A woman sconed

Scones left my world when The Hub found out he’s allergic to dairy products. “Dairy” means things made from milk. That does not include eggs, as someone insisted to me once. I believe the individual was thinking about vegans, which The Hub will never be. There’s no dairy in bacon, fried oysters or steak.

Anyway, the non-dairy margarine I use for other purposes was too soft to blend in and has a lot of water content. So, I dropped scones.

Then I read that coconut oil is coming back. It’s solid at room temp, is pure white and has a mild flavor (not like coconut at all). I made sure to purchase the non-hydrogenated version, which I found at my usual mega-grocery beside the olive and canola oils. It scooped and measured easily, and I worked it into the flour with my pastry blender very much like butter. I’m pleased with the results. The scones have a nice cakey texture. They lack that little butter sweetness, but overall they’re great. I overcooked them a bit while distracted by Just Dance on the Wii Fit. Preburning scone calories is good. But that’s why there’s no photograph here.

Here’s my version of the recipe. Naturally, you could use butter and milk, if you’re not cooking for the dairyless.

Blueberry Scones for The Hub

2 1/4 cups flour

1/2 cup sugar (you could go to 3/4 if you like a sweet scone)

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon mace

1/2 cup non-hydrogenated coconut oil

2 eggs

1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups blueberries (thawed and drained, if frozen)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Spray a cookie sheet with non-stick cooking spray. In a large bowl, combine the flour sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and mace. Using a pastry blender, cut in the coconut oil until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs; don’t obsess over making is all even and overwork the dough. In a small bowl, stir together the eggs, almond milk and vanilla. Stir the liquid into the flour mixture quickly with large strokes. The dough will be sticky. Using your floured hands, mix in the blueberries without crushing them. Pat the dough into a 9 or 10-inch circle on the baking sheet. Score the dough into 8 wedges with a sharp knife. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until a sharp knife inserted in the center of a scone comes out clean. Let cool on a wire rack. Recut if needed. Store in an airtight bag after they’re completely cool, if storage becomes an issue, which it isn’t in my house.




Food news roundup

The beloved-by-bakers White Lily flour hasn’t been the same since production moved away from soft Southern wheat. Now, there’s a substitute – if you can find someone to go in on a 25-pound bag with you.  Andrea Weigl writes about the flour, along with a taste test, in The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.). Read more here. Also, the fraud trial begins for the Durham, N.C. bakery that allegedly sold as gluten free breads that weren’t. Read more here. All those products being labeled “gluten free” to meet a growing demand, folks, they’re not regulated. There’s no FDA board that certifies them. So, eater beware.

Fried pies were around long before they were demoted to handy drive-through desserts. Good ones, homemade ones, combine the virtuous self-satisfaction of eating a fruit-based dessert with the deep human need for things dipped in oil. Read more in the Charlotte (N.C.) Observer here. It’s in the N&O, too.

The final exam for this Charleston, S.C. class is better than a term paper soaked in bourbon-tomato sauce. The Post and Courier has an account of a school for professional barbecue competitors. Read more here.

A new, mostly Asian, shopping center in Greensboro, N.C. contains 70 spaces for businesses and most of them are food related – international restaurants, markets or food stalls. Durian, anyone? Read more in the Winston-Salem (N.C.) Journal here.

Grab a copy of the beautiful spring edition of  Edible Piedmont, with the hammy cover. There’s always lots to read, but I must say that there is an article by your humble blogger about rice being grown in Chatham County. Read more here.

Our State magazine offers recipes from Penderlea Homestead in Pender County, plus a church congregation that takes the place of the Easter Bunny by making chocolate eggs as a fundraiser. See more here.

I’m glad I’m not the only person who has wondered about the mound of crispy cabbage that shows up beside many Japanese restaurant dishes. So did John Kessler at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Read what he found out here.



Food fight

It’s starting to look like an elementary school cafeteria on spaghetti day out there on the Internet. The noodles are flying. If you’re not simmered in the food writing world, here’s what’s happening.

