Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Who's doing the organic farming?

We hear a lot of concern about the aging of America's farmers. The average age of a farmer in North Carolina is 57, according to the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. But perhaps that tide is starting to turn, at least in the non-conventional agriculture world.

I was intrigued by this report this morning from Chuck Abbott of the Food and Environmental Reporting Network's  daily report, Ag Insider:

"Organic farmers and ranchers tend to be younger, more recent entrants to agriculture and far more likely to sell directly to consumers than the average U.S. farmer, says USDA. Data from the Census of Agriculture  say 26 percent of organic producers are under age 45 - the U.S. farm average is 16 percent - and 27 percent went into farming in the past decade, compared to 18 percent of farm operators. Some 42 percent sold their products directly to consumers; 7 percent is the average. And, organic producers are more likely to invest in solar panels or wind turbines than farmers in general. Sales of organic products rose by 83 percent from 2007 to 2012, said USDA."

My guess is that the growth in farmers' market would account for the very high percentage of organic farmers selling directly to consumers. And those sales and organic sales are starting to show healthy improvements.  

Any farmers out there care to weigh in?

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

One Great . . . pimento cheese soup

I'm trying to not feel jealous of food writer Perre Coleman Magness. When I met her on a recent food-writer trip to Memphis, she had just published her book "Pimento Cheese: The Cookbook" (St. Martin's Griffin, $21.99).

Yes, that would be an entire book with variations of pimento cheese, an idea that has made every Southern writer I know slap his/her forehead with a "Dang! Why didn't I write that?"

Perre (pronounced Perry) did, though, and she did a lovely job of coming up with variations and extensions of the beloved shredded cheese spread. Flipping through the book, I couldn't resist this, a great soup for cooler fall nights.

Pimento Cheese Soup 

From "Pimento Cheese: The Cookbook," by Perre Coleman Magness.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 carrot, finely diced
1 stalk celery, finely diced
1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 (4-ounce) jar diced pimentos, undrained
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups chicken broth
3 cups whole milk
1 pound extra-sharp cheddar, grated
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper and hot sauce, to taste

HEAT the olive oil over medium heat in a 5-quart pot. Add the carrot, celery and onion and saute until soft, stirring often. Stir in 1 tablespoon of pimentos and juice, then stir in the garlic and cook, stirring, 1 minute longer.

SPRINKLE the paprika over the vegetables and cooking until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the flour, stirring to coat, and cook briefly. Pour in the chicken broth and stir well. Increase heat and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium, partially cover the pot and simmer 15 minutes.

USE an immersion blender and puree until smooth. Or cool briefly, puree in batches in a blender and return to the pot. Stir in the milk. Increase heat to medium-high. When the soup is just steaming, add the grated cheese in handfuls, stirring after each addition. Don't let soup boil. Stir in the remaining pimentos and Worcestershire, then season to taste with salt, pepper and hot sauce.

SERVE immediately, or cool and refrigerate up to 1 day. Reheat slowly over medium heat; don't let soup boil.

YIELD: 6 servings. 



Friday, September 19, 2014

One Great . . . Good Catch recipe

Don't be fooled by the subtitle of the new book "Good Catch": "Recipes & Stories Celebrating the Best of Florida's Waters."

Yes, the book (by Pam Brandon, Katie Farmand and Heather McPherson, an old friend and food editor of the Orlando Sentinel) does have a Florida-focus. But shrimp there are not that different from shrimp here. And the book is packed with great ideas even if the closest you get to fresh fish is the glass case at the supermarket.

Everybody wants to eat more fish, and everybody is a little intimidated when we get in the kitchen with it, so a good book on cooking fish is worth raising a flag.

One of my favorite chapters is "Year-Round Sauces and Accessories." Using something like this sauce as a dip for shrimp or as a base for a salad with leftover fish is a great catch.

Green Goddess Cocktail Sauce 

From "Good Catch," by Pam Brandon, Katie Farmand and Heather McPherson (University Press of Florida, $28).

1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
3 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon anchovy paste (see note)
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

COMBINE all the ingredients in a food processor and puree until smooth. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

NOTE: I backed off a little on the anchovy paste when I was testing the recipe and used only 1 teaspoon.

YIELD: 1 1/2 cups. 


Thursday, September 18, 2014

Share a little love with Martha Stewart

So you love locally made food products? You've got a chance to do them some good, by casting your vote.

A bunch of N.C. products made the list of finalists for the Martha Stewart American Made Awards. You can vote six times a day online through Oct. 17 and the companies with the most votes win. (How American, right?)

Go to www.marthastewart.com/americanmade to find the nominees and cast your votes every day.
While the categories also include crafts, design and style, the food categories are our interest today. And there are some very sweet N.C. food products in the running:

Queen of Oats, Cornelius. Regulars at the Davidson Farmers Market will recognize Kelli Swick, who makes protein bars, granolas and breakfast cookies with no added refined sugars.

