Saturday, December 31, 2016

A New Year: Giving Thanks For Black Eyed Peas And Fleas

The foam is forming on my soaking black eyed peas, and I can't help but adore the southern tradition of eating this particular food for good luck. Unlike most other 'lucky' dishes intended to bring financial wealth (collard greens for plenty of folding green, corn for the color of gold), black eyed peas represent something else entirely. Yes, money, wealth, everything cash can do for us is swell. But black eyed peas remind me of bigger things.

Black eyed peas were originally brought to the States from Africa on slave ships, sustaining this unbelievable population of survivors. This humble food fed slaves. Slaves. This is the flavor of unthinkable hardship, a food present during one of the most ghastly aspects of southern history. Eating black eyed peas places us at the same table as those who were never invited to share the same table.

Then, after becoming integrated into southern agriculture, black eyed peas were mistaken as cattle feed by the northern troops during the Civil War. Everything else was destroyed, but black eyed peas were ignored, and became sustenance for confederate troops. This represented luck in its purest form, after all, starvation can claim even the most convicted fighter. Try eating money.

My soaking black eyed peas remind me of other heavy times, times laden with injustice and oppression such as those during World War II. Corrie ten Boom's The Hiding Place was written to help us remember what these times looked like for the oppressed. Within the walls of Ravensbruck concentration camp, Betsie ten Boom (the author's sister) due to her unyielding faith, gave thanks for even the fleas infesting her room. It was later discovered the fleas themselves were the reason the Boom sisters and their fellow prisoners where spared from constant inspections and severity from prison guards who refused to enter their quarters.

In this current climate, with a New Year and the presidential inauguration at our door, black eyed peas give me pause. They remind me to be grateful for things I've forgotten. This cheap food, mistaken for animal feed, with enough nutritional and cultural strength to sustain individuals who went through generations of treatment so painful I wish I could turn my head from it, I am reminded to grip my fork, and everything in between, fiercely.

Looking at what is missing or what is going wrong is easy. Giving thanks in the midst of this is not. But, what makes us a united people? Perhaps eating together, from the same table? We were all born hungry. We all have to eat. There is common ground here.

It's not the extravagant that keeps us fed.  I am grateful for this. For black eyed peas. For a hope stronger than our bill folds. And yes, even for the fleas.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Roasted Apple and Butternut Squash Soup

Soups are a big cold weather favorite over here, and from what I can gather, most everywhere once the season turns brisk. A slab of buttered bread and a steaming bowl of vegetable studded broth, slow braised beef and root vegetables, or a silky puree of roasted winter squashes sees us all the way into spring. Soup also defies the grab-and-go tendency, requiring a table, chair and most often a spoon. This may by why soup is so easy to love. Preparation can be simple to involved, but eating soup always helps us take a quiet moment out of our day, it taps us on the shoulder and invites us to come sit.

Roasted Apple and Butternut Squash Soup:
*1 large butternut squash
*4 apples, peeled, quartered, seeds removed
*1 large sweet onion, peeled and quartered
*4 celery stalks
*2 carrots, tops removed
*4 garlic cloves, peeled
*4 Tablespoons olive oil
*about 5-6 cups bone broth, organic chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
*4 Tablespoons butter 
*sea salt
*black pepper

Preheat oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Split butternut lengthwise and scoop out the pulp and seeds. Quarter and remove outer skin with a knife. Chop into 2 inch cubes and place on baking sheet with the apples, onion, celery, carrots and garlic. Drizzle with olive oil and season everything with sea salt and pepper. Gently toss to coat in the oil. Bake until all items are tender and fragrant, about 30 minutes. 

Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly. Transfer items to a large soup pot and cover with broth adding enough to submerge all the vegetables. Bring to a gentle simmer. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and blend with an immersion blender or (cool slightly) then working in batches, puree in a blender or food processor until completely smooth. Return to soup pot over low heat and add the butter and additional seasonings to taste. Cream can also be added to taste. 

Portion into bowls. Garnish with plain whole yogurt or sour cream and chives. 

Friday, October 21, 2016

Whole Maple Roasted Carrots with Sea Salt and Marigold Petals

Sometimes the simplest recipes end up being keepers. This one is so basic, it can be thrown together quickly on the shirttails of a busy day, and still carry its own element of being special and thoughtful. So here is an idea to keep in your back pocket the next time a quick side dish is required. Perfect for fall, especially if you still have citrusy marigolds (and carrots) in your garden. 

