Shelling out

When I wrote my first cookbook, “Deviled Eggs: 50 Recipes from Simple to Sassy,” I found out some things. That deviled eggs are beloved across this great nation was not a surprise. What was surprising was the level of hostility expressed for a simple part of the process that ends in the plate of creamy loveliness.

People hate eggshells.

I cooked about 350 eggs while testing recipes for the book, and I don’t wake up screaming, imagining that I’m drowning in bits of crushed white stuff. Take them off and move on, I say, like bad shoes.

But I must be better adjusted than many cooks. When the book came out, a friend gave me a contraption that was supposed to hold the egg while it cooked and make the shell come off easier. Other people swore to me that sticking a pin in the end of the shell before cooking makes the peel come off like a buffed soap star’s shirt.

I did not understand the shell obsession until today. Today a friend sent me this link to the Eggie. The Eggie is a Christmas ornament-shaped plastic, two-part container. You crack the whole egg into the container, which takes the place of the shell. Then, sit the containers in water and cook the eggs.

They found some mighty unhappy egg peelers for the accompanying video. They look more like they’re scooping dog poop than cooking, and practically break down in tears over the shells. They’re probably tired, since the narration stresses that it’s taking them all day to peel the eggs. I never thought about that. Now, my eyes are open. I think of all the ways I could have more profitably spent the enormous amount of time that peeling eggshells has consumed in my life – making quiche, watching “Chicken Run”… Wow.  And with the Eggie, I could also enjoy the challenge of finding storage for all these little covered cups and searching for the lids, and the use of energy and water to wash them.

How could I have been such a fool? Arise, egg peelers. You have nothing to lose but your shells.

Food news roundup

What’s next for Scott Howell of Nana’s in Durham? Find out in Andrea Weigl’s Mouthful blog for The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.), here.

Kathleen Purvis at the Charlotte (N.C.) Observer writes about those who take the bounty of summer to those who need hunger relief. Read more here.

Cherry tomatoes stuffed with a pound of bacon. Sounds good to me. The recipe is in the Winston-Salem (N.C.) Journal, here.

The photo is a little scary, but Craig LeHoullier is not as crazy about tomatoes as he seems in it – not quite. Read more about Raleigh heirloom tomato guy in the Independent Weekly (Durham, N.C.) here.

Tomatoes are also the theme of a novice gardener’s first year of planting in VarmintBites. Man, they look good.

The juicy filling in the bun in the photo looks like barbecue, but it can’t be – since the post is all about vegan slow cooking. Tips and ideas worth trying if you are cutting back on animal products are at HealthySlowCooking.

Market restaurant in Raleigh is installing beehives on its roof, and is offering a movie and music tonight to raise awareness about bee loss and funds for the project. Read more in DurhamFoodie.

Tips for hosting your own wine tasting are at NatalieMaclean.


Cool eggs

The cool smoothness of deviled eggs….like jumping into a swimming pool on a hot day for your mouth. But you don’t get that chlorine smell.

Barely halfway through the summer, now, and I am done with the heat. Since it’s not done with me, I believe it’s time for some Greek Eggs from my cookbook “Deviled Eggs: 50 Recipes from Simple to Sassy” (Harvard Common Press).

Greek Eggs

6 hard-cooked eggs, peeled, cut in half and yolks mashed in a bowl

1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese

6 large Kalamata or ripe olives, pitted and chopped (about 1/4 cup)

1/4 cup mayonnaise

Salt and black pepper to taste

Lemon slivers, olive slices or fresh oregano sprigs for garnish

1. Combine the thoroughly mashed yolks wtih the feta, olives and mayonnaise. Taste, then season with salt and pepper.

2. Fill the whites evenly with the mixture and garnish each egg half with a lemon sliver, olive slice or sprig of oregano.

Makes 12

No canning pun here

The one drawback to the craze for canning homemade goodies is the overuse of every hoary “can” pun in existence. You will see none here. Hope you don’t find that too jarring.

But you should gather your goodies and attend the first-ever Triangle Food Blogger Canning Swap on July 31, 3 p.m. at Fullsteam Brewery in Durham, N.C. (I fervently hope it’s in the air-conditioned part.) It’s easy. Bring up to five jars of your home-canned jam, jelly, pickles, salsa, sauce, chutney, etc. Names will be drawn from a hat, and you’ll get to swap jar for jar that you bring.

The swap is the brainchild of Matt Lardie of Green Eats Blog. Contact him by tomorrow, June 25, to sign up.

Food News Roundup

My idea of camping is staying in a B&B with no TV, but others do not share my view. The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.) has stories of people who do more than open bags of ramen noodles and trail mix at the campsite. I believe that beef brisket would taste just as good on my grill, mere steps from the air-conditioned comfort of my living room. But you decide here.

The nest is emptying at Kathleen Purvis’ house. Read her wonderful thoughts at the Charlotte (N.C.) Observer, here.

A quest for great-tasting tomatoes is underway at the Post and Courier (Charleston, S.C.) here. But do today’s tomatoes ever taste as good as the tomatoes of memory?

