Learning to cook

My husband drew my attention to a cartoon on a site called XKCD today. Unless you’re a geek, or married to one, as I am, you have no idea what most of the cartoons there could possibly be about. Today’s is different. It documents the endless loop of the inexperienced cook. It’s here, and see how true you think it is.

More Carolina wineries

Can you believe North Carolina now has 100 wineries? The new Cauble Creek Vineyard in Salisbury brings the count to that number, the North Carolina Wine & Grape Council has announced. It also says that most Tar Heels now live within 100 miles of a winery. Even moonshine isn’t that convenient these days.

Cauble Creek uses muscadine grapes, a sweet native grape. The wine industry started with muscadines and scuppernongs, but many wineries grow the European varieties now.

Food news roundup

Clip and save (maybe not if you’re accessing it online; don’t whack your screen) the excellent roundup of Triangle microbreweries in The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.) Even more amazing than the number that are filling taps and kegs now is that four more are in the works. Read it here.

At the Charlotte (N.C.) Observer, Kathleen Purvis writes about how the so-called improved and easier-to-read food labels are neither. It’s here. By the way, her recent poll on the one kind of food you could eat for the rest of your life didn’t include what I would pick: Seafood.

Vegetable lasagna is a great dish. It has all the thuddy satisfaction of conventional lasagna with the virtuous feeling that you’re really just eating vegetables. The Winston-Salem (N.C.) Journal offers several recipes, including one with a dairy-free “cauliflower ricotta” made with tofu. See what you think here.

The Independent Weekly (Durham, N.C.) includes one eater’s attempt to follow the 10 Percent Campaign, a drive to encourage people to spend 10 percent of their food dollars on locally sourced food. Read about it here.

Oysters. See second paragraph above. Mmmm. The Post and Courier (Charleston, S.C.) has recipes from a recent oyster contest. Anchovies are involved in one, for double the seafood. Read about them here.

Great googly moogly! There are buns at JanNorris.com today, and I don’t mean the ones surrounding two all-beef patties. She writes about Butlers in the Buff, the perfect assistants for the busy hostess. Start planning your party here.

The Tool of the Month at KitchenGadgetGals is something that may be useful for your Super Bowl party. Check it out here.

What’s for dinner at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette? Spicy Garlicky Cashew Chicken, and predictions of a Steelers victory. Read it all here.

And what’s for dinner at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel? Roasted Peanut Soup, and predictions for a Packers win. Look here.

With your dinner, at the Dallas Morning News, are suggestions for jug wines for Super Bowl parties, and hopes for better luck next year. See the picks here.

From pizza to sweet ‘taters

When I was in college, back when dinosaurs walked the earth, all I asked about the location of my food was that it be near my hand and not make me pull out a lot of dollars. And the closest thing to an actual recipe in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Daily Tar Heel was a coupon for Pizza Transit Authority. Now, the DTH has a food column written by junior Alex Walters and senior Blair Mikels. In this entry, the pair fail in their attempt to steal sweet potatoes, but eat well anyway.

The column is another sign of increased awareness about food and its sources on area campuses. According to the column, UNC-CH also has a campus garden. And several campuses, including N.C. State University, have on-campus farmers markets.

Lemon and garlic – what’s not to like?

Soup, soup, soup. Everyone talks about soup in the winter. But I need something to chew on once in a while. I purchased a package of chicken thighs with the intention of preparing one of my old reliable recipes on Sunday. We all have them – those recipes that pop up regularly because they’re easy to make while one’s attention is on something else (like the NFL playoffs), their ingredients can be kept on hand and they fill a comfort-food spot.

As I pulled out the chicken, I decided I would not fall back on the crutch of the old reliable. But I didn’t want to make another trip to the store. I had lemon, olive oil and garlic, and a Greek vibe.

I adapted a recipe from a Mediterranean cookbook to use chicken parts instead of the prescribed whole chicken. An hour an a fragrant kitchen later, I had a dish that might become a new reliable.

Chicken with Oregano and Lemon (adapted from “Taverna” by Joyce Goldstein)

10 chicken thighs

5-6 Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into similarly sized wedges

1 lemon, cut into chunks

6-8 cloves garlic, sliced in half

1/3 cup lemon juice

1/2 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon dried marjoram (or more oregano)

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 cup chicken broth (you could use water if necessary)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the chicken and potatoes in a large shallow roasting pan. Sprinkle on the chunks of lemon and sliced garlic.

In a small saucepan, combine the lemon juice, olive oil, 1 tablespoon each of the oregano and marjoram, and the salt and pepper. Simmer gently for 2 or 3 minutes to blend the flavors. Remove from heat.

Pour the chicken broth over the chicken and potatoes. Drizzle the olive oil-lemon mixture over the chicken and potatoes. Sprinkle it all with the remaining 1 teaspoon each of oregano and marjoram.

Bake for about an hour, or until the chicken is done. Remove the chunks of lemon before serving.