Whole Maple Roasted Carrots with Sea Salt and Marigold Petals:
*4 lbs organic carrots (assorted colors are fun too)
*olive oil
*3 Tablespoons maple syrup
*sea salt
*Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped 
*marigold petals from 2-3 marigold flowers 

Preheat oven to 350. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment. Rinse and peel carrots, leaving tops if they are in good shape. Divide carrots evenly between baking sheets and drizzle with olive oil and maple syrup to coat. Sprinkle with sea salt. Toss gently to coat carrots evenly. Bake on center and upper rack of oven for 45 minutes (add more or less time depending on thickness of carrots) and roast until thickest part of carrots are tender, alternating racks halfway though. Remove from heat and transfer to a serving plate. Sprinkle with additional sea salt. Garnish with chopped parsley and marigold petals. Serve warm.  

Monday, October 10, 2016


Greetings from WNC. A few snapshots from the kitchen and garden....

~Greasy beans~

~Paw paws~


~Curried butternut squash galette~

~Broom Corn~

~Hibiscus fruits from my friend Dana~

~A bowl of Arkansas black~

~Late summer visitors~

~Fresh hibiscus tea with honey~

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Summer Salutation

The approaching autumnal equinox marks the beginning of fall, and daylight equal to dark hours. This is typically a time to celebrate the summer bounty, though some say it is a time of grieving as summer ends and preparations are made for winter. The autumn equinox initiates a time to prepare a slower pace, space to rest and reflect. 

On a goldfinch’s wing,
memory of spring.

Yellow wingstem,
swollen grape,
dropping buckeye,
sated snake.

A bed made,
the table set.

What was sown, 
we reap.
Golden wheat. 
Soon sleep.

With frost 
and rot
our ready nest, 
on our dream’s fledgling’s 
place bets.

A fruitful season 
of decay.

Later we will stir, 
to days heavier 
than night.
Until then 
we grieve.
Save seed.

we will rise 
with the fiddle head, 
the hungry hive.

A burial is near.

Our seen breath.
Welcome guest.
Lay with me 
us rest.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Serviceberry Shortcake, Yolk Hearts and More.....

Some recent 'stories':

~This year I strayed from the usual serviceberry application and instead piled the berries on shortcake. Really, you could almost put anything on top of a flaky biscuit and whipped cream, but this was by no means a stretch.~

~While slicing open a dozen hard boiled eggs to devil for a potluck.........~

~Too much spinach in the garden led to this questionable idea. Spinach, feta, lemon zest.~


Saturday, April 23, 2016

Lemon Pavlova with Peaches and Cream

Never a big fan of meringue, this version won me over. The slow, low temperature baking process produces a fragile, porcelain-like exterior with a soft, chewy middle. The individual pavlova (named in honor of Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova) are shaped with a small well in the center to hold whipped cream and fruit. The recipe may seem involved, but is in fact fairly simple, the key is not to rush the cooling time in the oven.
Here we used canned peaches, but look forward to making these again when the berries come on.

Lemon Pavlova with Peaches and Cream (adapted from May 2016 Better Homes and Gardens)

  • 1 pint heavy whipping cream 


  1. Allow egg whites to stand at room temperature 30 minutes (this helps create more volume). Meanwhile, line a baking sheet with parchment.
  2. Preheat oven to 250 degrees F. For meringue, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment* beat egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt on medium speed until soft peaks form. Add the 1 1/2 cups sugar, 1 Tbsp. at a time, beating on high speed until stiff peaks form and meringue is no longer gritty (18 to 20 minutes), scraping down bowl as needed. Beat in lemon juice and orange water. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in cornstarch.
  3. Spoon meringue mixture into 8 large mounds (about 3/4 cup each) on a parchment paper-lined very large baking sheet, spacing them 3 inches apart. Using the back of the spoon, create an indent in each meringue. Bake for 1 hour. Turn off oven; let meringue dry in oven with the door closed for 1 hour. Remove and cool completely.

       Whip cream into stiff peaks. Spoon over individual pavlova and top with peaches.
       Garnish with fresh mint. Serve immediately. 

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Ramp Chimichurri

1 bunch fresh cilantro
1 bunch (about 6-8) fresh whole ramps, cleaned
sea salt
lemon zest 
olive oil 
white wine vinegar

Combine first four ingredients in a food processor fitted with a blade. Slowly add olive oil with blade running to slightly thicker than desired consistency. Add a small splash of vinegar at a time the same way, tasting between additions. Store in a jar fitted with a lid. Keep refrigerator or freeze.

