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, February 07, 2008

Entrée Vous

Yes, we opened November 16th to the public after many delays which I am sure you do not want to hear about. We were the 42nd Entree Vous to open. I don't have pictures of the kitchen (had a break-in during the night several weeks ago and they took my petty cash and my digital camera). Business is slower than we'd like but growing. The challenging part is getting people in for the first time. Unless you come in, you don't get it. It IS a meal assembly kitchen AND fresh Take&Bake (a gourmet dinners to go kind of thing). Once guests realize that they can get really good food for incredibly cheap prices to eat at home, they are hooked because the food wonderful. This is a picture of one of the items on the menu, the Mesa Verde Flank Steak. It is delicious,beautiful and at less than $5 per serving you can't beat it.

We love the guests, we just need more of them.

Sorry I haven't written (or read). I am working a lot of hours to get this off the ground and have no spare time. Only a small window today because I have the flu and doctor's orders to stay away from food and the public.

Hopefully, when business picks up enough for me to hire more people, I'll be back in the blogs. In the meantime, if you know anyone in the Chapel Hill, Durham, Pittsboro area of beautiful NC, send them over to try us. If they say they got sent by a fellow blogger, I'll give them 10% off. I am having fun; this is really a happy job and I know they will love it!

I hope this finds you healthy and happy. I would love to get a quick note about how ya'll are doing until I have time to read more.

Take care until next time!

Miss you all!


ps What's in the kitchen, you ask? Chicken Noodle Soup. Didn't you read the part where I have the flu??

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Sunday, October 21, 2007

Fishy Food

I am busy. My Entree Vous kitchen is still not open. Other than the buying stuff, paying lots of money and managing all I have to do for that, I have been into networking to build awareness. Entree Vous is part of the meal assembly concept, the largest growing trend in the restaurant industry, but lots of people don't get it, so the concept inself needs to be sold. I know this isn't a blog about that, but we'll get to that. I know you wanted to know what I have been up to. I can only tell you that this is entirely different kind of sales and marketing than my last 25 years. It is wonderful. Additionally, as opposed to being 'instructed' what charities you give to, you can work with the local community on things that you know and feel are important. My first real event I scheduled months ago assuming I would be open was last Sunday. Called A Tasteful Affair, it is the 16th year. It is a silent auction, a raffle, and a tasting with more than 25 wineries, breweries, caterers and restaurants offering food samples. People (500) pay to get in and 100% of the intake benefits the Ronald McDonald House in Chapel Hill. This year they took in an impressive $78,000. It was wonderful for us and our first giving back event. We loved it! Tomorrow night I present to a middle school PTA on fund raising for the school. There will be plenty more to come!

Here is a sneak peak at the kitchen about a week ago, after the first coat of paint and before any of the equipment arrived.

We still don't have a opening date but we'll let you know. Hopefully within the first few weeks of November.

Cooking. Yes, we are cooking. Maybe more short order cooking.....I had a lot of mushrooms left over from one of meals I served at A Tasteful Affair so I made a pot of mushroom soup from my a recipe from my catering partner, Diane Kiser. A marvelous cook and the best darn design consultant in the business, if you need her services (and you probably do) email me and I will tell you how to contact her. She is the best of the best.

Tonight, once again lacking time, I went to the local (no-so-good) grocery and believe it or not came out with fresh flounder (fried), asparagus and butternut squash. It was great.

With that, I will tell you that I think southern cooking is mostly misrepresented. And so is how to fry fish. I think it is the best way. How do I know? My father had a fishing boat. He also had the #1 slip at Lynnhaven at Virgina Beach from sometime before I was born until the day he retired. I was on a fishing boat on the Chesapeake Bay before I could walk. I doubt if you have fried as much fish as I have. We served it with roasted asparagus and roasted butternut squash! Yummy!

Fried Flounder

flounder fillets
salt and pepper to taste
oil (preferably peanut but others will do)

Salt and pepper flounder fillets. Dip in buttermilk then in corn meal coating both sides. heat oil until hot. Add fillets and lightly brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels. serve.

By the way, if you add flour to cornmeal in any cornbread recipe, you are not eating it the way it should be served, the southern way.

For more recipes, try the website. And wish me luck with the upcoming opening!

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Saturday, September 29, 2007

Cooking in More Ways Than One

It is not that I haven't been eating (that would be the day!). I have been
very busy and I am sorry it has been so long since I posted.