Beach dreams

In  January, The Hub and I receive the advance registration for the spot in Buxton, N.C. where we spend a week each May. Just seeing the envelope makes me want to be at the Outer Banks, although I know that, right now, the weather will be almost as stinky as it is here. At least it gives hope that spring is coming, and reminds me that it’s never too early to begin planning the all-important beach reading.

A classic soup there is what I always heard called Hatteras Clam Chowder, although it has other names. It’s made with broth, not cream or milk, and is packed with clams, onions and chunks of potato. Check out this recipe at Mariner’s Menu

Food news roundup

Plenty of soup for you in The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.). There’s gumbo, black bean and a chipotle squash. Check it out here. There is also an interesting article on Aviator Brewing in Fuquay-Varina, N.C., a microbrewery which will soon open a restaurant.

Over at the Charlotte (N.C.) Observer, Kathleen Purvis offers some wise advice: Don’t eat foods advertised on TV. Read about how she came to that conclusion here.

The Independent Weekly (Durham, N.C.) reviews a new cookbook with recipes designed to appeal to children with food allergies. Columnist Joyce Clark Hicks gives some recipes a test drive with her own kids. Read the results here.

A South Carolina couple purchased and restored an old electric mill and now produce stone-ground cornmeal, grits and corn flour. Read the story in the Post and Courier (Charleston, S.C.) here. Gotta love the headline, too.

Maya Angelou is known as a writer and professor at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem. N.C., but she is also a lover of good food. The Winston-Salem Journal interviews her about her new cookbook, “Great Food All Day Long,” here.

Tu Bishvat isn’t a blues singer, it’s a Jewish holiday that has something to do with taxing ancient fruit trees, but that’s not important right now. What is important is that the Los Angeles Times has recipes for breads and desserts using dried fruits here in honor of the holiday.

Cabbage: It isn’t just for coleslaw anymore. Find out new ways to use it in the Dallas Morning News, here.

Biscuits vs. cabbage. Pillows of buttery goodness vs. stuff your Mom told you to eat. Sorry. The biscuits in the Minneapolis Star Tribune win. Look here and see if you agree. They have a roll-out recipe. Now, I have always been challenged in that department and have found that drop biscuits taste just as good, they’re just not perfectly round.

Ye olde hot buttered rum

While everyone else looks at today at Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the people at Mount Gay Barbados Rum have decided that Jan. 17 is Hot Buttered Rum Day. Well, if every dog has its day, I guess every beverage must, too.

I’m trying to envision what this old-timey drink would taste like. I imagine warm alcohol covered with an oil slick. And the recipe I found in my 1975 edition of “Joy of Cooking” doesn’t do much to change my mind: Mix 1 teaspoon powdered sugar with 1/4 cup boiling water, 1/4 cup rum and 1 tablespoon butter in a hot tumbler. (Yeah, I have lots of hot tumblers lying around.) Fill the tumbler with boiling water, stir well and sprinkle with grated nutmeg.

A note with the recipe expresses surprise that the Puritans made drinks like this. But if you go to the Colonial Williamsburg site, there’s an outline of the many ways that early American settlers saw alcohol as good for them. From the site: “Colonial Americans, at least many of them, believed alcohol could cure the sick, strengthen the weak, enliven the aged, and generally make the world a better place. They tippled, toasted, sipped, slurped, quaffed, and guzzled from dawn to dark.”

Sounds like a Super Bowl party.

Food news roundup

It’s tag-team tips for livening up your food life in The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.) today as Andrea Weigl and Kathleen Purvis offer a tip for each month. There’s a little healthy eating advice in there, but don’t fear, it’s not all yet more diet advice. Read the piece here. It’s in the Charlotte (N.C.) Observer, too.

The icy weather has brought out a run of chicken soup with matzo balls at my house. The Hub swears that EVERYONE uses the matzo ball mix rather than starting from scratch, and it’s good (especially since he’ll make them). Other ideas for soup + chicken are in the Winston-Salem (N.C.) Journal here, including a chicken basil soup and a Mexican version.

Preparing wild game, venison in particular, is on the menu at the Salisbury (N.C.) Post, along with tips for getting out the “wild” taste. Frankly, I like my food pretty wild, especially with hot sauce. Read the article here.

Despite the perception that Americans eat out a lot, a new study from the American Dietetic Association shows an increase in the number of family meals eaten at home. I notice that it says eaten at home. Should we assume that means prepared at home? Read the article in the Chicago Tribune here.

It’s Thud Food season. That means meals that have a satisfyingly solid feel in the tummy. Stews are definitely Thud Food, and a whole month’s work of recipes are in the Houston Chronicle, here.

Young entrepreneurs are dumping the traditional corporate life while in their 20s and starting careers making their own food products, says the Boston Globe here. Will croutons made from Monterey Jack jalapeno corn bread be a ticket to food stardom?

Made the call

I just saw five snowflakes fall. That means it’s time to issue the official alert.

Bread and milk! Beer and diapers! DVDs and onion dip! Aooga! Aooga!