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.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007


No, I am not crabby. For the most part, I rarely am crabby; however, I do love crab and I DO mean Blue crabs. I HAVE tried the others, and I still think the Blue Crabs are the best. Way better than any lobster I have ever eaten. I'll take crab any day of the week.

I love food. As I started typing to discuss our latest dinner, I started to write I love crab. Then I thought that I love Broccoli rabe and pasta and garlic. I love food, almost all of it. I love to cook. I love to entertain. I love to find new recipes. I love to try new food. I love to feed other people. I love to grow
my own food and buy local. How lucky am I?

Which leads me to crab. Growing up in Virginia with wonderful parents that have the most perfect garden in the world, was and is a blessing. We have been part of the slow food movement before there was a slow food movement. Although we lived in central Virginia, my father had the number one slip at the Lynhaven marina at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay until the day he retired. I was on a fishing boat before I could walk. Although he doesn't fish much anymore, he is still an avid hunter, and we get loads of venison, which we love. And the garden is beyond belief, after putting manure on it for close to 60 years. It sits on a bluff in perfect soil which dries so you can walk through it an hour after a driving rain. Yes, we have a garden, in clay soil and it will never be as weed free and rich as my parents.

What does this have to do with where I started? Well, it has to do with crab. I remember the first time I ever ate crab, after crabbing in the Rappanhanock River with chicken necks. I was appalled at the sound of them clawing for their life after being dropped in the steamer. But after the first taste, I have spent many years on tables outside, covered with newspaper picking out crabs, dipping them in butter. I could and would do it for hours, ending with a huge pile of crab mung in the middle of the table. Oh, are the wonderful; and now EXTREMELY pricey. I didn't even have any last year, maybe the first year ever. There is nothing like it. #1 jimmies! Yum. Needless to say, I was a crab snob and would have never, never bought pasteurized crab. Then I went to assist a chef at a party that was making crab cakes for 300 (or was it 500). We made a lot of crab cakes using the canned, pasteurized crab from Costco. I couldn't believe it. It had big pieces of crab and in at least 20 pounds of crab, I didn't see one piece of shell and everyone raved over the crab cakes. I was hooked; and trust me, it beats shelling all that crab, although I will never pass up the opportunity. If you've never had it, go to a crab house sometime and try it. Get someone to show you the technique and be prepared for a feast as well as little cuts all over your hands.

Back to crab. We made crab cakes with Costco crab and they were yummy. We had it with broccoli rabe and pasta. The crab cake recipe is on the website.

Broccoli Rabe and Pasta

4 slices pancetta, minced

1 T extra virgin olive oil

1 bunch broccoli rabe, coarsely chopped

6 cloves garlic, minced

2 T fresh thyme, minced

1 14 oz can low fat low sodium chicken stock

3/4 lb pasta (I like the shape and size of Campanelle to go with the broccoli)


salt and pepper to taste

Sauté pancetta in olive oil until very crisp. Remove. Add garlic to pan and sauté for about 1 minute. Add thyme. Stir. Add chicken stock and cook until it cooks down, about 5 minutes. Add broccoli rabe and cook until done, about 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper. Serve with pasta topped with pancetta and shaved parmesan. Serves 4 healthy servings.

Enjoy and until next time, Cheers!

Be sure to check out Entree Vous if there's one in your neighborhood!

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Friday, February 23, 2007

Corn Puddin'

We been warming up a bit with temperatures in the 60s. It feels like the warm streak it is and we have been cooking accordingly. Last night we had Asian inspired hoisin pork chops with sautéed red cabbage and vegetable dumplings with a Chinese style mustard sauce and a soy/sesame dip.

The previous night we had jerk chicken thighs with homegrown butter beans from the freezer and corn pudding. It's pronounced puddin' in the south.

(The food is on a glass plate on a cutting board, in case you're wonderin')

In fact, that reminds me of a funny story. As a up-and-comer in the corporate world (a number of years ago, before I up, came, went and landed here), I was ask to fill in for a few missing senior executives for an executive presentation skills course. I was the junior person there. The instructor started the course giving a topic and asked each person to stand in the center of the room, unaided by a podium, charts or anything in their hands and discuss topic for 5 minutes with no preparation. At the end of the session each person was evaluated. I was told that I had a very low voice for a female, which carried very well and I had a lot of energy; therefor I should consider becoming a professional speaker. However, there was one thing I needed to work on first. I pronounce(ed) all verbs ending in "ing" without the "g": e.g. walkin', talkin', cookin'. I worked it for a long time, unsuccessfully and decided, after many years through the executive ranks, that I would rather be cookin' than public speakin'. Soon, if you live around the Triangle in NC, we could be helping you and your family eat well through my new venture, with Entrée Vous. Go to the website and check it out and better yet, go try it, if there's one near you. Come back here for updates on where what's happening with the development of my kitchen.

