Cookbooks

Do you collect cookbooks? I certainly do and read them just like detective mysteries! It is not just the recipes; it is the cooking hints, author’s experience, the cooking lore and the historical context of the publication. Many times, I stop by yard sales, thrift stores and book sales at local libraries. Other times I shop cookbook magazines or bookstores. My best finds are those that often come to me through friends and fellow foodies. I have recently acquired several cookbooks and would like to introduce you to these authors.lost-art-of-pies-cover-128x200

 

I just received an email about a new cookbook that includes the Western North Carolina Farmers Market.  The cookbook is by (www.southernliving.com/) Southern Living and is entitled “Farmers Market Cookbook: Harvesting a Fresh Look at Local Flavor” (available March 16, 2010) It is all about local fresh ingredients available at farmers markets throughout the south. We are very fortunate here in Asheville to have a great selection of winter markets, farm stores and natural food markets.

 

One book I recently purchased is (www. lenoresnatural.com/) “Sublime Soups, vegetarian soups and quick breads” by local author Lenore Baum. Lenore brought several copies to our last Slow Food “soup event” and donated a share of the proceeds to our education fund. We shared many great soups that night and the leftovers were packaged and donated to local homeless shelters. With all the snow and ice, this cookbook is one I am reading and cooking from this winter.

 

Was your power off in the last snowstorm? Did you wish for a wood cook stove? You need to know about the books available from Barbara Swell of () Native Ground Books and Music, here in Asheville. Barbara has researched and published ten cookbooks with recipes dating from the 18th century to the 1950’s. These wonderfully illustrated books tout the uniqueness of “Early American Cookery” or “The Lost Art of Pie Making” with tips for using wood cook stoves and old-fashioned recipes and folklore.

 

Whatever the season or reason, we have a wealth of great cooks, wonderful markets, dedicated farmers and many cookbooks by local authors. Head to your local bookstore or check out the mentioned websites and support this vibrant community!

Does Size Matter?

I had bought the first bottle of wine, a good red cab and had just shared it with a friend. When you go to a winery, you use their glasses and while I prefer a glass with a large bottom and smaller mouth, you have to accept their choice. It was a nice small stemmed glass withbottles their logo. I did not think it important as to how many glasses we each had, the wine was good and the conversation with a dear friend was great. The sun was going down, the bottle was empty much too soon, and not feeling like we wanted to leave just yet, we decided to try a different wine. I always enjoy reading the labels so when the bottle appeared on our table I read about the wine, the winery and of course those government warnings! I then commented about how tall the bottle seemed and how elegant it looked. Or did it?

 

Looking back at the label, I realized that the bottle was 500ml, not the standard 750 ml I was use to! What is this! It was then that I looked around and discovered that all the bottles at the other tables were the same size. I then looked at the prices for the wine – they were what I would expect for a standard bottle. What a shock! I have since noticed several wineries using the 500 ml bottles and while it might be a way for them to increase profitability (or get more bottles from a small production), I know I might tend to shy away from these wines, because one bottle should have been enough, and size does matter to me.

Taste of Spring

MountainFirePressKit(lr)_imSpring is in the air. Can you taste it? It really hit home when I started tilling a row or two of a small garden I share with a friend. Left over from the fall garden, I found quite a few spring onions that I had missed from last year’s harvest. They had multiplied in number for each one I had failed to pick. They were fresh green and pungent – like spring. I had also just harvested several beautiful heads of butter crunch lettuce from my greenhouse. The onions and lettuce, along with a few fresh radishes, and I had the makings of a fresh spring garden salad. But the dressing – what to do. Looking in the herb bed I spotted a renewed clump of fresh chives – of course a buttermilk chive dressing – one of my favorites! Yum – Dinner!

I’m lucky to live in the country and have many resources available locally. However I don’t always have the time or energy to do this every year. This year I am doing things a little different. I am buying a share of a CSA – a Community Supported Agriculture farm’s crop. That is right – along with 20 other families, I am buying a share of what a local farmer produces on his farm.