The James Beard Awards added a new writing category this year, Humor. One of the nominees is an imaginary character: Ruth Bourdain. Not his/her real name, but a collision of the attitudes of Ruth Reichl, formerly of Gourmet; and Anthony Bourdain, the tall and opinionated omnivore of the Travel Channel’s “No Reservations.” (He’s usually described as a “bad boy chef,” which is wrong on several counts, besides being so cliche that the phrase should be somewhere in the Pina Colada Song. I will not use it.) RuBo’s tweets are retweeted like hysterical circling crows. As we say in the South, she’s/he’s a hoot. RuBo’s actual identity isn’t known.

I sent a thought to my fellow members of the Association of Food Journalists about a person writing under an assumed name being nominated in what is, supposedly, journalism awards.

I put my name on everything I write, from this blog to my articles and books to Twitter and Facebook. I am responsible for my writing and any consequences of it. Would I write differently if I were Bullwinkle J. Moose instead (although we share a middle initial)? Possibly. Can readers believe someone writing under a fake name? Does it even matter anymore, especially with humor writing, which I’m guilty of perpetrating, too? Y’all tell me.

Anyway, the discussion which followed the AFJ comments ended up in a blog in the Dallas Observer, here.

Now, it’s meatballs at 40 paces. Anthony Bourdain let loose on the Beards, and food writers in general, here with all the subtlety of the bucket of blood dropping on Carrie.  Today, a volley from CNN’s Eatocracy here.

One thing is for sure – the Beards haven’t had this much publicity in years.

Spring thud

Martha looked up from her iPhone yesterday and said, “Snow. They’re predicting snow tomorrow.” I thought she was addled from that bump on the head she got last week. She really acted like a 50-year-old, falling face-first on a New York City sidewalk. Then the TV confirmed the snow prediction.

Luckily, we were prepared. No matter that it was over 80 degrees seven days ago here in North Carolina, and that it’s almost April Fool’s Day. The cold yesterday grabbed me even harder because it was so out of place. I brought out the thud food: Meat loaf.

Plain, old meat loaf. And it will be just as good today. I modified a recipe I found in a fount of classic recipes, Jean Anderson’s “The American Century Cookbook.”

Old-Fashioned Meat Loaf

1 egg, beaten

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon salt and black pepper to taste

3/4 cup tomato sauce (I use low-sodium)

2 pounds ground beef (half ground round, half regular ground beef)

3/4 cup uncooked old-fashioned (not instant) oatmeal

1/2 cup chopped onion

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, mix the egg, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, salt and pepper, and 1/2 cup of the tomato sauce. Using your impeccably clean hands, mix in the ground beef, oatmeal and onions. Pack the mixture into a loaf pan or other such dish. Spread the remaining 1/4 cup tomato sauce on top. Bake about 1 hour or until cooked through.


Cluck, you

“Chick Days” read the ad insert for Tractor Supply Co. in my daily newspaper. The last time I saw live poultry advertised, I was seven and begged to get a chick – dyed blue or pink – from the Roses Five and Dime. This live Easter basket filler was common when I was a kid, and was a bad idea for everyone involved. Especially the chicks.

Today, chickens (not the Technicolor ones) are hip. Two of my neighbors now have chickens. Most recently, my next-door neighbor put in a coop with about six hens. Well, two might be roosters. She’s not sure. Her toddler son has named them. He selected the creative choice Fuzzy for one with long feathers on its head and feet. He quickly figured out how to open the latch on the coop, so I may be seeing more of the chickens.

The Hub hooted over the ad’s photos of pullets and bantams as glossily groomed as supermodels. He pointed at the center of the page: “Look, you get them in little cardboard boxes.”

Doesn’t most chicken come in boxes or buckets?

Food news roundup

Germs, germs everywhere. Bwahahaha! Banish the baddies with advice from the Charlotte (N.C.) Observer on how to get a kitchen really clean. And you don’t need a flamethrower, but it does make cleaning more fun. Read more here. It’s in The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.) as well, where Andrea Weigl admits her failure at dining primarily from her pantry. Gee, thanks for reminding me about all that corn in my freezer.