The recipe for southern cornbread is on the website. The recipe for corn puddin' is below:

Spoon Bread

1/2 cup sweet corn kernels
1 1/4 cup buttermilk
2 eggs
2 T melted butter
1/2 cup self rising yellow corn meal
1/2 tea sugar
1 tea baking powder

Preheat oven to 350.

Put corn in the blender. Add buttermilk and blend enough break corn apart. Add remaining ingredients and blend. Add more milk, if needed to make the consistency not too thick. Pour into buttered non-stick loaf pan or individual soufflé dishes. Bake for 25 minutes (loaf) or 15 minutes (soufflé) until just set in the middle. Serve hot with butter.

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Anchiote or Annatto

For once I am going to post to weekend herb blogging early in the week so I don't have to think about it until Sunday night or Monday, because we could be traveling the rest of the week and I might not have time to get around to it.

This week I tried something for the first time: Anchiote or Annatto.

The inspiration came from The Mustards Cookbook, by Cindy Pawlcyn. We just tried the recipe for Achiote Chicken with Black Beans, Mango Salsa and Lime Crème fraiche.

It tastes as beautiful as it looks. One of the really good things about it is that you can do most of the work in advance. The night before, I pressure cooked the black beans and made the mango salsa. The next morning finished cooking the black beans while I was making breakfast, which only took an additional 15 minutes and while they were cooking put the chicken into marinade. So when dinner time came all I had to do was grill the chicken, heat the beans and mix together the lime crème fraiche which took all of 15 minutes or less.

Two comments:

1.) A pressure cooker is a life saver for cooking beans. I use mine every week for one thing or another. I consider it a "must have" kitchen item. I use them for canning to, but those pressure cookers are a lot bigger. Don't be afraid of them. They are safe and a real time saver.

2.) Where to find Achiote: Although we have one of the largest Latino markets in the country, a huge Compare Foods, it is on the far side of Durham, more than 30 minutes away and a place I have to go out of the way to get to. I was willing to do it, but went to the Food Lion in Hillsborough, the small town we live in and amazingly, they had two brands of Achioti. They didn't have the paste that was called for in the recipe, but it was simple to mix a little water in it and make my own paste. It really died the meat red. Had I known, we could have had it as a Valentine dish. It s definitely something I will use again.

3.) What the &#$&#*%)# is Achiote you ask? Don't worry, I wondered too!

Quoted from The Food Lovers Companion:
Achiote [ah-chee-OH-tay] The slightly musky-flavored seed of the annatto tree is available whole or ground in East Indian, Spanish and Latin markets. Buy whole seeds when they're a rusty red color. Brown seeds are old and flavorless. Achiote seed is also called annatto which, in its paste and powdered form, is used in the United States to color butter, margarine, cheese and smoked fish.

Who'd have thought? Live and learn.

Give it a try! I think you just might like it!

This is being submitted for this weeks Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted this week by Anna at Anna's Cool Finds. Be sure to go there Sunday night or Monday morning for the round-up and read what people like us are cooking around the globe!

Recipes: This entire recipe is too long for me to type in, so instead, I'll tell you what I did.

As stated above, I pressure cooked a lb of beans in about 4 cups water, at pressure for 20 minutes and let it come down to temperature without fast chilling. Without draining, I chilled them overnight. Make your favorite mango salsa. Refrigerate. Make sure it has roasted bell pepper, cilantro and lime. Cook onions, bell peppers, garlic and one Serrano chili until soft. Add black beans with the juice and zest of an orange and lime. Mix in cilantro, salt and pepper taste. For the chicken, I used a combination of skinned chicken breasts and thighs, bone in. I mixed about an ounce of achiote powder with water to make a paste and added it to the chicken in a zip-lock bag and massaged it in well. You could do it an hour before or 24 hours. I put them into marinade in the morning for cooking in the evening and boy, were they red. I grilled them on a preheated, oil grill pan for 2 minutes, turned 1/4 turn and grilled 2 minutes more; flipped and grilled 3 minutes on the other side, then put in a preheated 350 oven for about 5 minutes. As for the lime creme fraiche, add lime juice and zest to creme fraiche or sour cream or look on my website for a wonderful side of lime dressing. Voila!