Each week starting in May, right on through October, I pick up a box of fresh, locally grown produce! Salad greens of all types, onions, radishes, edible pea pods, broccoli, and herbs in the early spring. In the summer months, fresh corn, cucumbers, tomatoes, chard, peppers and squash. Then in the fall, carrots, cabbage, pumpkins, onions, spinach and whatever else is still growing! This is a great deal of fresh local food for such a small investment.

A CSA is a way for a farmer to pre-sell his crop to a limited number of customers. The farmer gets the money for planting and harvesting up front and the customer is guaranteed an equal share of whatever is grown. This type of agriculture has been going on for years. In a good year, everyone receives the bounty and in a not-so-good year, the customer may receive less but the farmer is still able to pay farm expenses, taxes, mortgage, and “keep the farm” going for another year. I am buying a one-half CSA share this year to supplement my small garden, at a very reasonable price of $300. Six months or 20 weeks of farm fresh food for less than $15 a week.

We all need to invest in our local farms – and keep our farmers on the land, working for our community. Supermarkets are fine – but just imagine another “dust bowl” or major flooding out west and the impact on the price and selection of food. Imagine as fuel prices continue to increase – how that will affect the price of your food. Besides, we want to keep our hard-earned money in our community and support our neighbors and friends while preserving farmlands for both food production and recreation.

It is not too late to sign up for a CSA program. We have over 20 local farms offering CSA shares. Here is a link to help you find a local CSA (www.buyappalachian.org/filter/detail/csa) Remember, sign up today, and in May, you too will be saving the environment, supporting a local farm, and tasting the joyful bounty of spring.

 

Snout to Tail

Can you eat a whole animal? Certainly, you can eat most parts of a fish. Crispy fish skins, fish cheeks, crispy fin and tail, fish roe, and fish stew. How about most of the parts of a hog?

Braised Shoulder

Well, that is exactly what we did on one Sunday night at the Admiral Restaurant. The Admiral is a funky place that has garnered a well-deserved reputation for excellent food. I have spoken with many visiting chefs who come to Asheville, and when I ask them where they ate while in town, they will reply “At the Admiral.”

 

It was at this special wine dinner called “Snout to Tail” that folks had the opportunity to eat the whole hog. This was a brilliant offering by the Admiral Restaurant, Asheville Vintners, Haw River Wines and Hickory Nut Gap Farm. Jamie and Amy Ager from the Hickory Nut Gap Farm were on hand to witness the gusto with which their product was appreciated. Their hog was a 240-pound beauty that the chefs butchered and cured in the week prior to the dinner.

Carnitas

It was great to see old friends and new faces, and to make new friends. As you know, Asheville is such a small world! Turning to the person at the next table, I asked him where he was from and he replied Chicago. Then I asked, “Do you know Mark Lindsay?” and he replied, “Yes, he’s one of my dearest friends!” Mark lived in Asheville for several years and is now a wine distributor in Chicago. Of all the people in Chicago, I would run into one of his dear friends here in Asheville.

Corned Belly

The service staff was wonderful and kept our glasses anchored with fresh libations, prior to serving each course. Sitting down at the table, we were greeted with a bowl of freshly-fried pork skins called “Chicharrones.” These are not like the salty aberrations that you usually find in bags at the corner market. These were fresh, crunchy, and made a great entry into the meal. They were served with a Prosecco wine. If you have not enjoyed Italian Prosecco in place of champagne, you should give it a try this holiday season. This was quickly followed by a “Pork Foam drink,” almost like a bloody Mary without the blood or the Mary.

Pork and 64 degree egg

Even though the Admiral has such a small kitchen, it was amazing to see five or six people cooking with ease. They had quickly plated the first course for the crowd of 60 or so people. This course consisted of Toulouse Sausage, Head Cheese (yes, it is a pâté made from parts of the head), and garnishes of chopped fennel pickles, and mustard. The head sausage was like a country pâté and the sausages were very delicious.

