As corny as NC in spring

The stack of corn in my freezer is smaller, but still there. Little bags of white-gold reproach, they are. To go with our Memorial Day burgers, I used some to make a corn and black bean salad.

The corn had a lot of liquid in it, so I heated it in a non-stick skillet, stirring, until the liquid was gone but the kernels were still moist. I mixed about a cup of the corn with a can of black beans, which I had rinsed and drained to remove some of the salt. I always do that with canned beans. Some chopped Vidalia onion and green bell pepper went in, too. Cilantro would have been nice, but I didn’t have any.

I concentrated on getting a lot of flavor into the dressing. I mixed olive oil, oregano, thyme, salt, black pepper, garlic, red wine vinegar, a squirt of lime juice and my secret weapon, homemade hot pepper vinegar. I threw in a few dashes of chili powder and smoked paprika, too. I poured the dressing over the vegetables and refrigerated it all for about five house, giving it a shake occasionally. The sweet corn and the other flavors worked out just as I’d hoped.

If you’ve never made hot pepper vinegar, it’s so stupidly easy. Get a scrupulously clean jar and enough fresh hot peppers to fill it up. Pour in white wine vinegar. Add a couple cloves of garlic, if you want. Sit the jar, covered, in a cupboard for a week or two, or until it’s hot enough for you. Leave it as is, or decant into another, more attractive bottle and toss in some of the peppers. Done.

Battle of the breads

I’m a big fan of Sister Schubert’s frozen yeast rolls, and had been wondering why no one else had jumped into this market. Now sistah has some Carolina competition. Anna Mae Southern Bread Co. in Greensboro, N.C. just rolled out (couldn’t resist) a line of frozen rolls in Fresh Market stores in 20 states. The rolls are in the original sourdough flavor, cheddar cheese and chive, and sweet potato and molasses.

The company, started by Shana Martin with a recipe based on her Tennessee grandmother’s recipe, has sold fresh-baked rolls since 2009.

Food news roundup

Hesitant cooks find it hard to freestyle at a farmers market. They clutch recipes like puzzle pieces and look for an exact fit. But traveling the aisles without a plan is liberating and allows you to use what’s best and fresh – and cooking seasonally may save you some money, too. The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.) offers help to think outside the recipe box by following a chef through the State Farmers Market. Read more here. It’s in the Charlotte (N.C.) Observer, too, where Kathleen Purvis also tracks down a rumor about vendors at the Charlotte Regional Farmers Market. The scoop is here.

Where there’s smoke, there’s a discussion of the myriad uses for smoked paprika, and it’s in the Winston-Salem (N.C.) Journal here. I love the stuff. When I started using it, most people hadn’t heard of it – now it’s widely available. I will say, too much can overwhelm, so start small. And the longer you keep the jar, the stronger the smoky aroma and flavor becomes, and not always in a good way. Another reason to purchase fresh spices and herbs regularly.

ThePieDaily offers the recipe for the goodie that sold out first at the Triangle Food Blogger Bake Sale on Saturday in Durham. Of course, it contains chocolate.

Ever pulled out Mom’s ancient recipe for a cake, baked it and found it, well, awful? Happened to me with an apple cake recipe that was drowning in oil by today’s standards. A Portland, Ore., baker is trying to adapt vintage cake recipes to modern eaters. Read more in the Oregonian, here.

JanNorris doesn’t let a mere power failure stand between her and sweets. She offers no-bake dessert recipes here.

If you feel extra light and puffy today, that’s because it’s National Cheese Souffle Day. And I wouldn’t have known that without Eatocracy telling me so.

I have to say, one thing I have never thought about doing to strawberries is roasting them. But it occurred to LeitesCulinaria, and there are details.



Baked goods for good

triangle food blogger bake sale

The first Triangle Food Blogger Bake Sale on Saturday raised $650 for Share Our Strength’s efforts to end childhood hunger. This in a mere two hours of sweet snacking in Durham, just steps away from the Durham Farmers Market. (Hey, you can’t live on organic bok choy alone.)