We are still under severe drought conditions. Yesterday was the first day in a long time that the temperatures were not in the 90's. It is hard to describe what it is like. Landscape plants and some trees in our woods are dead or dying. The garden is awful and we haven't even planted a fall garden because we do not know how to get it enough water. Needless to say, the summer garden wasn't terrific. A few things faired well, but not much. That doesn't mean we are not eating well.

So what have I been doing and what have we been eating? Over the last two weeks I have helped at the opening of two Entrée Vous' in NC, the first in Morrisville and the second in High Point. The North Carolina Entrée Vous' are a great group of people; even though we come from different places and different backgrounds, we all ended up doing the same thing at the same time and we share the journey with what has become a wonderful comradery and a helpful team spirit.

I have also still been catering and gotten into the networking 'thing'. When you live as rural as we do, it is a conscientious effort to get out to market this kitchen. Entrée Vous is a new concept so getting people in to try it is the first step and I have joined several networking groups to that end. It is very different that what I have done before and that makes life interesting. I am meeting new people and it's been great! As far as construction, it is now, finally, well underway. We hope to be open in late October.

As far as food, last night we had Spaghetti and Meatballs (of course the pasta was made from scratch, as were the meatballs and the marinara was from garden grown tomatoes.). We have been eating for several nights from a London Broil, one night marinades and grilled with green beans and potatoes, one morning for breakfast as a hash with over light eggs, then in an Indian dish, Rogan josh, a rich, red beef stew, quite aromatic and spicy served with Lobhia aur khumbi or black-eyed peas with mushroom, in our case pick-eyed purple hulls, one of the few things that did well this year from the garden. Both of the later recipes are from Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cooking. Below is the recipe for the beef. The only modification I made was in the cooking, I pressure cooked it to reduce the cooking time from one hour to 25 minutes. It was delicious served over rice.

Rogan Josh from Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cooking

2 1" pieces ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
8 cloves garlic, peeled
1 1/2-2 cups water
10 T vegetable oil
2 lbs stewing beef cut into 1" cubes (can be made with lamb)
10 whole cardamon pods
2 bay leaves
1 1" stick cinnamon
2 medium onions, peeled and finely chopped
1 t ground coriander seeds
2 t ground cumin seeds
2 t bright red paprika mixed with 1/4-1 t cayenne pepper
1 1/4 t salt
6 T plain yogurt
1/4 t garam masala
freshly ground black pepper

Put ginger, garlic and 4 T water in blender and blend until you have a smooth paste. Heat oil in wide pot over medium high heat. Brown meat in several batches and set aside. Add cardamom, bay leaves, cloves, peppercorns, and cinnamon to hot oil. Stir once and wait until the cloves swell and the bay leaves take on color, just a few seconds. Add onions, stirring for about 5 minutes until they turn a medium brown color. Add ginger/garlic paste and stir for 30seconds. Add coriander, cumin, paprika-cayenne and salt. Stir 30 seconds. Add meat cubes and their juice. Stir 30 seconds. Add 1 T yogurt. Stir 30 seconds or until well blended. Add remaining yogurt, 1 T at a time, in the same way. Stir for another 3-4 minutes.Now add 1 1/3 cups water if you are cooking lamb and 2 cups if you are cooking beef. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer 1 hr for lamb or 2 for beef or pressure cook 25 minutes for beef). Sprinkle with garam marsala and black pepper, mixing them in.

What else have we been eating: zucchini and pasta. It is really good.

And eggplant Parmesan my way! It's the best and you can make it too. The recipe is on the website!



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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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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Ratatouille! The food not the movie!

We are really busy and very behind in the gardening and putting up of veggies and I am writing instead of canning so I must make this brief.

Last several days ago I stopped by the market to grab a few meats for dinner, as we have enough veggies. I bought several big boneless pork chops and they had chicken breasts, but one get one free so I did. One night we had the first few breast pounded out and stuffed with fontina and sage, rolled and grilled. The next we had breaded grilled pork chops (the recipe is on the website) and it is wonderfully juicy! Since I had the breading I went ahead and breaded up the squash and grilled it too.

Yesterday, I skinned and boned the rest of the chicken, cut it into strips and marinated in jerk sauce (also on the website). When we came from the garden at half past eight with a picking of tomatoes, eggplant, squash, basil, peppers, and cucumbers, I didn't have an inkling of what I was going to have for dinner, then it hit me! Ratatouille!

Even though we haven't had time to go see the movie, there is was right there in front of me, so in about 15 minutes (who needs 30 minutes), we had jerk chicken, ratatouille, grilled corn on the cob and cucumbers in vinegar! Summer time is great!

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