“Support your local shrimper” urges the Independent Weekly (Durham, N.C.) as it examines the shrimp industry in North Carolina and overseas. Read more here.

A matzoh ball taste-off went on at a Seattle restaurant. Find out the results in the Seattle Weekly, here.

Some friends of mine once approached the Food Network with a show, and were rejected like day-old sushi. Among other things, they were told they were too good at cooking and it would intimidate people. After a Florida chef’s idea got the boot, he decided to produce a show himself. Read more about “Yo, Cuz: The Italian-American Kitchen” at JanNorris.

How a li’l Yankee gal learned to love banana pudding is in NestMeg. Now, if we can get her to embrace grits.

And, because it’s summer….the Weinermobile! In Eatocracy.


Beer Run: Starrlight Meadery

Aristotle discussed it and Danish warriors in “Beowulf” quaffed it, but is mead beer or wine? At Starrlight Meadery in Pittsboro, N.C., it’s considered wine, although during the thousands of years that mead has been produced the definition has gone both ways.

The Hub and I learned in our tour of Starrlight that mead is made from honey, water and yeast (in this case, a winemakers’ yeast). All the honey comes from North Carolina sources, and the meadery needs a lot of it: It takes 60 pounds of honey to produce one 265-gallon tank of mead. The mixture ferments for two to four months, depending on the sweetness desired in the final product. The resulting mead has similar alcohol content to wine, 12 to 13 percent, and should be handled and stored like wine.

The honey used gives distinctive qualities to the mead produced because the flavor of honey varies depending on what flowers the bees visit and the time of year. Blending the honeys is an art. Starrlight’s flavored meads use concentrates ordered commercially.

We were not sure we’d like any of the seven meads Starrlight makes. Mead is made from honey, after all, and we are not fans of sweet wine. We were surprised. They are not syrupy sweet. Now, if your favorite wine is a big dry Cab, don’t bother. But if you’re open to softer wines, mead offers something different. We tasted (for $5 and you get to keep the glass) Traditional Mead – Off Dry, Off-Dry Blackberry Mead, Traditional Mead – Semi-sweet, Semi-sweet Blackberry Mead, Spiced Apple Mead and Meadjitos, a semi-sweet mead flavored with mint and lime. The traditional meads were our least favorites. Although they had wonderful aromas, like a field of flowers, the bitter edge that honey has came through, to me. The Off-Dry Blackberry is designed to resemble a red wine and smelled like a sherry. The Semi-sweet Blackberry was thicker, like a port, and it could be served in similar situations. Two of our favorites were the apple and Meadjitos. The apple would be great warmed as a mulled wine or combined with hot cider, or cooked into a sauce. I could see the Meadjitos, created to taste like mojitos, over ice on a hot day or mixed with cold seltzer. The meadery was out of the Sweet Peach when we visited; we were told it has been a favorite.

More about the meadery is here. Tours and tastings are offered each weekend, and the shop has medieval-style tankards for quaffing at home, if you are low on dragon-decorated chalices.

Daydreamin’ and still thinkin’ of PC

I still can’t get pimento cheese off my mind after this article. People will try to fuss with pimento cheese, but the beauty of it is in its simplicity. I found a recipe in a Charleston, S.C. Junior League cookbook that even included Grand Marnier. I know Charlestonians like their toddies, but liqueur has no place in PC. I had to just lie down for a while after reading that.

However, using classic pimento cheese in a myriad of ways is perfectly acceptable. On top of a burger, sublime. I remembered eating this sort of pimento cheese fritter at a Southern Foodways Alliance event, and the recipe is in “The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook.” I haven’t tried to cook this, but I imagine it is tricky to make. But having eaten the finished product, it would be worth it. Having experience at frying cheese sticks might help, or perhaps yelling “Opa!” Of course, you could save a step by purchasing good (I mean GOOD, not that orange goo that tastes like caulking) PC instead of making it, but this is bound to be some good pimento cheese.

Pimento Cheese Hush Puppies from John Currence

Makes about 2 dozen

Pimento Cheese:

6 ounces extra sharp Cheddar cheese, grated (1 1/2 cups)

4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

1/3 cup chopped bread-and-butter pickles

3 tablespoons pickle juice

1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon hot sauce

1/4 cup drained and chopped pimentos

1/4 cup homemade mayonnaise

Salt and fresh cracked pepper

Seasoned flour:

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspon ground cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Egg wash:

2 large eggs

1/4 cup whole milk

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon hot sauce

Seasoned crumbs:

3 cups panko bread crumbs or seasoned cornmeal

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Melted lard or peanut oil for frying

To make the pimento cheese: Mix the Cheddar cheese, creams cheese, pickles, pickle juice, cayenne, hot sauce, pimentos and mayonnaise, as well as salt and pepper to taste, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Cover and refrigerate until firm and well chilled. Mold the chilled pimento cheese into scant 1/2-ounce balls that are about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Refrigerate until well chilled.

To make the seasoned flour: Sift together the flour, onion powder, garlic powder, cayenne, paprika, cumin, salt and pepper into a bowl and set aside.