Muddy River Distilling, Belmont. Robbie and Caroline Delaney make rum, including the popular local rum Queen Charlotte.

Blue Kudzu Sake Company, Asheville. (Man, I get around, but I missed the news that we have an N.C. artisan sake, one of only six micro sake makers in the U.S.)

Elizabeth's Pecan Products, Turkey, N.C. Pecan-based candies and other products.

No Evil Foods, Asheville. Vegan crafted "meat" products.

Smoke Signals, Marshall. A wood-fired micro bakery with naturally leavened bread and artisan pies.

Carolina Wild, Pink Hill. They're making muscadine juice (and thank them for being sponsors of "A Chef's Life," the PBS show about Kinston chef Vivian Howard of the Chef and the Farmer).  

Videri Chocolate Factory, Raleigh. Bean-to-bar chocolate in Raleigh's Warehouse District.

Little Black Dressing Co., High Point. All-natural salad dressings.

Mae'd Bakery, Carrboro. All-natural treats, including a dessert bar to eat after nursing.

White Whale Bold Mixers, Durham. Exotic-juice and herb cocktail mixers.

Piemonte Farm, Burlington. Cheese, jams and breads.

La Farm Bakery, Raleigh. Home of artisan bread by the talented Lionel Vatinet.

Raleigh Cake Pops, Creedmoor. 

Sugar Island Bakery and Supplies, Surf City. 

Goat Lady Dairy, Climax. 


And not to miss S.C.: King Bean Coffee Roasters and Callie's Charleston Biscuits, both of Charleston, are on the list, too.



Friday, September 5, 2014

Come and talk food at the O.Henry

What are you doing  Sept. 26-28? See how this sounds: 10 books, 10 authors, lots of meals.


Our State magazine and the O. Henry Hotel in Greensboro are sponsoring the Savor the South Weekend, a whole bunch of events to celebrate the UNC Press book series that includes my books "Bourbon" and "Pecans."

Savor the South is a series of cookbooks on single ingredients (or ingredient-like events) from Southern cooking. Each book has 50 or so recipes, as well as stories, history and other information. The brainchild of UNC Press cookbook editor Elaine Maisner, four to six books are released each year, usually a couple in the fall and a couple in the spring. 

I was one of the first authors Elaine signed up, and I ended up being one of only two authors so far to do two books. Debbie Moose started with "Buttermilk," and now has second book coming out this fall, "Southern Holidays." 

The series, by the way, has become so popular that Maisner started out planning to do 14 books, but now is doing 24. 

So, Sept. 26-28 will be a celebration of the series at the O.Henry, including cooking demos, author panels and special meals. Ronni Lundy, the renowned author of several of her own books on Southern cooking, will be the special guest and moderator. 

The authors will be myself, Moose, Belinda Ellis ("Biscuits"), Andrea Weigl ("Pickles & Preserves"), Miriam Rubin ("Tomatoes"), Virginia Willis ("Okra"), April McGreger ("Sweet Potatoes," also out this fall), Kelly Alexander ("Peaches") and chef Jay Pierce, whose own book in the series, "Shrimp," will be released next year.

Also attending: Elizabeth Hudson and Amy Wood Pasquini of Our State, chef Nancy King Quaintance, and Green Valley Grill chef Leigh Hesling. 

A one-night package for Friday night, including Friday dinner and Saturday breakfast and lunch, is $295, based on double occupancy. A two-night package, including Friday and Saturday dinners, Saturday and Sunday breakfasts, Sunday lunch, and a cocktail party is $449, based on double occupancy. 

You can get all the details and reservation information by calling 336-854-2000, or www.ohenryhotel.com.

If you're there, please introduce yourself. I hear there will be quite a crowd. 
  

Who won the baking book?

We have a winner in our random drawing for a copy of Francine Bryson's "Blue Ribbon Baking From a Redneck Kitchen."

The cookbook goes to Diane Voorhis of Rock Hill. Thanks for entering, Diane.

Stay tuned. We'll have another cookbook giveaway soon.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Win a copy of Blue Ribbon Baking From A Redneck Kitchen

Francine Bryson got a chance to write her first cookbook after becoming a crowd favorite on the CBS show "The American Baking Competition." Her simple recipes, many from her family favorites, include pies, cakes, cookies, candies, cheesecakes and other treats.

The book isn't officially out until Sept. 9, but we've got a copy to giveaway. Bryson will be signing copies next Friday and Saturday (Sept. 12-13) at the Southern Women's Show at the Charlotte Convention Center.

To enter a random drawing for the book, send an email with "Redneck Kitchen" to kpurvis@charlotteobserver.com. Please include your town and a daytime phone number. The deadline is 9 a.m. Friday. We'll announce a winner Friday afternoon.