It’s Fig Season!

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Fresh figs are a luxury fruit for North Carolinians from August-October and The Wedge Garden is proud to have its very own fig tree! There’s nothing like the smooth texture, sweet taste and mouth-watering juiciness that a fresh fig as to offer. Not only do they taste good, but they also contain nutrients such as potassium and fiber. The leaves have even been used to make a liquid extract to aid in Diabetes management and lower Triglyceride levels. Three medium figs equal one serving and makes a wonderful addition to a luscious arugula salad. Fig trees can be found all across North Carolina and in grocery stores, so make sure to bring them home while you can! Store figs in the refrigerator for two days to keep them fresh.

FigtreecollageFresh Fig Salad

Inspired by Fig and Arugula Salad

Makes 1-2 servings

Ingredients:

2-4 cups arugula

1/4 cup red onion, sliced

1 tablespoon roasted pine nuts

4-5 fresh figs, halved and quartered

Honey mustard dressing (1-2 servings):

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon honey

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Gently mix arugula, onions and pine nuts in large bowl. Whisk together dressing ingredients in small bowl. Plate salad and add figs. Drizzle dressing over salad, adding salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!

Additional salad ingredients: fresh blackberries, blue, ricotta or goat cheese, walnuts, balsamic vinaigrette, prosciutto.

Blog post and photography by Heather Frost, MS, RD, LDN

Resources

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Summertime Smoothie

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I would have to say summer is by far the best season to make smoothies. Not only are they refreshing and satisfying, but we have the opportunity to use as many fresh, local ingredients as possible. This recipe was inspired by Alissa Segersten and Tom Malterre’s Blueberry Cucumber Smoothie from their cookbook, Nourishing Meals. This antioxidant-rich smoothie provides a balanced breakfast, lunch, dinner or post-workout snack. Next time you’re at the market or the grocery store, pick up a few local, in-season ingredients to blend together to make this recipe or create a flavor combination of your own!

Summertime Smoothie

Makes 16-20 oz

Ingredients:

1 cup water

1/3 cup sliced cucumbers

2/3 cup fresh blueberries

1-2 tablespoons organic creamy peanut butter

1 small banana

Handful of fresh kale

4 ice cubes

Directions:

Place all ingredients except for the ice in the blender in the order listed and cover with lid. After a few pulses, add one ice cube at a time, blending after each addition. Taste, in- between blends to find the right flavor and texture you’re looking for. Enjoy!IMG_2476

Peach Blueberry Crisp

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Summer = Fruit Crisp Season.

At least in my mind. I know there are crumbles, cobblers and buckles, but since I was born and raised in the Mid-West, I’m partial to crisps, where oats aren’t optional and neither is vanilla ice cream.

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These blueberries and peaches were purchased from a couple farmers at the North Carolina State Farmers Market. I am ever so grateful to have this market in my “backyard” and am able to support NC agriculture.

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 Peach Blueberry Crisp

Slightly adapted from Sandy

Ingredients:

3 large, slightly firm fresh peaches, skin and pits removed, sliced

1.5 cups fresh blueberries

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1/4 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 cup rolled oats

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon melted ghee

1 tablespoon local honey

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375ºF. Grease 8×8 or favorite crisp dish with ghee or butter. Mix fruit in large bowl, add almond extract and gently mix. Use another bowl to mix together flour, oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, melted ghee, and honey. Use your hands to mix and make sure the ingredients are combined. Pour fruit combination into dish and cover evenly with the crisp topping. Bake 25 minutes or until fruit is oozing and the crisp is golden.  Serve warm with your favorite vanilla ice cream!

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Wake County: Coffee Porter Pound Cake

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As I began my search to learn a little more about the food culture of the county I live in and now call home, I quickly realized that Wake County functions as a “melting pot”. While researching Forsyth and Lenoir counties, I zeroed in on a specific recipe that was near and dear to locals I spoke with. This wouldn’t be the case for Wake County, as it’s the capital and a collaboration of natives, re-locators and college students. I wasn’t sure how I was going to define a food or recipe to cover this expansive county.

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My adventure started by reading an article in Our State magazine detailing North Carolina State University’s Howling Cow Ice Cream. Reading about the creation of this delightful treat lured me over to Talley Market on N.C. State’s campus to taste it myself. Gary Cartwright who is in charge of the Dairy Enterprise System at N.C.State was quoted in the article stating, “It makes people smile.” True indeed! So true I felt compelled to write a post about it. This ice cream has become so popular that it attracts North Carolinians to trek across the state and indulge in this heavenly dessert at the annual State Fair. After learning this I knew I wanted to incorporate this fresh, local ice cream into the recipe for Wake County.