Wine and basketball? Whoa, is the universe off its axis? The Independent Weekly (Durham, N.C.) seriously posits the theory that the fruit of the vine can accompany hoops as well as the mash of the hops. Read more here.

The Zenchilada, an eclectic online magazine based in New Mexico, ranges around the country. The new issue has an article by Chapel Hill baker April McGreger on using wild greens.

We have tiger’s blood, tiger mothers and now, “A Tiger in the Kitchen.” The book is about Cheryl Tan’s rediscovery of her family history and cooking of Singapore. Read more in the Sacramento Bee, here.

Another way in which the Chinese are eating our lunch: They can actually carry eggs in a bag, instead of padded and pouched in cartons, as we soft Americans do. Read about that phenomenon and more in TheChinaRogect, a former Raleighite’s adventures in China.

Sure, anyone can tailgate for NASCAR or football in a plain, old car. But it takes someone special to tailgate in a tricked-out garbage truck. See it and other rigs at TailgatingIdeas.

Professional eater on closed course: Do not try at home

“What, they couldn’t hit double digits?” I thought when I received an invitation to a nine-course dinner prepared by 13 culinary students at The Art Institute of Raleigh-Durham. Nine courses in one Monday night? That’s an Olympic contest as much as a meal. But I’m sure that competitors in that event where you ski a whole bunch, then fling yourself on the ground and shoot a rifle never eat this well.

The evening started with Ahi Tuna, Avocado and Crab Timbale, a stack of beautifully cubed tuna and avocado with a layer of crab on the bottom, dotted with sweet soy sauce. Light, refreshing, a good start, although I thought the crab on the bottom kind of muddied things up flavor-wise. And it came with the first of six wines. Next, Tomato Sliders and V7. The play on a slider, using a soft, slightly sweet cookie “bun,” was filled with chopped tomato and shallot. A small  glass of “V7” was a twist on V8 juice, but lighter and with a kick (the students had considered lighting the vodka on the top, but thought again). I liked the contrasting flavors of sweet, tart and hot.

So far, this looked like a breeze.

The third dish, Roasted Beet Salad with Red Onion, Poblano and Lime lacked any poblano flavor that I could discern, and my portion was a little heavy on the oil. But it was vegetables, and I ate it. Still six courses to go, and I needed vitamins. It was time to start pacing myself, so I tasted only a few spoonfuls of the Roasted Apple and Parsnip Soup. It was velvety smooth but a bit sweet for me, although other guests raved about it. I’m just a tart girl. I also restrained on nibbling all of the Trio of Crostini: Eggplant Caviar, Goat Cheese and Salmon Rillette.

The room filled with exotic perfume as the Spiced Duck, Farro and Cumin-Scent Carrots arrived. The perfectly spiced and cooked duck slices and crispy carrot strips, and the aroma, shook off my palate fatigue. The farro (a grain) described as “creamy” wasn’t, but it didn’t matter next to  the wonderful duck. When Yogurt Pannacotta with Cucumber-Mint Sauce arrived, I knew I had to slow it down or I wouldn’t make it to the Fruit Napoleon with Papaya Shooter and Raspberry Coulis. The goal was in sight.

Rack of Lamb with Risotto and Grilled Asparagus stood between me and the dessert finish line. Perfectly cooked lamb with a passion-fruit sauce was the good part; risotto that wasn’t herb-flavored as described and a little thick was the not-so-good. But I reached the finish line, where a fluffy stack of crisp phyllo and spiced cream with pureed papaya awaited. A light dessert, thank goodness.

The dinner was a test for the students in the two-year program, and the room of invited restaurant and industry professionals went through each dish with the chef-instructor and evaluated them.

If you haven’t trained for such a marathon, the restaurant, The District, is open to the public. The days and hours depend on the institute’s 11-week semesters, but the next semester opening should be around April 15. Call 919-317-3200 for information. When open, The District offers breakfast on Fridays and lunch on Thursdays and Fridays. And the WMCA’s treadmills are right across the hall.