Serve on roasted meats, with oven fries, add to soups or scrambled eggs.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Nettles In Bone Broth

Here we are at the very beginning of spring here in the Western North Carolina mountains. After going out in the rain to get these first shoots, they were given a quick bath in a pot of hot bone broth. A little toasted sesame oil, and the equinox is officially marked. 

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Wild Duck Tacos

Gifted a mallard,
and a deep appreciator
of water fowl), 
best efforts were put forth to carefully apply the dark gamey meat to the dinner table. 

A really good meal. 

A super fine bird. 

Wild Duck Tacos:
*1 wild duck, defeathered and fully cleaned 
*3 celery stalks
*1 full head of garlic, in skin
*1/2 onion
*sea salt
*black pepper
*2/3 cup tamari
*1/4 cup water
*3 Tablespoons maple syrup
*1 Tablespoon rice vinegar
*1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
*corn tortillas
*sour cream for serving
*chopped scallions
*lettuce for serving

Rise duck with cold water. Pat dry. Place in a dry crockpot with celery, head of garlic and onion. Season liberally with sea salt and black pepper. Pierce duck skin a few times with a sharp knife. 

Place on low heat for the course of a day. Remove duck skin and lift meat from bones with a fork. Transfer to a bowl. Reserve garlic. 

Meanwhile, bring tamari, water, maple syrup and rice vinegar to a simmer in a small saucepan. Add 3 cloves of softened garlic from crockpot and ginger. Whisk. Reduce contents by over half. Strain through a sieve and return sauce to saucepan. Add shredded duck meat. Gently simmer until meat has absorbed most of the liquid. 

Serve on warm corn tortillas with shredded lettuce, sour cream, chopped scallions and lime wedges. 

Monday, January 11, 2016

Studded Raw Kale Salad

There are a million recipes for kale salad so this is simply just one more, but I want to emphasize how good it is to have this prepared and available in the fridge this time of year. Granted, I am more of a cooked vegetable advocate for cold weather months, but if you aren't fighting a common cold or compromised in any particular way (I leave this diagnostic completely up to relativity), going raw for a spell is a like jumper cables for our winter psyche. A zap of greenness. After all, these greens did not come from the sunny, yet very far away state of California, but from an absolutely beautiful couple with ready smiles from the first day of indoor tailgate market. Sometimes you can look at certain individuals and think: "they probably have really nice soil."
The dried fruit and toasted nuts in this situation are great with a choice sharp or creamy cheese. Have a little plateful and remember, however bleak, these months are sacred.

Studded Raw Kale Salad:
*1 bunch good fresh kale
*1/2 cup toasted almonds, chopped
*1/2 cup Thompson raisins or dried cranberries
*1 cup dried apricots, chopped
*1/2 cup shredded cheese of choice
*balsamic vinaigrette of choice

Rinse kale and shake dry. Remove ribs. Then stack leaves and roll tightly together lengthwise. Chiffonade then transfer to a medium sized mixing bowl. Add the almonds and dried fruit. Mix. Then toss in the cheese. Drizzle with a balsamic vinaigrette of choice to coat. Toss and serve.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Local Flat Iron Steak with Rosemary Rub

I've had quite a few conversations lately about eating meat and the decision to do so. This has never been a boring or easy topic for me on this journey as an eater. I write about meat and animals often. Animals are adored creatures over here, not just in real life. And we consume them..often. They give us companionship, affection, literally the coats on our backs to the shoes on our feet, they teach us about the world we live in, the importance of husbandry, and they give us sustenance. 
Seeing eye to eye on this topic is not necessarily my goal anymore, but honoring the animal on the table is. Most of this, for me, is making sure not to prepare a steak like a jack-ass. 

Whatever your plate holds, may it feed you well. 

Local Flat Iron Steak with Garlic Rosemary Rub:
*1 grass-fed flat iron steak (or top blade steak)
*3 garlic cloves, pressed through a garlic press
*3-4 heaping tablespoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped
*1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
*1 heaping teaspoon course sea salt
*1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
*1/2 teaspoon white pepper

Place a cast iron grill griddle over medium heat or prepare charcoal grill.
Rinse and dry steak with paper towels. Set aside.
In a small mixing bowl combine remaining ingredients. Slather onto both sides of steak.
Sear steak until rare to medium-rare, turing only once during cooking time. Time will vary depending on thickness of cut. Make sure not to over cook.
Allow to rest for 5 minutes before slicing and serving.