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While I continued my search in discovering the food culture of Wake County, I visited a couple of downtown venues, one being The Mecca Restaurant. This establishment was founded in 1930, relocated to it’s current location in 1935, and has been family owned while serving fresh veggies from the City Market ever since. While sampling a plate of fried chicken, Eastern NC BBQ, fresh veggies and blueberry cobbler, I spoke with John, a fourth generation Dombalis, regarding the family business and how he witnessed Wake County’s food culture evolve through the years.

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The weeks flew by as I visited Raleigh’s Visitor Information Center, Cameron Village Regional Library, Meredith College Library and savored a wonderful lunch with a Meredith College Alum at Side Street Restaurant in Raleigh’s Historic Oakwood neighborhood. I then had the wonderful opportunity to meet Elena in Raleigh to learn a little more about the Southern classic dessert, Pound Cake. Elena’s grandmother’s brother, Ted, and his wife Ann opened their kitchen to us and helped us prepare an 100 year old pound cake recipe from Nanny, (aka Flossie), Ted’s mother. Ann and Ted told stories from moving around this great state of North Carolina and residing in Wake County. They shared pictures of their family tree and how they have family ties to North Carolina State University and Meredith College. Most importantly we learned how the pound cake was made “just right” and how it became a treasured family recipe.

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After weeks of contemplating about a recipe choice for Wake County, I finally made up my mind. The pound cake was going to serve as a representation of Wake County’s “Melting Pot”. This meant I needed (and wanted) to obtain as many local ingredients as I could, while adding a little twist to Nanny’s recipe. Presently, Wake County has exploded with craft breweries while local coffee roasters are making their stance as well. Incorporating Wake County’s past food culture along with it’s present food culture was an important aspect I wanted to instill for this recipe. Using local ingredients is ever so important to me, personally and professionally. So, as you can imagine, going around and collecting eggs from Wake County residents’ backyard chicken coops (with permission!) was certainly not out of the question. Making phone calls to find Wake County butter, flour, spices, beer and coffee was quite successful, as I put together a “farm-to-table” version of this classic Southern recipe. Not only were the cake ingredients from Wake County, but to my delight, I came across a beautiful cake stand at the North Hills Farmers Market in Raleigh which was crafted by a Wake County potter.

As I wrapped up research for my “home” county, I couldn’t help but smile as I indulged in a scoop of Howling Cow’s Vanilla Ice Cream and a slice of Wake County Coffee Porter Pound Cake. My hope is that this recipe makes natives proud and eager to incorporate new ideas from the current and ever-changing food culture into classic family favorites.

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Wake County Coffee Porter Pound Cake

Cake recipe inspired by Flossie (Caudell) Ballenger, Elena’s great grandmother

Glaze recipe inspired by Aubrey Cook from Martha Stewart’s “Best Bakers in America” series

Ingredients:

Cake:

3/4 pound unsalted butter at room temperature, plus 1-2 tablespoons for greasing pan (Jackson Dairy, Dunn, NC bought from State Farmers Market)

2.5 cups granulated sugar

6 eggs (Neighborhood chicken coops, Raleigh, NC)

3.5 cups sifted cake flour, divided (Powder Mill Grain and Baking Co. Whole Grain Cake Flour, Cary, NC)

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon mace (Penzeys Spices Raleigh, NC)

3/4 cup Porter beer with carbonation removed (Raleigh Brewing Hidden Pipe Porter, Raleigh, NC)

1/4 cup coffee (Oak City Coffee Roasters Kubum, Raleigh, NC)

1 teaspoon vanilla (Penzeys Spices, Raleigh, NC)

Glaze:

4 tablespoons unsalted butter (Jackson Dairy)

1/2 cup coffee (Kabum from Oak City)

2 cups confectioners sugar

Ice Cream: Howling Cow Vanilla Ice Cream (North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC)

Directions:

Measure ingredients before mixing. (can be prepped ahead of time)

Move oven rack to center of oven and preheat to 325 degrees F. Grease and flour a 10 inch bundt pan thoroughly. Cream butter in large bowl with electric mixer at medium speed until very light and fluffy, scraping bowl often with spatula. Add sugar and continue creaming. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Combine baking powder, salt and mace in bowl with 3 cups of sifted flour, stirring to combine. Combine beer, coffee and vanilla in bowl and mix together. Alternate beer mixture and flour mixture, beating well after each addition. Add the 1/2 cup sifted flour last of all and mix until blended. Pour batter into pan, pound gently on counter top to release air bubbles. Bake in the center of the oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until done. Let the cake rest in the pan on wire rack for 20-30 minutes. Carefully flip cake over and let cool for at least 1 hour.