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Saturday, February 17, 2007


This Weekend Herb Blogging is hosted this week by The Chocolate Lady: In Mol Araan. Be sure to check out her round-up late Sunday or early Monday where you will here about food from around the globe!

Leeks, according to The Food Lover's Companion, are native to the Mediterranean countries, and have been prized by gourmets for thousands of years (wow). Nero believed leeks would improve his singing voice and is said to have eaten prodigious amounts quantities to that end. (nothing, I'm afraid, could improve this singing voice). In the sixth century AD (wow, again), the Welsh made leeks their national symbol because they were convinced that the leeks they wore on their helmets to distinguish them from their enemies strengthened them and helped them win wars.

I just like them, like I like onions and garlic to which they are kin. I just mentioned that I have been braising leeks of late. Last night we had yet another new dish, this one from Joanne Weir's From Tapas to Meze. It is Savory Chicken Leek and Feta Pie with Mountain Herbs. Sounds wonderful, doesn't it? With a salad it sounds like a perfect dinner. I can tell you that it smells and tastes divine with parsley, dill and mint mixed with chicken, sautéed leeks, green onions, feta and Parmesan cheese. You could make it with phyllo as well.

The only other thing you really need to know about them is they always need to be cleaned. Lots of people like to cut them up and soak them in water to remove the grit between the leaves. I like to cut them length-wise and hold them under running water separating the outer leaves where most of the dirt hides.

Leek and Potato Soup is a well known favorite, vichyssoise, served cold but I like it hot; a good thing for a cold winter night.

Go to our website for Swank Recipes and until next time, Cheers! Stay warm.

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Friday, February 16, 2007

Garlic in Everything

Having received a local magazine that had recipes from local restaurants, I saw a recipe for garlic soup from Restaurant Starlu in Durham. I have eaten there and the food is quite good and the recipe was really different than the one I have made before and that is on the website. I (kind of) tried this new recipe and liked it very much too. If you haven't had garlic soup before, it is really very subtle and delicious; very much like French onion soup.

I used a lot more garlic than the original recipe called for and made several other revisions as well. I used a mess of garlic, already peeled, about a pound. I them in an oven proof container and added between 1/4 and 1/2 cup olive oil. I covered the container and baked them for about an hour at 325. Then I drained off the oil, reserving it to use to sauté croûtons to serve with the soup. Add about 4 cups chicken stock and simmer about 30 minutes until the garlic is really starting to fall apart. Puree with an immersion blender and season with salt and pepper. Top with halved grape tomatoes, sliced avocado, the croûtons and squeeze in a dash of lime. You're in for a treat.

We've been on a roll, actually. I haven't eaten rabbit in years, mainly because it isn't widely available but I saw a recipe in Michael Chiarello’s The Tra Vigne Cookbook for Braised Rabbit with Winter Root Vegetables (and garlic) and gave it a try with risotto and braised leeks. Yummy. Have you had braised leeks? They are very easy and a delicious side. The recipe is already on the website.

Then last night we tried the recipe for the salmon roulade from Mustards Grill Cookbook by Cindy Pawlcyn. Beautiful and really not difficult, just a bit time consuming. It is stuffed with parsley and (you guessed it) garlic. We served it with the Kalamata Olive, Orange and Celery Relish, roasted potatoes and green beans.

Eating well in Carolina!

Note: No Entree Vous update yet. I'm still working on finding the right place!


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Sunday, February 11, 2007

Chicken with Preserved Lemon and Olives

We've been on the road most of the week, but unlike most people who travel and eat out, I usually cook where ever I go. This week, I made meat balls for both spagetti and meatballs and Italian wedding soup. The recipe for the wedding soup is on the website at Swank Recipes.

For Weekend Herb Blogging this week hosted this week by the creator,
Kalyn at Kalyn's Kitchen, my ingredient is preserved lemons. I also have a recipe for that on the website. They are beautiful and easy to make and an indespensible addition to many Moroccan recipes. They have a silken texture and an indespensible flavor. If you haven't made them or used them before, you actually eat the skin and not the pulp.

My recipe this week is:

Chicken with Preserved Lemon and Olives

1 whole chicken, cut into pieces
1 onion
chopped 6 garlic cloves, smashed
1 tea cinnamon
salt and pepper
16 olives
1 1/2 whole preserved lemon, peeled and sliced

Cover the chicken with water and add onion, garlic, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Pressure cook for 30 minutes. (alternatively you can simmer, covered, for 1 1/2 hours). Cool and remove top of pressure cooker and continue cooking to reduce the liquid by about 1/3. Add olives and cook 15 minutes. Add lemon and serve with Cous Cous.

