Category Archives: It’s All About the Food

Aside

Either Mother Nature has totally forgotten about us OR she is toying with us, preparing to blow us out with winter weather.  It reached 72 degrees here today and that’s warm even by southern standards.  It is JANUARY for goodness’ sake!

However, there is no reason to waste a weekend in my preferred temperature range, so my wreath-making friend Robin and I took off for the the Farmer’s Market yesterday afternoon.  This is a wonderful regional market and in the summertime, it is packed with farmers and shoppers.  Yesterday, there were only 5 or 6 vendors there, but a steady group of shoppers.  I came home with some locally grown apples, some red sweet potatoes that look like fingerlings and 2 heads of cabbage collards.collards 2

If you don’t prep and cook fresh collards, you need to know it’s a commitment!  I only buy them when I’m willing to give up the couple of hours it takes to clean them, cut them and then get them in the pot for about an hour.  That’s what I did this afternoon and we had them for dinner tonight with grilled steak.  YUM!

If you want to give them a try, I have 2 favorite recipes you could consider.  The quicker to prepare one is from Emeril ; the other is from the Neely’s (Food Network).

Emeril’s recipe (like how I refer to him as if we’re great friends?) calls for them to be cooked about 15 minutes or so, but I usually leave them on for 45 minutes.  That gives me time to have a glass of wine before dinner’s ready.  I also use balsamic vinegar instead of red wine vinegar.

If you need to know you’ll have lots of flavor besides the taste of the greens, try the Neely’s recipe – Boozy Braised Greens.  And if you just don’t like them, drink the bourbon and go out!

If you have a favorite greens recipe, share it.  I like to try new ones and my husband will eat anything.

Please send Mother Nature our way if she’s tormenting your section of the world right now.  Last winter’s mild weather turned into a “hot as the hinges of hell summer,” with sauna-like humidity and way too many snakes.  We need some cold weather and at least one snowfall would be lovely.

Making Hay While the Sun Shines

Ladle up!

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It has been a very chilly and damp day today in NC.  Nothing drives me to the kitchen like this kind of weather!  So tonight, I made one of our favorite soups for dinner:  White Bean and Kale.

The husband and I are both perfectly happy with a big bowl of hot, hearty soup and a slab of bread or stack of crackers as a meal.  This recipe is a fast fix while some of our other favorites are better suited for the crock pot.  And speaking of the crock pot, I think it’s pretty darn wonderful to walk in the door at the end of a long work day to the mouth-watering aroma of something that’s READY TO EAT now!

In addition to being easy, this soup gives us a vegetarian meal.  We try to do that every so often; it’s good for us.  So…ladle up and enjoy!

White Bean and Kale Soup                                                                                                               

1-3 cloves of garlic, minced  (choose whatever suits your taste)

1 cup of chopped onion

24 ounces of chicken broth or stock

2 cans (14.5 – 15 ounces each); can use Great Northern or Cannellini

4 cups of kale, torn in small pieces  (I use more with no problems)

Freshly ground pepper to taste

Saute garlic and onion in oil.  Add the broth/stock, beans and kale.  Bring to a boil and let simmer until kale is tender.  Add pepper and serve.

Bean and Kale Soup

Quick and Delicious

We end up with 1.5 bowls of soup each.  You could probably serve 4 if you added sandwiches, cheese toast or a salad.

I hope you’ll try it.  Let me know if you enjoy it!

Friendship and Food

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Sullivan's Island 2012

Marfe, Melanie, Amy, me and Carol

Every year I get together with four of my dearest friends from college for a long weekend of catching up.  Scattered from Chicago to Vermont, and Alexandria to North and South Carolina,  we’ve managed to carve out 4 days a year for over 25 years.  We descend on the Sullivan’s Island, SC home of one of our group in late spring.  Sunny but not-too-hot days are perfect for whatever we may want to do; this year it was kayaking and a palm tree painting adventure.  The warm, slow evenings are our favorite, because this is when we drink wine, talk a lot and cook together.

Historically a bunch of planner types (we have lightened up over time), we usually pick a theme for the food fest before we arrive.  However, this year we decided on a smorgasbord approach – bring a recipe or two you haven’t made and we’ll experiment on each other.  With enough variety on hand you can toss out the losers.  Drink enough wine and it all tastes good!