Glaze:

Melt butter in sauce pan over medium low heat. Once melted, add the coffee and turn heat to medium, stirring occasionally with wire whisk. Once liquid boils, gradually add confectioners sugar, stirring until dissolved. Stirring occasionally, let liquid return to a boil. Once boiling, continue to stir for a few minutes, until the glaze reduces and thickens. When glaze reaches preferred consistency, quickly pour the glaze over the cooled cake. (the glaze will harden upon cooling, work quickly!) Serve with Howling Cow’s Vanilla Ice cream from N.C. State. Enjoy with family and friends!

Optional: Pair with Oak City’s Kubum coffee or Raleigh Brewing’s Hidden Pipe Porter.

Reference: http://www.ourstate.com/howling-cow/

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Lenoir County: Fish Stew

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What comes to mind when you hear the words “Eastern North Carolina”? Do you think of the famous vinegar based BBQ, slaw and football? Or perhaps memories of passing fields that stretch for miles with corn, collards, tobacco and okra while on your way to the beach? Whatever crosses your mind, there’s a pretty good chance food is involved. Lenoir County specifically, has a long, rich history of growing local food. While researching this particular county’s food culture, I had the opportunity to discover some of the state’s finest BBQ, engage with farmers on Saturday mornings at the Lenoir County Farmers Market and interview owners of highly respected restaurants.

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Lenoir County includes Kinston, one of North Carolina’s oldest cities. This city was original named “Kingston” when it was established as the county’s seat in 1762.  Kinston is where the Lenoir County Farmers Market is held on Tuesday evenings and Saturday mornings. Local farmers are eager to exchange stories and favorite recipes, celebrating their homegrown ingredients. Foods such as peaches, pork, okra and collards are just a few of the seasonal choices these farmers have to offer.

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Not only does Kinston have a thriving farmers market but a top NC restaurant destination called Chef and the Farmer. Chef Vivian Howard has gained publicity nationwide with her Peabody award winning TV show, A Chef’s Life. After hearing Chef Howard speak at Meredith College in the spring of 2014, I eagerly awaited the opportunity to experience Lenoir County’s local produce offered at this farm to table restaurant. While spending a day feasting on NC BBQ, fried oysters from the Boiler Room, and succulent curried pork belly from Chef and the Farmer, Elena and I had the pleasure of talking with Chef Vivian Howard and discuss the food culture in Lenoir County. Vivian reminisced about growing up in Deep Run and explained how her mother prepared vegetables and grains to serve as the base of the meal while meat was considered a condiment. Foods such as butter beans, sweet potatoes, home canned peaches from the peach orchard were mealtime favorites, alongside the popular comfort dish, chicken and rice. Her family celebrated Thanksgiving with a whole hog BBQ and enjoyed locally caught fried fish on Fridays. Chef Howard continues to follow the southern food traditions she learned from her family as she creates the seasonal menu for her restaurant.

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We also learned from Chef Howard that Fish Stew has become a Lenoir County favorite and staple in some local’s eyes, serving as a comfort food year round and especially on cold winter days. Just ask any Lenoir County native for their fish stew recipe. They may not reveal the secret family ingredient, but they will make sure to tell you the stew must be layered and not stirred.

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If your wondering where to find this Lenoir County favorite, the fine family at Ken’s Grill & NC BBQ in La Grange, NC makes fish stew available to locals and tourists year round. Ken and his brother David run their father’s famed 1970 establishment offering whole hog BBQ on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays with a side of homemade slaw and hushpuppies. The menu consists of daily specials and various sides from the fryer, but Friday around 11am is when you’ll find a warm bowl of fish stew, served with crispy golden brown hushpuppies and fresh loaf bread available for purchase. Ken advised me to come in early for a bowl of stew, as it sells out quickly.  This fish stew recipe was first prepared in 1980 by Ken’s father-in-law, Mr. Jones, who owned a fish market in Lenoir County. Ms. Kate was the cook who brought that recipe to life time and time again, preparing the stew at Ken’s Grill for decades. Ken chooses the best quality, local NC fish offered by Kinston’s own Reynolds Seafood Company. This family run fish market was started in 1960 and continues to provide the ingredients needed to prepare the stew, including friendly advice on how to layer the pot.