Serves 4-6.

Entrée Vous Update. I have been shopping for real estate and have narrowed it down and hope to make a decision this week. As soon as I know where it will be, you'll be the first to know.



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Sunday, February 04, 2007

Spicy Lentil Soup

We are having a real cold spell, so are back in soup mode. We made a wonderful lentil soup from the Mustard's cookbook, using turnips instead of beets, because that's what's in the garden and We didn't have to go to the store. The recipe uses a great combination of spices: black pepper, black mustard seeds, coriander seeds, and turmeric to make a beautifully colored soup using red lentils.

Spicy Lentil Soup

Mainly from Mustard's Grill by Cindy Pawlcyn but this is my modified version, as always. If you want the original, buy the cookbook. It is well worth it.

Spice Mix:
1 T black peppercorns
1 T black mustard seed
2 T coriander seeds
2 T ground turmeric

2 dried chipotle pepper
3 T extra virgin olive oil
8 cl garlic garlic, minced
1 c onions, minced
1 c carrots, minced
4 med turnips, minced
1 c dry white wine
8-10 c chicken stock
1/2 lb orange lentils
4 medium Yukon gold potatoes, minced
2 tea salt
2 T champagne vinegar
3 T cilantro minced

To make spice mix, combine peppercorns, mustard and coriander seeds in a dry skillet. Toast over medium high heat for 2-3 minutes, until seeds begin to pop. Let cool then grind in a spice grinder and mix with the turmeric. Use 1 T of mix for soup, reserving the remainder.

To make soup, preheat oven to 350. Place chilies on baking sheet and toast 2-3 minutes until fragrant. Transfer chilies to a bowl of warm water for 10-15 minutes, until soft. Heat oil in a large pot until hot, add garlic, onions and chilies and cook until soft, about 3 or 4 minutes. Add 1 T spice mix, carrots and turnips and cook about 5 minutes. Add wine, cook 1 minute, then add broth. Add lentils, potatoes and ginger. Cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes, adding more broth if it gets too thick. Season with salt and vinegar and serve with coriander.

We served it with whole wheat tortillas and it was great.

We are submitting it to Weekend Herb Blogging hosted this week by Ulrick at Küchenlatein. Please go check out her round up on Monday. They are always full of great food information.


Where have I been?

I haven't been hiding or cooking, much, it seems. We came back from the Caribbean and got sick and into our soup mode. Lots of activity going on with a transfer of duties with the Orchid Society and looking for real estate for Entree Vous. We headed up to Maryland in an attempt to help out my sister-in-law, who is recovering from major surgery when my father-in-law passed away suddenly and we changed course and moved in another direction. We spent most of the week in Norfolk. Yes, I did cook some but we primarily subsisted on the generosity of friends, to whom we are most thankful.

A quick tribute to Jesse, my father-in-law. He was 90 when he died and lively until the end. He was married to my mother-in-law, Hazel, his wife of 61 years. Born in North Carolina he lived most of his life in Norfolk. He was into cars and antique car restoration, painting and art collecting as well as building stuff, like tables and arbors. He recently sold a beautiful 1961 corvette that my husband learned to drive in. He still drove an Excalibur and loved the attention that it brought. He was very generous and funny. He loved to laugh as much as anyone I have ever known and I loved to call and tell him jokes.

A gourmet he wasn't. My husband commented that he never saw him eat anything green. I actually think he ate green beans and maybe butter beans, but that's about it. His favorite restaurant of all was Dumars originally a drive in where the girls would deliver your orders on roller skates. They still do a regular Friday or Saturday night thing where only antique cars are allowed into the parking lot.

He was a real meat and potatoes guy. He loved fast food (no smarty comments, please: he lived to be 90 and was still driving.) He loved McD's and Hardees: hamburgers, french fries, cinnamon rolls, and Carolina Barbeque and coke. The few times we ate at sit down restaurants, I think he always ordered steak and a baked potato.

He is already really missed.

If you're in Tidewater, go to Dumars and have a hamburger or Barbeque and a coke for Jesse.

I'm trying to think of a recipe he liked. Mashed potatoes. Cook potatoes until done. Drain. Add butter and buttermilk and mash until you get the desired texture. We like them thick and chunky. Add salt and pepper to taste. He liked pizza too. I'll publish that some other time.

Check out our recipes at Swank Recipes

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