Friday, January 1, 2016

Southerner's Guide To New Year's

Since moving to the South, learning traditional food-ways (especially those of Appalachian influence)  has shaped nearly every aspect of my everyday cooking. I am grateful beyond words for those who have shared their traditions and stories with me, from my late Grandmother-in-law Zelma's sour cream pound cake to all the local producers who are bringing back the old ways, keeping things like sorghum syrup and fresh gristmill grits on the table. These individuals have added a richness to my personal sense of place greater than any other I have once called home. 

To these mountains; 
to the food gleaned from them,
 to the people within them 
and too all those beyond----
 my deepest gratitude
 a most prosperous 
New Year! 

~My brief rundown of why we eat what we do on the 1st of each New Year. From Wednesday's Asheville Citizen Times. ~

A Southerner’s guide to lucky New Year’s foods

New Year’s holds special culinary traditions across the globe. Most regions include some type of meat, greens and a legume to represent good fortune and prosperity. Since most New Year’s customs are rooted in the immigration and agricultural history of a place, each region celebrates the holiday with unique representations of good luck.
In the South, pork, leafy greens and black-eyed peas are most commonly on the New Year’s menu. Here is a little background as to why:
Black eyed-peas
Black-eyed peas have various reasons for making it on to the New Year’s Day list.
Part of the Jewish celebration of Rosh Hashanah for centuries, black-eyed-peas were brought to the U.S. by Sephardic Jews arriving in Georgia in the 1700s.
Before this, black-eyed peas — domesticated in Africa more than 5,000 years ago — are thought to have originally arrived in the South on slave ships during the mid-1600s, becoming a significant representation of African-American influence on southern agriculture and cuisine.
Mistaken as cattle food, black-eyed peas were left untouched after raids by the Northern Army during the civil war, offering confederate soldiers a critical food source, thus representing good luck.
Also thought to resemble coins, black-eyed peas symbolize financial luck for the coming year. Others believe this particular legume is chosen on New Year’s because they expand so generously, also representing financial gain.
The most common southern black-eyed-pea dish is known affectionately as Hoppin’ John, the leftovers given the name Skippin’ Jenny. Hoppin’ John is traditionally prepared with black-eyed peas or field peas, cooked rice, salt pork or hog jowls and vegetables. Children would often “skip” around the table when it was served.
It is advised among some to eat at least 365 black-eyed-peas on New Year’s day to ensure good luck for each day of the new year.
Pork, a commodity abundant in the South, is often thought of as good luck since a pig’s nature is to root forward and not look back, encouraging us to do the same in the coming year.
In contrast, to consume fowl on New Year’s is thought by some to bring bad luck since birds scratch backward and bring the association of “scratching for sustenance.”
In Southern culture, and many others, pork is a traditional symbol of prosperity and security for the less abundant winter months. Traditionally, a family with a summer fattened hog had little to worry about in the months to come. This is why pork is often thought of as good luck.
And because pork is marbled with fat, consuming pork on New Year’s Day is thought to bring “fat” times.
Leafy greens seem to be included in most regional menus on New Year’s since green represents the U.S. currency.
Polish and German communities greatly influence the traditions of the Midwest, including the consumption of sauerkraut on New Year’s. Cabbage, a late fall crop, takes 6-8 weeks to properly ferment, ready just in time for January meals.
In the South, collards, kale and turnip greens are cold-hardy enough to show up in winter dishes. A flat leaf resembling folding money, collards are the most popular New Year’s choice for Southerners.
Lastly, to continue the tradition of eating foods for monetary luck, the color gold is not to be ignored in a Southern New Year’s feast. This color is usually represented by cornbread, another agriculturally significant food of southern states.
Native Americans were the first to bake with ground corn, passing on the method to early settlers. When wheat was scarce, corn could be used in its place for baking. Traditional corn bread is made with little or no flour, no sugar and plenty of lard.
This year, make sure to embrace the power of tradition and set your intentions high. Begin Jan. 1 with black-eyed-peas for coins, greens for folding money and cornbread for gold. With this combination, brought together by a lucky pork roast — may we strive to move forward and not look back — the upcoming year should be off to a lucky start.