Light a lantern for Beard finalists

Congratulations to Andrea Reusing of Chapel Hill’s Lantern restaurant for making the final six for Best Chef: Southeast in the James Beard Awards. The finalists were announced today, and winners will be named May 9. Another North Carolina chef is among the finalists: John Fleer, chef of Canyon Kitchen in Cashiers. The others are Hugh Acheson of Athens, GA.; Craig Deihl of Charleston, S.C.;  Linton Hopkins of Atlanta; and Edward Lee of Louisville, KY.

Crook’s Corner in Chapel Hill has been named an American Classic, one of four restaurants to receive that designation.


Recipe for success

Cornelia Hill said that she learned “to jump out there and not worry about it.” Brian Hinton said that this was “the first time I’ve finished something just for me and not gotten mixed up in other people’s business.” And they learned something about preparing food, too.

Hill and Hinton were two of the nine members of the latest graduating class from the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle’s Culinary Job Training. Jill Staton-Bullard, CEO at the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle, said that the majority of people who enroll in the 11-week, full-time training class in Raleigh, N.C. have issues that have held them back in the past: drugs, prison, homelessness. Between the students’ pasts and just how tough the training is, fewer than half who start out usually finish. This class started with 16 members.

Besides extensive food preparation training, staff members offer job coaching and help simply with life issues. Graduates typically find jobs in such areas as schools or nursing home food service, and this class started looking for those jobs as soon as the hugs and tears were over on Wednesday. And there were plenty of tears on both sides, from the students and their families. The parents and children of students stood up and said how proud they were, and an impromptu gospel song rang out. Then, it was time for German Chocolate Cake.

The job market is tough right now, but the nine graduates have faced plenty of difficult situations. Ellawee Mobley, homeless and living at the Raleigh Rescue Mission, began cooking there. She enrolled in the Culinary Job Training program to improve her knife skills and learn to focus better on her work. Her dream job isn’t being a star chef or having a show on the Food Network. “I’d like to save up some money and find a building and fix it up, and give back, give people help like these people gave me,” she said.

Food news roundup

The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.) has a chit-chat here with Molly O’Neill, who will be signing copies of her new cookbook “One Big Table: A Portrait of American Cooking” at A Southern Season in Chapel Hill, N.C. on Saturday. Recipes from several local cooks, including author Lee Smith, are included in the book.

I’ll take an Irish Coffee over green beer on any St. Patrick’s Day. Or, just straight Irish whiskey will do for me. But if you want to indulge, The Charlotte (N.C.) Observer has a recipe here.

Head ’em up, move ’em out, cook ’em up: A roundup of food truck events in Durham and Carrboro are in the Independent Weekly (Durham, N.C.) here.

The winner for the Most Bizarre St. Patrick’s Day Food is…. Irish Nachos. These things exist, so says the Winston-Salem (N.C.) Journal, and the varied recipes start with a bed of waffle fries. No, they’re not eaten for the holiday in Ireland, but neither is corned beef. That St. Patty’s staple originated with Irish immigrants to the U.S. Check out the Irish Nachos here.

Some more authentic thoughts on Irish food are in the Post and Courier (Charleston, S.C.), including the classic breakfast called a Fry. Find out more here. But here’s a hint: Everything is fried but the tomatoes. (What did you think, anyway?)

I usually order decaf vanilla lattes at my favorite locally owned coffee pub. I don’t know what they’d do if I asked for a mushroom latte shooter with truffle froth. Cute little glasses of soup, froths or other liquified things are popular, and MaureenClancy.com has a recipe for this one, from a La Jolla, Calif. restaurant. Set your frothers to fun.

Plastic cups, called “throw cups,” are the only useful things thrown off parade floats during Mardi Gras, says Judy Walker, food editor of the New Orleans Times Picayune. Apparently, one amasses a lot of these cups when one is not dodging the coconuts and beads. So Walker’s video this week offers suggestions for using them, including as a bowl for whisking eggs and to make a catapult for a children’s project. See more here.

The Oregonian profiles chefs and food professionals who left other parts of the country for the charms of Portland. Read their impressions here.

Fast food, slow writing: In the Chicago Tribune, reviews of fast-food offerings are written in haiku. Read more here, grasshopper.