What's Cooking in Carolina?

Mainly creative menus and recipes (usually healthy) and always from scratch with tips for party planning, theme parties, weddings and decorating tips so you can give swank parties or dinners to delight your guests from a part time caterer, owner/operator of a coming soon Entree Vous, but mainly a cook and eater who grows much of her own food and loves to laugh.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Canning, Freezing and Peter Piper

Canning and Freezing

I finally got into the swing of summer, which for me is not vacationing but canning and freezing. My somewhat hectic schedule had me behind, but so was the garden and with the drought, meant not as much as it could have been. It was (yes, was) our best year yet for cantaloupe. There's a few left in the frig, but no more coming. Also a great year for pink eyed purple hulls. More than 2 gallons dried. Over the last week, I have canned tomatoes, salsa and pickled banana peppers with onions. Right now in the oven is concentrated gumbo solution (okra, bell peppers, onions, garlic, peppers) cooking down for freezing for gumbo during the chilly winter months. I thought you might enjoy the recipe for pickled banana peppers. I thought I posted it before, but checked and I only posted a promise to post. They are great to eat with greens or on sandwiches.

Pickled Banana Peppers

20-30 large banana peppers, stemmed, seeded and sliced
2-3 large sweet onions, peeled, halved, thinly sliced
6 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole
1/4 cup salt
ice & water
2 cups sugar
1 t turmeric
1 t celery seed
1 T mustard seed
3/4 c white vinegar
3/4 c apple cider vinegar

In a large bowl, combine banana pepper slices, onions, garlic, salt; cover with ice and let stand several hours. Drain off the liquid and remove garlic. Combine sugar, spices and vinegar in a large pot and just bring to a boil. Add the banana peppers and onion slices and simmer about 5 minutes. Pack into clean, sterilized jars, first peppers and onions and covering with liquid, leaving 1/4-1/2" headroom. Put on lids, process in hot water bath (212) for 10 minutes.

1.) I like to use banana peppers after they start to color, to make it prettier.
2.) You can put the garlic into the jars.
3.) I use this recipe for pickled onions, pickled jalapeños and bread and butter pickles.
4.) There is always to much liquid. Save it for the next batch.
5.) Most of the time, I do the amount of onions that looks right in the mixture.

I hope you'll try it! For more recipes, check out the website!


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Saturday, August 18, 2007

Gardens and Drought and Okra

The garden is really coming in now so lots of meals are veggies. The big issue is the drought. We had 1/3" rain yesterday and it was the first rain in almost 50 days. It is incredibly dry; so much so that we are starting to turn off the watering to parts of the garden and vineyard seedlings out of concern for the well!

Earlier in the week, we were running errands and were in the vicinity of Whole Foods and dropped in. There were a numbers of tastings going on. One was compound butters and they were tasting in on rainbow trout. Boy, was it good (the trout) so I bought some. It was farm raised in western, NC and was just delicious. So I came home and cooked it up. With fresh veggies, of course. Corn on the Cob, Oven Fried Okra.
Oven Fried Okra reminds us of pop corn. And it is so much better for you than frying it. It's easy too. Just beat up a couple of eggs, cut your okra into 1/2" rounds into the eggs. Coat well. Put into yellow cornmeal and coat well. Move onto a parchment lined sheetpan (for easy clean-up) and pop into a 400 degree oven. Shake a few times during cooking. Take out when lightly browned and add salt and pepper! Yum!

We've had pasta with pesto, eggplant parmesan, chicken cacciatore, pork chops with okra, onions, tomatoes and corn, and roasted tomato basil soup!

We grow these peas under our corn to keep the weeds in check, the way the Indians used to. They are good for the soil. Last year I didn't even harvest them because I had plenty in the freezer. I ran out so we have been harvesting them like crazy. We wait until they are almost totally dried on the vine (easy in a year when there is no rain). They look like black eye peas but is what is grown locally, called pink eye purple hulls for obvious reasons. We love them!

I am trying to get this complete for Weekend Herb Blogging hosted this week by famous bread-baker Zorra from Kochtopf. I've been too busy to submit or read it!! Be sure you stop by and check it out. I wish we could have a rainy day so I could find the time to catch up!! An okra recipe that is delicious and healthy should add to the array of dishes that get submitted. I can eat okra almost any way. Doesn't that okra, corn and tomato recipe look great!

Sorry for the slow posting rate. As you can see we've been eating well and cooking and canning in addition to working on getting Entrée Vous under construction, ordering, planning, marketing, etc. I'll give an update soon! My newsletter is about to come out! Did I mention we've had more back to back days more than 100 degrees since I can remember?

Be back soon! Check out the website for other great recipes!

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Sunday, August 05, 2007

Entrée Vous Update and Fresh Summer Salads

I've been very busy, not only gardening, working on what I need for Entrée Vous, but I had a luncheon early in the week for 7 and a luncheon for 85 yesterday. What makes it nice this time of the year is the availability of the garden.

The smaller luncheon we had roasted vegetables on fresh ciabatta bread from a local bakery, roasted tomato basil soup, Caprese Salad and cantaloupe, grapes and cucumbers from the garden.

The earlier luncheon was the owners of all of the Entrée Vous in progress in central NC (Morrisville, North Raleigh (2), Durham near Chapel Hill (ME!!), High Point and Greensboro. If you live in the area, watch for their opening in the next month or so.) The bigger luncheon yesterday was our local Orchid Societies Growers Day. I told people about all of the Entrée Vous' moving into the Triangle, so it was some great early advertising. As far as the status of my kitchen, we start construction this week!

The menu yesterday was below:

Curried Chicken Salad with Pecans and Grapes

Tuna Salad with Black Olive Tapenade

Yukon Gold Potato Salad with Prosciutto & Truffle Oil

Pasta Salad with Olives, Cherry Tomatoes, Cucumbers and Herbs
Broccoli Salad with Dried Berries and Peanuts
Pink Eyed Purple Hull (like black eyed peas) Salad with Peppers and Onions

Caprese Salad
Tea (sweet and unsweetened)

What came from the garden: the grapes in the chicken salad, the cherry tomatoes, cucumbers and herbs in the Pasta Salad, the pink eyed purple hulls, peppers and herbs in that salad, the tomatoes, cantaloupe and grapes. And anyone coming to my Entrée Vous will have the opportunity to get in season fruits and vegetables from my garden!

The Entrée Vous in Durham is 7 weeks from opening!

Everyone loved lunch! How could they not with so many fresh vegetables! The first thing to go was the Chicken Salad but the thing everyone really notices are the grapes: Grapes with Flavor, imagine that!

And a chance to pitch Entrée Vous to 85 people! It was worth the work!

I'll try to post a few of the recipes in a day or so, in the meantime, check the website. Let me know what you think or want to see (or taste!)

Cheers! Hope to see you in the kitchen soon!

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