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While you’re in Kinston, you will want to visit Sweetiepies, a new tasty addition to Kinston’s food culture. This cupcakery is owned by Ken’s wife, Teresa. She offers an array of colorful sweet treats that will surely want you coming back for more!

Whether you’re a native of Lenoir County, or passing through on Hwy 70, make sure to stop by these local establishments for a taste of this county’s unique food culture. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed! The recipe below is my variation of Lenoir County fish stew, using of course the freshest local ingredients. And please, Do Not Stir!

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Photos above: paintings and photograph of Reynolds Seafood displayed on store front walls, photograph of menu board at Ken’s BBQ

Fish Stew

Recipe inspired by Chef Vivian Howard, Kinston, NC, Ken’s Grill & NC BBQ, La Grange, NC and Reynolds Seafood, Kinston, NC.

Makes 3 quarts, serves 6-9

Ingredients:

1/4 pound bacon, cut into 1/2″ pieces (Reynolds Seafood)

1, 6 ounce can tomato paste (Reynolds Seafood)

1 large yellow onion, sliced 1/2 inch thick (Lenoir County Farmers Market)

5-6 small-medium red potatoes, quartered (Lenoir County Farmers Market)

Salt, pepper and red pepper flakes to taste

1 pound Rock Fish (Reynolds Seafood)

6 eggs (Cock-A-Doodle Farm, LaGrange, NC from Lenoir County Farmers Market)

Directions:

Fry bacon in skillet. Pour bacon grease and bacon into 6 quart pot, heat on medium-medium low. Layer and add tomato paste, potatoes, onion, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes to pot. DO NOT STIR. Add 6 cups water to cover vegetables. Bring to slow rolling boil over medium heat for 30-45 minutes, until potatoes are tender. Meanwhile, filet fish, removing as many bones as possible. Add fish to pot during last 10 minutes of cooking. DO NOT STIR.

After fish is cooked through, turn heat to medium low. Break eggs on the side of pot, gently place into stew one at a time. Let eggs set for 10 minutes. DO NOT STIR. When ready to serve, use a ladle to reach bottom of pot, scoop upwards to ladle into bowls. Always serve with fresh white loaf bread, just as the Lenoir County locals do.

Resources: Lenoir County North Carolina. About Lenoir County. http://www.co.lenoir.nc.us/history.html Accessed October 11, 2014.

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Easy Slow Cooker Green Lentil Soup

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Lentil soup has been on my mind for the past couple months. For some reason, the thought of cooking lentils was intimidating, since my family didn’t eat them growing up and I was never taught how to cook them. To my delight, an article showed up in my email inbox entitled, “Lentil Soup Without a Recipe”. This was just the motivation I needed to start thinking about actually making this soup. While cooking soup on the stove-top is my usual go-to cooking method, I wanted to use my slow cooker to be able to leave it alone and bring that heavenly homemade soup aroma into my apartment while I worked. After browsing a few recipes, I was confident I’d be able to conjure up the exact soup I was longing for. I must admit, this was one of the easiest recipes and requires minimal prep. Feel free to experiment with adding your favorite vegetables and spices!

Easy Slow Cooker Green Lentil Soup

Inspired by Food 52 and these two recipes

Ingredients:

4 cups water

4 cups vegetable broth

2 cups green lentils, rinsed

1 sweet potato peeled and chopped

3 carrots peeled and chopped

3 ribs of celery, chopped

1/2 large yellow onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 bay leaves

1 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled, finely grated

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon cumin

Salt and pepper to taste

1-2 bunches kale, washed and chopped

3 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley

Directions:

Add all ingredients to slow cooker except for kale and Italian parsley. Wait to add these until the last 10 minutes before serving. Set heat at low if heating for 7-8 hours, or set at high if heating for 4-5 hours. Serve warm with your favorite crusty bread or a dollop of plain Greek yogurt and fresh cilantro!

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Food for thought: Which is your favorite color lentil to cook with?