When a goodie emergency occurs, roast

It’s two days before Christmas, and a neighbor just unexpectedly showed up with a plate of cookies. You want to maintain cul-de-sac cordiality by responding, but you gobbled up the last of your homemade gingerbread men last night during a gift-wrapping frenzy.

They won’t see this treat coming. I make these pecans constantly, and they’re a delightfully savory alternative to sugar-drenched holiday goodies. The recipe is from my cookbook “Fan Fare: A Playbook of Great Recipes for Tailgating or Watching the Game at Home,” because it’s great year round.

Rosemary Garlic Pecans

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

2 cups pecan halves

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Melt the butter in a small bowl in the microwave. Stir in the rosemary, garlic powder, salt and black pepper. Place the pecans in a large bowl, then pour the butter mixture over the pecans and toss to coat the nuts thoroughly. Spread the pecans in a single layer on a rimmed nonstick baking sheet. Bake for about 20 minutes, stirring 2 or 3 times, until crisp and fragrant but not dark. Cool completely on the baking sheet, then store in an airtight container. Can be made up to 1 week ahead.

A white chocolate Christmas?

I’ve said for years that white chocolate is not chocolate. Most of it tastes like a bowl of sugar with Crisco mixed in. No flavor at all.

But since I am exploring all things buttermilk, I picked up a bar of Olive and Sinclair’s Salt & Pepper Buttermilk White Chocolate. The artisan chocolate company is based in Nashville, Tenn., so a Southern ingredient like buttermilk was natural for them to use.

The tangy flavor of buttermilk does make this bar less sweet than the usual white chocolate, and the salt and pepper give an unusual bite. While it won’t replace the darkest of dark chocolate in my heart, this is a white chocolate bar for people who don’t like white chocolate but who have open minds.

Find more info on Olive & Sinclair here.

Where is local?

The always-interesting Eatocracy blog has a guest post from an Arkansas farmer that raises some questions that I’ve been thinking about for a while. His family has raised cattle for generations, but because the farm ships its cattle to other states for feeding to harvest weight, and because the beef sold nationally, he says some people might not consider him a local farmer.

The knee-jerk reaction is to say that a large farm like that is not a local farm. But the thoughtfully written post made me think.

I grew up across a two-lane blacktop from a black Angus cattle farm outside Winston-Salem. The family that ran it had done so for generations. The cattle were grazed and fed in the fields. In late summer each year, crowds of fancy cars would descend on the farm – once, a helicopter even landed in the field, which was big excitement in the neighborhood – and amplified sounds of auctioneers would drift in the wind. This was decades before “eat local,” so I doubt that the obviously wealthy men were taking the beef to farmers markets. Did that make this farm, which was rooted in our community and donated land for the church up the hill, not a local farm?

What is a local farmer? And what exactly does it mean to “eat local”? Sometimes I ask people what they think “local” means, and they have different mental definitions. Some define it as being grown or produced within 50 miles of their homes, others as from within the state, while others hover everywhere in between.

Because there is no definition for local food, when a restaurant menu says its chicken or salad greens are from a local farm, you really don’t know. Unless you know the chef.

The “eat local” movement is maturing, and the question of local isn’t as obvious as it seems. We need to continue discussing it, and not exclude anyone from the table.

For me, I have mixed views. For produce, I care about freshness and flavor – which means it should be grown as close to me as possible. Also, the farther away, the more chance for some contamination as it makes its way to me. As a farmer friend says, “know your farmer, know your food.” Another point: The more centralized food production is, the more chance for catastrophe through either natural or man-made disasters, which means more small farmers.

What’s local to you?