Dinner is served on the second floor piazza as darkness settles over the marsh.  Music, laughter and the noises of insect nightlife can go on for hours.  Old memories are summoned and new ones are made.  The still waters of long standing friendships get deeper.

One of our all time favorites was the coconut cake, delicious on a warm summer evening (or any time of year).  Invite someone over and enjoy!

Coconut Cake

3   12-ounce packages of frozen coconut

2 cups of sugar

2 cups of sour cream

Mix well and chill overnight.

1 box yellow butter cake mix (a bit better if you add about ½ tsp. almond flavoring to batter)

Bake the cake according to the directions in two 9” layer pans.  Split the layers.  Cover with icing made day before.  Gently wrap and put back in the frig for 3 days before cutting.

If you can’t wait 3 days, that’s ok!  Just give it a little more time in the frig so the icing really soaks in.

Sharing

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The act of sharing ranks right up there in my list of favorite things.  For the most part, you “win” no matter which end you’re on – the sharing end or the receiving end.  And it tends to spur more of the same.  When my neighbor shared an oversized zucchini with me recently, it resulted in some zucchini bread for both of us.

My dear friend was kind enough to allow me to share (read: unload) my concerns and frustrations with her at lunch last Friday.  Getting all of that stuff out of my head and heart truly lightened my load – a pretty wonderful gift.  And I’m more than willing to do this for someone else because I know how much it means.

Whether you are sharing a plant from your yard or a word of encouragement; whether you are sharing with a friend or doing a random act of kindness for a stranger; sharing can have some amazing results.

So today I’m going to share a simple recipe that someone shared with me.  It’s a new hot weather favorite side dish from Bon Appetit.  Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 1 15- to 15 1/2-ounce can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed, drained
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small garlic clove, pressed
  • 1/3 cup (packed) freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Coarse kosher salt

Preparation

Rinse and drain chickpeas.  Combine with chopped fresh basil, chopped Italian parsley, fresh lemon juice, extra-virgin olive oil, and pressed garlic clove in medium bowl. Add grated Parmesan cheese and toss gently to blend all ingredients thoroughly. Season chickpea salad to taste with coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cover and refrigerate. Serve salad chilled or at room temperature. Can be done ahead!

Roadside Harvest

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On my way to work this morning, I saw a car stopped by the side of the road.  A woman was walking towards a section of tall, scruffy weeds with a small plastic bucket in her hand.  I had to smile; I know exactly what she was doing.  My husband and I do the same thing.  She was stopping to pick wild blackberries.

Late June to early July is the time to be on alert for a roadside harvest.  I’ve seen folks on the side of an interstate highway, backsides of all sizes and shapes towards the traffic, focused on picking the sweet, dark berries.  You can find them in overgrown areas next to railroad tracks, woods around a business or, lucky me, in the neighborhood where I live.  I’ve been watching them grow for several weeks, making a pass by the different patches as I walk.

It helps to know what you are looking for and you have to pay attention to timing,because the birds may beat you to them.  Wild blackberries are usually smaller, but when they ripen, they are just as sweet.  Four cups is all you need for the blackberry cobbler recipe below, easily gathered in 2 16-ounce plastic cups.  It’s possible you’ll end up looking like you’ve been in a cat fight, but it’s worth the sacrifice.  Really, there is just nothing better than homemade blackberry cobbler.  Wash them gently, dry and freeze them and this winter when it’s cold and gray outside you can reclaim the taste of a sweet summer roadside harvest.

Easy Blackberry Cobbler

Preheat oven to 375.  Place 4 cups of blackberries in a lightly greased 8-inch square baking dish.  Sprinkle with 1 Tbsp. of lemon juice.  Stir together 1 large egg, 1 cup sugar, and 1 cup all-purpose flour in a medium bowl until the mixture resembles coarse meal.  Sprinkle over the fruit.  Drizzle 6 Tbsp. of melted butter over the topping.  Bake at 375 for 35 minutes or until lightly browned and bubbly.  Let stand 10 minutes.  Serve warm with whipped cream or ice cream if desired.  Makes 6 servings.

(Southern Living, July 2008)