Sixteen area food bloggers, including your humble Moose, participated. The first item to sell out, not surprisingly, involved chocolate. Claire Cusick of ThePieDaily brought what she called Brassies: Miniature brownie pies based on pecan tassies. I should have remembered that chocolate will always go first and added some chocolate chips to my Bananaville Muffins, which I have posted on this blog in the past. The original recipe is here in bread form, but they muffin-ized quite nicely. I could point out that Claire claimed prime real estate for her Brassies, next to the ticket desk and free coffee, but that would just look like I’m riding the bitter bus.

I spotted a platter of red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese icing, and had flashbacks to seeing my grandmother dump an entire bottle of red food coloring into the batter when she made the cake. But Magie Lanz of MagiesNoms used beet juice to color her cakes, so they didn’t have that glow-in-the-dark look.

matt lardie & johanna kramer (right)

There were whoopie pies, sweet potato cookies with candied orange peel, maple-oatmeal scones, chocolate macaroons and brown butter blondies. Author Nancie MacDermott arrived with caramel cupcakes and two kinds of pie, buttermilk and rhubarb.

In spite of the dedicated eating, we did end up with some goodies left. Organizers Matt Lardie (GreenEats) and Johanna Kramer (DurhamFoodie) arranged for the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle to pick them up and deliver them to an area shelter.

Carolina class

I had been warned that the James Beard Awards Gala in New York was a mob scene, but no one mentioned that potbellied pigs would be in attendance. As I joined the hordes on May 9 in the post-awards crawl through the area outside Avery Fisher Hall where nearly 60 tables of food and drink from restaurants across the country sat, there they were. In black tie, of course. Those were working pigs, promoting WhistlePig Whiskey.

Before diving into the cocktails, food and milling thousands, I had the privilege of seeing Crook’s Corner in Chapel Hill, N.C. honored as an American Classic – and viewing chef Bill Smith resplendent in an Alexander Julian tux with Carolina Blue jacket lining. (A surprise gift from Julian, who also designed the Tar Heels’ basketball uniforms.) That was appropriate, since comedian and Cooking Channel show host Mo Rocca said Crook’s was a place where UNC and Duke fans can come together. Rocca obviously hasn’t spent much time here during basketball season – I fear that not even Smith’s wonderful shrimp and grits or honeysuckle sorbet could accomplish a detente. In a classy touch, Smith thanked his Hispanic cooks in Spanish.

North Carolina really brought the class to the awards, with Andrea Reusing, chef of Lantern in Chapel Hill, going home with Best Chef: Southeast honors.

But what y’all want to know is what I ate, right? One standout for me was from Rachel Yang of Joule in Seattle: A combination of buttery smoked walu (also known as escolar) with a fennel and bean paste. A simple combination that showed how the good stuff works together was thinly sliced Spanish ham topped with American caviar from Jose Andres of Washington, D.C. Andy Ricker, chef of Pok Pok in Portland, Ore., fresh off his Best Chef: Northwest win, was sending out cubes of rice cakes in pumpkin and melon flavors. And perhaps because of the excesses around me, salmon sushi from Sushi Zen of New York hit a soothing spot as I was on my way to cocktails.

I am always surprised at how many random people have connections to North Carolina. I met bartenders serving powerful vodka martinis, PR folks smiling and handing out business cards, restaurateurs – all with some connection to the Tar Heel State.

If you want all the awards, visit here.

Food news roundup

Have you wondered, as I have, if Kate and William received enough Corning Ware as wedding gifts? No matter who got married or where, my mother always gave Corning Ware. She surely would’ve put a set in the the mail to the royals, were she still around. If Corning Ware isn’t your go-to give for those setting up households – it’s wedding and graduation season – The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.) has excellent suggestions here. It’s also in the Charlotte (N.C.) Observer. I’d add one bit to the list: Parents, friends and others with good recipes could compile them in a book for the grad or groom (or bride, if you must be conventional). I did such a book for some friends – just plastic-sleeved pages in a ring binder, nothing fancy in the presentation – and they really appreciated it.