To make the egg wash: whisk together the eggs, milk, salt, pepper and hot sauce in a bowl and set aside.

To make the seasoned crumbs: Whisk together the panko, salt and pepper in a bowl and set aside. If you use the seasoned cornmeal instead of the panko, the final product will be more like a traditional hush puppy.

To form and cook the hush puppies: Dredge the pimento cheese balls by coating them in the seasoned flour, then the egg wash, then the seasoned crumbs. There must be no bare spots. Fry at once, or cover and refrigerate for up to several hours. The pimento cheese must stay cold and firm.

Pour melted lard or peanut oil into a deep, heavy skillet or Dutch oven to a depth of at least 3 inches. Heat the oil to 325 degrees. Carefully lower the hush puppies into the hot fat. They must be submerged. Don’t move them or poke at them; otherwise, they will spring a leak and all the pimento cheese will ooze out, ruining both the hush puppies and the oil. Transfer with a slotted spoon to drain on paper towels. Important: Let the hush puppies cool for several minutes before eating or you will end up at the hospital needing a skin graft in your mouth. And we all know where they get that skin for grafting.

Young farmers grow

If you’re rushing down Tryon Road, busy with Saturday errands, you might miss the little sign at the corner of Tryon and Dover Farm Road (near the intersection with Avent Ferry Road). It notes the presence of the farm for the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle’s Young Farmer Training Program and its farm stand. I’d whizzed by it a number of times, always planning to stop in. I finally did.

Teens in the program learn about farming from the dirt to the business plan. More about it is here. A Food Shuttle spokesperson said that they are considering adding a CSA in the future.

Teens who grow the vegetables on land right across the road sell them on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. A lively clump of young farmers had their tunes turned up when I got there, but wanted to tell me plenty about their wares. On this day, they had swiss chard, melons, baby turnips and several varieties of tomatoes, among other things, all picked that morning. There were also grow-your-own oyster mushrooms: A bag of growing medium inoculated with mushroom spores. I was curious, but it would have turned into a cat-attracting object at my house, because the teen farmers told me you keep it indoors.

I don’t think a lot of people are aware of this fresh little market. It’s always fun to buy good food from enthusiastic people. The market will operate through Oct. 15.

Food News Roundup

Ah, pimento cheese. I can say I knew you when, before the gourmets got their hands on you. So can Kathleen Purvis in her witty and fitting piece in the Charlotte (N.C.) Observer here. She also firmly roots it as Southern, which I’ve always known in my PC-eating bones but a historian now confirms it. Growing up in Winston-Salem, N.C., it was our family’s peanut butter – we always had it around. My mother, who loved anything that was frozen or came from a box, actually made it from scratch occasionally, which shows its hallowed place. It’s also in The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.) here.

The Attack of the Squash Creatures has begun. The CSA I belong to just says “take all you want.” The Winston-Salem (N.C.) Journal has recipes for squash pancakes and secrets to getting the very moist vegetable to hold together. It’s here. (Ignore the rather unappealing photographs.)

Cucumbers are another invader, and I’m seeing plenty of those, too. But, Cucumber Bread? The Salisbury (N.C.) Post has the story and a recipe, which the writer says she has tried out, here.

If you’re headed for Asheville, N.C. this coming weekend, you can combine tasting microbrews with an outdoor movie. To celebrate its third anniversary, Wedge Brewing will sponsor a showing of the moonshine-running classic “Thunder Road.” The details are in the Asheville Citizen-Times, here.

I’ve never been sure what’s in butterbeer, but a Kansas City woman would know. The Kansas City Star has an article on her ultimate Harry Potter parties with tips on throwing you own. It’s all here. The final Potter movie debuts Friday.

The Portland Oregonian talks about how chefs are getting into canning and preserving, making their own condiments and pickles. It’s here. (But, please, can we can the “can-do” headlines on every canning article?)

Shucking in the kitchen

corn & pepper saute

In thanks for a favor that I was more than glad to do, a neighbor left a dozen ears of corn on my doorstep. What to do, what to do…. I didn’t have time to start freezing it, and I’m trying to keep the freezer light – we’re having work done on the house and it might have to be unplugged at some point.

The fresh flavor of boiled ears is fine, but I was in the mood for something different. I saw a fabulous display of peppers at the State Farmers Market, and decided to put the two together in a quick saute.

I purchased some sweet Italian peppers and some hot cayennes. At home, I took the kernels off four ears of corn. I chopped up half of one cayenne and about three-quarters of the Italian pepper (both were large peppers). I tossed it all together with a little salt and pepper and a chopped clove of garlic. I added some salt and pepper and, at the last minute, some dried aleppo pepper – I love its mildly spicy, slightly smoky flavor.

After a few tablespoons of olive oil heated in a large saute pan, I tossed it all in. Stirred and fried for a few minutes, until the peppers turned color and the corn liquid was mostly gone. I chopped up five or six leaves of fresh basil from the backyard, removed the corn from the heat and stirred it in. The basil fragrance was just the touch the dish needed.

I served the dish at closer to room temperature than piping hot, and it was just as good. And not bad reheated the next day, either.