Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Who Says Grits Ain't Groceries?

Today's Charlotte Observer feature on grits calls the Southern staple a "warm hug from a bowl."

Grits have a thermonuclear nature, taking forever to cool down and often burning the sin off your tongue even when you think they're safe to eat. But there's something about a nice creamy bowl of grits. (Random shout out to Little Milton for singing about them.)

I grew up on grits, with my Grandmother Carrie keeping the yellow kind -- preferred to white -- in a canister on her kitchen counter. They were usually served along with country ham, biscuits or on their own with a little butter, salt and pepper.

For those of you born outside the South: grape jelly is never an acceptable add-in for grits. They're not oatmeal or Cream of Wheat, y'all. Leave the sweet stuff out.

When Scott and I married, our reception menu included grit cakes with tasso gravy. There was also a cheese castle but that's another story. We didn't get much time to enjoy them, with greetings and dancing and garter-tossing, but we heard they were delicious. Never had a grit cake? This seems like a tasty recipe.

The Observer article shares how to make a "grits bar." We did an abbreviated version of this for our New Years Eve get-together. Scott made the shrimp and a fantastic roux that may be the best thing this life can offer. The holy trinity of celery, pepper and onion, the browned butter and flour, and the tender shrimp... whew. A significant dish from my significant other, that's for sure.

To save stove space and time, I cooked the grits in a Crock Pot. I doubled the recipe and forgot to add salt -- an unforgivable error in most cases, but some post-cooking seasoning seemed to help. While scurrying around to finish the rest of the meal, I occasionally ducked over to the Crock Pot to add milk when the grits looked a little thick. Fact: grits turn into concrete if neglected for too long.

For toppings, we served sharp cheddar, Parmesan, sauteed mushrooms and onions, and chopped green onions. Scott's shrimp and roux crowned the plates, and we happily dined and ushered in 2015. (Some of us were "over-served" and thus are on a different meal and drink plan in the New Year, but again, that's another story for another time.)

Did you grow up on grits? How do you enjoy yours? Are you grits-averse? Let us know!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Holiday Parties: Just Add Cheese

Are you aware it 'tis this season to be jolly? Are your jingle bells sufficiently ringing or are they shakin' a little lacklusterly (I just invented that word) so far this December? 

I'm not quite prepared in the sense that gifts are so low on my radar this year, and Scott and I decided to skip the Xmas tree purchasing and use the $40-ish dollars on our mountain trip this weekend. It feels a little weird to not have a tree in the house, with all the ornaments that bring back so much nostalgia and cheer.

On the other hand, I heard weird rustling noises above my home office ceiling the other day. I'll be damned if I have to climb up our rickety fold-down attic stairs from 1951 and do battle with some mystery critter. No thanks, we'll just settle for the holly branches I foraged in the backyard, red candles on the mantle, last year's Amaryllis that could make a comeback if I can keep from overwatering it, and this Santa art from Scott's family that I just love.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Grateful For Growth?

Brushing off the old blog here... pardon the dust bunnies.

It's a rainy gross day here in Charlotte and I have the day off. I started thinking about what I do when I'm not working like a Doozer. (Sidebar: I tried to find the Fraggle Rock "Work Your Cares Away" song to link to but I nearly fell down a YouTube rabbit hole. If you're a proper child of the '80s you shouldn't need the link anyway.)

I miss writing but I think I've shied away from it due to an aversion to more time looking at a glowing screen. I get plenty of that in my daily schedule and with these smartphones we're all addicted to now. I thought about maybe going old school and writing with pen and paper. But I remembered this blog, and the other I started with very nice intentions a few years ago, and so here I am.

It wasn't until I cancelled my subscription to Bon Appetit and started getting annoyed by all the food photos in my Facebook and Twitter feed that I realized my attitudes towards food might be... evolving? This sounds like totally sanctimonious bullshit, I'm sure, but I'm not a big fan anymore of making food a fetish.

I'm tired of seeing sustainability, seasonal eating and cooking, and the precious "farm to table" image so many restaurants are shilling being marketed as a new lifestyle we all need to get on board with. It's been around a long time in a lot of places, y'all. Quit making your restaurants virtual darling Pinterest boards and get honest about what you're selling. And stop with the Mason jar decor already.

In recent months I stopped taking photos of food when dining out. Sure I take photos of some of the stuff I cook at home, like applesauce I canned over the weekend. But when I'm in a restaurant, I need  to put the phone down and pay more attention to my people at the table.

I sound like an old crusty curmudgeon. So be it. I just want to get real about what's important, and I'm not so sure that documenting everything we consume is healthy.

And speaking of healthy, I've had a medical issue lately. It's a little painful and weird and I have to pay attention to what I eat. Or I just say "forget it" and eat whatever, but I should eat better. So post-Thanksgiving after the pie, I aim to do it. Just let me have some pie first.

Rounding the corner to the biggest food day of the year tomorrow, I hope I can be true to what I'm feeling. What's the most honest way to care about food and share the pleasures of cooking and eating?  I'll try to figure it out here.

On a more positive note, here are some food-related things I'm thankful for this year:

  • My husband's green thumb in the garden this fall and winter. While I find the recipes, Scott's fertilizing our two plots at Winterfield Community Garden, remembering to water, and cramming our fridge full of greens this time of year. Swiss chard, collards, Brussels sprouts leaves, bok choy... let's just say we have the Brassicas covered. We've met some lovely people who also garden there, and they've shared what they grow (see cabbage and broccoli in photo above).
  • We have what we need, and then some. I got on my preachy soapbox in the paragraphs above, but while some tweet their meal, others wonder what they'll eat for dinner tonight. I give thanks that I'm never truly hungry
  • A Chef's Life on PBS. I don't watch a lot of TV but I sit down at 7:30 every Sunday to see Chef Vivian Howard of Kinston, NC talk about the ingredients she uses in her kitchen and where they come from. She's doing real food right and sharing the food culture of our state in a true way.
  • Oysters. The season is reportedly not great this year, but I hope to enjoy some Varnamtown oysters later this week down in Brunswick County. A post-Thanksgiving Day oyster roast is a tradition on my mom's side of the family and fingers crossed, we'll have some to shuck this year. 

I hope you and yours have a wonderful & safe Thanksgiving!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Denver: Root Down

Prepping for Amtrak food: Root Down in the Highlands neighborhood.

Amazing house Bloody Mary mix, Colorado lamb burger with Harissa.

Phone home - this place is amazing!!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Got tomatoes?

We planted three cherry tomato plants earlier in the season and being novices, we had no idea what that would yield.

We also had no idea that our compost in our abandoned raised beds would spawn six or seven cherry tomato plants.

Surprise, us! We now have what could be quantified as a shit-ton (a technical term, I hear) of these little delights.

Today I took five seconds to pop a few cups of them in the broiler. Five minutes later -- a tasty something to toss into pasta or, as I am doing now, topping a taco in place of salsa. One of my fave things to do with broiled tomatoes - blend with cold butter. Easy, delicious and did I mention it's easy and delicious? 

Hope you are enjoying tomatoes this summer!