scrapbooking. This past Saturday, we started with one of the oldest local breweries, Carolina Brewing Company in Holly Springs, N.C. It’s been operating for 15 years.

I was astonished at the size of the crowd for the tasting and tour – there must have been at least 100 people packed in around the steel brewing vats. It was the first tasting after CBC’s release of its Spring Bock on March 5, and that’s probably what packed the room. There’s also a liberal definition of the word “tasting.” Unlike tastings I’ve had when visiting wineries, the staff hands you a pint glass and opens the taps.

We sampled the Spring Bock, a seasonal beer that the company will produce for only three months. A pale lager, it had a smooth, fresh flavor with no bitterness – and a 6.5 percent alcohol content. We also tasted the Pale Ale and Nut Brown Ale, which my husband thought was a little sweet. We both avoided the India Pale Ale because we’re not fans of heavily hopped beers (although I like a little more hops than he does). Why do IPAs have so much hop flavor? It’s in the beer’s history. Hops serve as a preservative as well as adding flavor, so when Britain sent beer to its outposts in India, more hops were used to keep it fresh.

We purchased some Spring Bock along with some of the remaining stock of my husband’s favorite, the Winter Porter, a roasty-tasting dark ale. Carolina Brewing Company sells its seasonal beers only at the brewery. For more about Carolina Brewing Company, visit here.

The folks at CBC said that the growth in local breweries has not affected sales, which have held steady even during the recession.

Watch this space for our next brewery visit. We’re too old to do more than one in an afternoon.

The pies have landed

apple pies in my kitchen

apple pies in my kitchen

Is pie the new cake?

It looks like it, from the pie shops that are popping up in the Triangle. Phoebe Lawless, whose remarkable rustic pies go like – well, I just can’t say it – at the Durham and Chapel Hill farmers markets is working on her own space in downtown Durham. Her Scratch Baking shop, which offers unusual flavors such as sea salt-chocolate and stresses local ingredients,  is projected to open in a few months. Donut Muffins for everybody! Read more about Scratch Baking here.

In Raleigh, PieBird will occupy the Person Street space that formerly housed Conti’s Italian Market. Sheilagh Sabol Duncan has been baking pies to order, and will open the space in a few months. So Oakwood residents can go there to get their fix of Pie Pops – little, baby pies on a stick. Duncan makes traditional pies like pecan and coconut cream, along with quiches. Find out more here.

Food news roundup

The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.) reels in a remembrance of a Carrboro, N.C. fishmonger who was dedicated to North Carolina seafood. Read about Tom Robinson, who died of complications from H1N1 flu, here.

Kale, kale, the greens are all here in the Charlotte (N.C.) Observer. Kathleen Purvis tries to drum up some love for the maligned leafy vegetable here.

North Carolina oysters are making a comeback, so get them while you can (the state’s season ends this month). Read about them in the Winston-Salem (N.C.) Journal, here.

I decided to make myself feel better about our stinky weather by checking out a place that has more cold and snow than we do. The Minneapolis Star Tribune’s food section today has advice about putting out grease fires. Hint: Don’t use melted snow. The solutions are here.

Let’s continue in the same worse-winter vein. The Portland (Maine) Press Herald talks about a new book on the history of Scotch-Irish settlers in New England and the foods they brought. To find out what stump is (and it has nothing to do with trees) visit here.

And because I just can’t stand it anymore…. The Honolulu Advertiser wades into the controversial issue of ginger chicken. Apparently, there are numerous ways to make this island favorite, all of which are served in warm surroundings near boat drinks. Read about it here.

Winter, here’s your eviction notice

I look out my office window into a mackerel-colored sky, anticipating yet another round of snow, and know I am

soup. like we need more.

soup. like we need more.

done with this winter. And its food. The endless bowls of warming vegetable soup. The comfort-foodiness of roasted stuff. The supposedly soothing smell of baking bread.

Usually, winter is fun in the kitchen here. Playing with winter foods, like big, chunky squashes, is a change of pace. We North Carolinians know that winter’s lease hath a blessedly short date. Except for this one, which has apparently signed a month-by-month extension.

I want to trade chewy kale for fresh basil, starchy bananas for tender strawberries and corn bread for sweet corn. I want to divorce the oven and pledge my troth to my grill.

I need a beverage with a little umbrella in it. Putting one in a bowl of chili isn’t the same, believe me.