Sausage

As we moved into the meal, we were served a Sancerre, a Pinot Nero, a Gewurztraminer, and finally a wine made from grapes that had been dried into raisins before making the wine, called a Corte Majoli Amarone della Valpolicella. The dishes served with these wines were Grilled Pork Loin, and Carnitas in a Pozole Sauce. All of these dishes were great but the next two dishes were really outstanding.

 

The Corned Belly was presented with an incredible Kraut, with Caraway Cream and Rye Bread Croutons. The Corned Belly was actually the lean meat from the stomach. That was followed by a Braised Shoulder, and Gnocch with San Marzano Tomato, Basil, and Pecorino cheese. I must say that of all the wines served, the Brunello di Montalcino was a truly fine wine and left me wanting more, even at the end of the meal.

 

Finally getting down to one of the Admiral’s trademarks, we were served a Chocolate Candy Bar with Candied Bacon, and a Bacon Crème Anglaise. The Admiral had presented this at the WNC Chefs Challenge and it was one of the highest scoring dishes. It thrilled everyone!

Candy Bar

At the end, a spontaneous cheer arose from the audience. Everyone raised their glasses and saluted the chefs and staff, who made this a most memorable evening. While we may not have consumed all of the parts of the pig, we certainly took a trip from the snout to the tail, and thoroughly enjoyed every bit of it!

 

So when you hear of a wine dinner, and particularly when it’s prepared by outstanding chefs using sustainable, local foods from unique WNC farms, check it out. I doubt you’ll be disappointed.

 

 

Admiral Restaurant (http://theadmiralnc.com

Vintners (www.appalachianvintner.com)

Haw River Wines (www.hawriverwineman.com)

Hickory Nut Gap Farm (www.hickorynutgapfarm.com)

Chicharrones (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chicharrones)

Prosecco wine (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prosecco)

Pork Foam (http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/9361682)

Carnitas (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carnitas)

Pozole Sauce (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pozol%C3%A9)

Gnocchi (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gnocchi)

San Marzano Tomato (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/San_Marzano_tomato)

Pecorino (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pecorino)

Brunello di Montalcino (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brunello_di_Montalcino)

What’s the Buzz About?

 

I find our Western North Carolina foodshed diversity exciting. It is not just the food, or the wine, or the distilleries, but all of these together.

Now we have local Honey Wine, also known as Mead. Honey, a gift from our bees, is unfortunately a dwindling natural resource and I’m just discovering how wonderful and diverse Honey Wines can be. Mead is one of the oldest fermented beverages in the world, and in Marshall we have a producer who is purchasing local honey (mostly from Woodfin) and producing a quality product that is available for sale in nearby stores.

I’ve been to Fox Hill Meadery and our host/owner, Jason Russ, was very generous with his expertise and his meads. This was a tasting arranged by the French Broad Vignerons to explore the process of making wine with honey. I drove to Marshall on a recent evening, crossed the island bridge, and then cautiously wandered on winding and twisting roads to find Fox Hill Meadery. For two years, I’ve been hoping to make just such a visit. They have a tasting room, but it is by appointment only. I’m impressed both by the size of their production (about 1,000 cases a year) and their dedication to their product.

We tasted six meads, light to dark, with different flavors and different attributes. Many of Jason’s meads are lightly oaked and aged for six months or longer prior to bottling. These meads may be stored for many years, to continue aging. All were most enjoyable, but let me try and tell you about what I tasted.

The first was a Blackberry Honey Wine available for $16. The dryness of the blackberries blended well with this mead. There are many meads that lend themselves to fruits. Following that we sampled a Ginger-Apricot Honey Wine, which was 12% alcohol. The aroma of ginger along with the full-body taste of ginger was breathtaking. Folks who love ginger will make sure to have this wine in their cellars.