After visiting Midtown Olive Press in Raleigh, N.C., every person I talked to said the same thing: How can a store that sells nothing but olive oil and balsamic vinegar possibly stay in business? Find out in the Independent Weekly (Durham, N.C.) here.

Those who seek flavor seek the rooster – the poultry-adorned bottle of red Sriracha. The Winston-Salem (N.C.) Journal has an article on a new cookbook using it here.


Muffins and scones and biscotti – oh my

Your virtual sweet tooth can be satisfied in reality this Saturday, May 14, at the Triangle Food Blogger Bake Sale. (Note that the time is now 10 a.m. to noon, to pick up that Durham Farmers Market crowd.) It’s at Vega Metals, 214 Hunt Street in Durham.

A bunch of baking bloggers bearing baked goods will be there, including moi. Look for me with my Bananaville Muffins. Also there will be Nancie McDermott, Johanna Kramer and at least a dozen others. All the money raised goes to Share Our Strength to fight childhood hunger. For more information visit here.

Food news roundup

Memories of Mama’s cooking are all over The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.) here, in anticipation of Mother’s Day this Sunday. There are great photos, too, provided by readers who submitted brief essays on things their mothers cooked. The sad part is that, in many cases, the exact recipes are lost because they were never written down. This Sunday, make Mom write down those recipes. Or do it yourself. Even if you have to stand in the kitchen with measuring spoons and grab her hand as she tosses in a smidgen or dab or something. Get the recipes on paper before they’re gone. The article is in the Charlotte (N.C.) Observer, too, along with Kathleen Purvis’ ever-witty musings on the Home for Unwanted Recipes, here.

Strawberries: They aren’t just for topping your cereal or shortcake anymore. The Winston-Salem (N.C.) Journal here writes about expanding the sprites of spring to savory dishes.

I didn’t celebrate finishing my college exams with a Swiss and Ham Quiche with Caramelized Onions, unless they served it at Trolls with the pitcher of beer my friend Marion and I ordered while watching “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” on a tiny TV above the bar. But, then, I’m not NestMeg.

Can you have a Cinco de Mayo party without limes? I think not, and the Post and Courier (Charleston, S.C.) agrees. Read their thoughts here.

Madras Goat Curry is on the menu at GreenEats, which includes info on where to get your goat.

Bird and bacon burgers

I saw a fast-food establishment’s commercial raising a flap over its new, and so-called healthy, turkey burger. I have never eaten a turkey or chicken burger that tasted better than overcooked yard mulch, no matter whether it was one I made myself or purchased. Then I noted the latest trend in beef burgers: Instead of putting bacon on top of the patty, it’s worked into the meat. Sean Brock at Husk in Charleston, S.C. has a biggie here.

Bacon makes everything better, so maybe it could redeem bird burgers. I ground about three pounds of boneless chicken thighs with three slices of smoky bacon (a strip per pound sounded right), three cloves of garlic and half a Vidalia onion. I intended to use the grinder attachment to my mixer, but the mixer died (anyone know where I can get a KitchenAid repaired?). The food processor made an adequate substitute. I chilled the mixture for at least an hour., then shaped it into patties.

Unless your grill grate is nonstick, oil it first or brush the patties with olive oil. When flipped the patties, I brushed the cooked sides with a sweet-smoky barbecue sauce. To serve, I brushed the bottom of toasted buns with the same barbecue sauce and topped the patties with Romaine lettuce (just picked, delivered by a neighbor) and a little mayo.

They were probably the best bird bird burgers I’ve had, although upping the bacon wouldn’t hurt one little bit. It never does.