Traditional Mead Honey Wine was golden in color, alcohol about 13% and, while sweet, not overpowering. The Apple Honey wine was a Semi-Sweet Traditional Mead with a spark of spices. It allowed the apple fruit flavor to come forth and I found it a bit drier than the Traditional Mead. To honor the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, we tasted a Spiced Mead bursting with the holiday flavors of cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Warm this up slightly and serve with any holiday dinner!

What really got my attention was the Special Reserve Mead. A 16% alcohol (that didn’t hurt!) made with buckwheat honey and aged the longest of his wines with oak. It was a beautiful dark amber color and, when opened, it had the smell of a fresh farmyard. I bought two bottles of this to enjoy and share on a cold winter day.

But wait, did I tell you this was a meeting of a wine-making group? Someone also brought a Serviceberry wine, almost like cherry without the cherry flavor. It will make a great dessert wine and these berries are free for the picking, as they are plentiful in our mountains. Someone also brought a Petit Verdot. Although young at only two months, it should finish at six months as dry and full of flavor. This grape has been found to produce well in the “new world” and make some surprising wines, especially if you enjoy tannins in your wine.

Fox Hill Meadery’s tasting room is open by appointment and their wines may be purchased there or at most wine stores in Asheville, Maggie B’s in Weaverville, and Good Stuff in Marshall. To make a tasting room appointment or to place orders, go to www.foxhillmead.com or call 828-683-3387.

What I found out this evening is that there are hundreds of different Meads out there waiting for us, and we have to look no further than our own back yard to experience some of the best. So, get a group together, call Fox Hill Meadery, and prepare to spend an enjoyable time learning about meads and enjoying the sweet “Taste of WNC.”

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mead

http://jeweloftheblueridge.com/JeweloftheBlueRidgeVineyard.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amelanchier

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Petit_Verdot

http://www.foxhillmead.com/

http://goodstuffgrocery.com/

Chill Out: A guide to making the ultimate seasonal treat

Do you remember the expression “to make hay while the sun shines?” Well, with all this recent snow, I’m reminded of my youth and making Snow Cream whenever the clouds allowed. As I grew up, we were warned to only use the snow for snowmen and snowflAKEsnowballs due to the pollution and nuclear tests effecting the atmosphere. But recently, with back-to-back snows and large accumulations, I think it is time to eat snow again! Here’s how to do it.

I prefer a fluffy dry snow to the wet heavy snow (too many ice crystals) but any snow will do. Be sure to scoop the snow from a safe place, like the top of your car or from a clean trusted surface. Ask yourself, “If I dropped a piece of toast on this thing, would I still pick it up and eat it?”

Take a large mixing bowl and place in it 2 or more cups of either milk, half-an-half, whipping cream or a mixture of any of these. Then add sugar, and stir until the sugar is totally dissolved and tastes just as sweet as you like it. Add a pinch of salt and as much vanilla extract as it suites your taste buds. Here comes the fun part: add snow gradually while stirring until the right consistency (or it just feels like ice cream) has been reached. For those of you with a dairy allergy, think “snow cones” and use your favorite fruit juices to mix into the snow and serve.

Pass around bowls and spoons and sit by the fire and just chill out! With enough of the right ingredients I think we can eat our way right into spring.

What is a bunch?

 

The recipe called for a bunch of parsley. What exactly is a bunch? Did you know that until the 20th century most cookbooks did not list “standard” measurements such as cup, tablespoon or ounces! It seems that many of the “old” measurement terms still abound in our lexicon of cooking terminology.

I am consciously trying not to be swayed by measurements when cooking but to understand the relationship between the ingredients. Many of my recipes copied onto my note cards simply contain the suggested ingredients and notes about appropriate temperature and timing. For your see, the great cooks, those who invented the recipes are those who cook by feel and intuition – just as our great grandmothers did!

Let us think about the terms, pinch, dash, jigger and bunch. I always enjoy looking at my Food Lovers Companion (by Sharon Tyler Herbst) and consider it one of the best kitchen guides available.

They define a pinch as about 1/16 teaspoon or less. I bet that if you took a pinch of salt and measured it you would be very close. A dash usually refers to liquid measurements – a few drops – but we also talk about a dash of pepper or other seasoning. For me a dash is a little more than a pinch about 1/8 teaspoon. Now a jigger (or a pony) is about three tablespoons, about 1 1/2 ounce of a liquid. What you hope the bar tender is really putting into your mixed drink glass even though it does not look like it!

Finally, what is a bunch? A bunch is really, whatever you decide it is to be! You see, the taste of the food is up to you and you are responsible for the outcome. Let your intuition take over, taste the recipe in your mind, look at that parsley, cilantro, or spinach, and go for it. After all, you are the cook and the only way to learn about the interactions of ingredients is to take a jigger of confidence, a pinch of knowledge and a dash of inspiration as you prepare food for that next bunch of folks!

Taste of Our Carolina Foothills

It is Sunday and liquid sunshine is misting over the many canopies where eager foodies are gathered to enjoy the samples of pleasure at the Taste of Our Carolina Foothills wine and food festival20150927_140532

The location, Overmountain Vineyards in Tryon is a beautiful vineyard with terraces and special group seating for the nearly 400 people attending this event. The event is a fundraiser for the Our Carolina Foothills public relations campaign to create awareness about and promote tourism in Landrum, Tryon, Saluda and Columbus. [Read more…]

7th Asheville Wine & Food Festival

Our Festival brought together a vibrant culinary community, attracting 5000 attendees over the celebratory week!

 

August 28, 2015 – The seventh annual Asheville Wine & Food Festival, presented by sponsor Asheville Color Imaging, was held August 20-22 in downtown Asheville. The festival attracted 5,000 wine and food aficionados to three days of signature events: ELIXIR, NC’s largest distillery showcase and craft cocktail competition; SWEET, a feast of desserts, wines, and spirits; and the GRAND TASTING, featuring farm-to-table restaurants, artisan food producers, bakers, chocolatiers, craft brewers and distilleries, and winemakers who turned out to cook, pour, demonstrate, and serve their love to eager attendees. The festival, one of the largest indoor culinary festivals in the southeast, is a testament to the region’s growing food scene. [Read more…]

The Community’s Kitchen in Tryon NC

When a community of farmers, food producers, and volunteers get together it is usually to plan for a service or to celebrate the opening of a much needed service. On Sunday, July 12, Polk County’s first mission-driven Incubator and Teaching Kitchen “The Community’s Kitchen” opened in Tryon NC. Polk Community Kitchen1

This facility has been a long time coming with many farmers, educators, business organizations, civic and church groups partnering to “provide an accessible space for local entrepreneurs, farmers, community members and organizations to process high-quality food products in a diverse and collaborative learning environment and then offer them an on-site marketplace.”

Carol Lynn Jackson, the founding board leader for Slow Food Asheville Foothills Community and owner of Manna Cabanna Market had a vision of providing sustainable healthy food access by leveraging Polk’s County’s capacity within its thriving local food community.

Polk Community Room2In addition to a processing kitchen, the offer a community room that can be rented for educational events, civic meetings, music, and private events.

Many of the attendees at the kick-off event on Sunday, announced that they had signed up and pledged to eat totally local for a week each, writing about their experience, the farms that the food was purchased from, and the accessibility of local healthy food. Read about their experiences at (https://www.facebook.com/polkcountyfarms)

If you are in the Tryon area, stop by this facility at 835 N Trade St, Tryon NC 28782 and support their efforts. As an L3C organization they welcome investment from foundations, businesses, and individual investors who can receive a tax advantage.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. Quote by Margaret Mead

Polk Community Kitchen-drawing