Lenoir County: Fish Stew

 Check out my nutrition/lifestyle coaching business Be and Eat Well

IMG_2055

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.

lenoir 1

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.

lenoir 2

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.

lenoir 3

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.

lenoir 4

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.

lenoir 6

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!

lenoir 7

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.

IMG_2104

Advertisements

Post-semester Raleigh Staycation

My first week/weekend free in months. What does a girl do? Celebrate of course!

IMG_0268Bida Manda – Raleigh, with the lovely ladies I spent the semester with

IMG_0279Trampled by Turtles Concert- an awesome experience reflecting on the time since I first saw these guys at Waterfront Bar at UW-Stout to where I am today

IMG_0283Pretty happy with this homemade lunch creation

IMG_0325Indulging at Raleigh Brewing with good friends, Katie & Tara and my love, Michael

 

Took advantage of the brilliant sunshine & 57 degree day at the North Carolina Museum of Art-Museum Park.

IMG_0289Received new Christmas ornaments from mom and dad!

Enjoyed another gorgeous day hiking at Umstead State Park with my love. Incredible lunch at La Farm Bakery.

Putting into practice what I learned in Food and Society…indulging in food from past memories of home- WI and embracing new memories of home here in NC with chocolate from Escazu, Raleigh.

Couldn’t have asked for a better way to end the semester 🙂

Exploring Southern Foodways with John T. Edge

It’s not everyday that an aspiring food writer has the opportunity to learn from a distinguished Southern food writer such as John T. Edge. Opportunities like this one leads me to believe that the path that I’m on is where I’m suppose to be. The Masters of Nutrition Program at Meredith College has opened up so many doors in the last four years, and continues to. Last Monday night I had the privilege to be in a room full of nutrition grad students and listen to John T.’s journey in becoming an iconic Southern food writer.

045

John T. began by giving us a brief explanation how his Southern roots gave him the inspiration to change careers and earn a Master’s Degree in Southern Studies. This has allowed him to write about the South’s identity around food. Topics such as farming cash crops, race, poverty and power are near to John T., as his work for the Southern Foodways Alliance documents and educates about Southern foodways. Thinking about food in new ways and distinguishing food and place are crucial aspects when telling the story of the South.

046

A couple of John T.’s main points were that the Southern food culture continues to evolve and the South is defined by culture and the people who live it. Rather than trying to preserve the culture, John T.’s work focuses on documenting the evolution of Southern Foodways, through working class people. He discussed how a newer Southern cuisine is emerging such as fried chicken from The General Muir, a restaurant located in Georgia inspired by a New York Jewish Deli. Although Southern food is evolving, we learned a little about his own food traditions. You will never find sweet cornbread on his plate and holidays will always include pickled peaches.

As the discussion was wrapping up, I had a chance to gain a little insight on how I can work to become a successful food writer. Unique ideas, passion and practice are a few words that I took away and will remain with me as I continue to write. 057

After our classroom discussion, we headed over to Meredith’s Jones Auditorium to hear from an expert panel of North Carolina chefs and farmers while John T. moderated the discussion. Chefs Ashley Christensen, Scott Crawford, Ricky Moore and Andrea Reusing, along with farmers from Coon Rock Farm, Jamie DeMent and Richard Holcomb discussed how they celebrate the diverse variety of Southern foods. Agreeing with John T. that Southern food is continually evolving, they discussed the importance of discovering and re-discovering methods and techniques of Southern cooking to stimulate new interest with customers while continuing to reflect the Southern culture they love.

061

I walked away from this event with a new sense of appreciation for Southern foodways and am eager to continue my exploration. Thank again John T. and Triangle chefs for sharing your stories with us!

A Celebration of Summer

IMG_2876

Another holiday is upon us. The last of the “summer” holidays, celebrating the American labor movement. As we head to the beach, mountains or relax at home, this weekend serves as an appropriate time to reflect. I have written about reflecting in the past and feel it is important for mind/body health. Take a minute to reflect and be grateful for everything that has happened over the summer, embrace the change of season that’s about to make its way across the county and focus your mind and body on your goals and ambitions for the last four months of the year.

Last week I started class, however, this semester is different. This is my LAST class of graduate school! Yes, it is true! After four years of balancing work and school, I will have my Masters in Nutrition in December. The experiences I have encountered while completing assignments has molded me into who I am today. I started grad school for the purpose of learning. There was always the question of “What will my practicum project be?” Or “What are you going to do with your degree?” I can say that those questions have been answered along the way and will continue to be as my path unfolds.

If you’ve followed me over the summer, you can imagine how enriching working with Elena from Biscuits and Such has been. Networking with so many amazing people while researching this gorgeous state, becoming even more comfortable and confident in the kitchen with recipe development and developing my voice on social media has opened doors I could only dream about before. This practicum isn’t just a project anymore, it is becoming life!

As summer winds down, (although here in NC it sure doesn’t feel like it!) we’ll be shifting our focus from okra, green beans and tomatoes to sweet potatoes, greens, and apples. Ok, I have to admit I’ve been eating sweet potatoes all summer long, but apples….now that’s a food that proclaims “it’s fall” like no other!

This morning my boyfriend, Michael and I, visited the Lenoir County Farmers Market and saw first hand how the produce is winding down as we start to transition seasons. Peppers were on my mind and luckily there were still a few waiting for me. While I was making the stuffed peppers tonight I realized how my ingredients were from all around NC. The lamb, from Rainbow Meadow Farms purchased from the State Farmers Market in Raleigh. The zucchini and red onion from the Midtown Farmers Market in Raleigh. The rosemary from my backyard. The corn, peppers and tomatoes from Lenoir County Farmers Market in Kinston. This cumulative dish illustrates my summer. Traveling from Raleigh to Kinston every other weekend to visit Michael, shopping at farmers markets most Saturday mornings, and experimenting with flavors, recipes and photography. It has been such a rewarding experience and I am ever so grateful to have this opportunity, while looking forward for what’s to come!

Lamb and Rosemary Stuffed Bell Peppers

Serves 3-4

 Ingredients:

1/2 pound ground lamb

1 medium red onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1-2 sprigs rosemary, minced

4 medium bell peppers – your preference in color

1 ear white corn, boiled 3-5 minutes and cut off the cob

1 medium zucchini, chopped

salt and pepper to taste

cinnamon, dried basil, crushed red pepper to taste

ghee or butter

Optional sauce: Stewed tomatoes using Mother Earth’s Homegrown Beer or tomato based sauce of choice

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

2. Rinse the peppers and halve, cutting from stem down, discard the core and set in greased baking dish face down. Bake in oven for 15-20 min until soft enough to be pierced with a fork.

3. Meanwhile, heat a medium sauce pan to medium high heat and coat with butter or ghee.

4. Saute the onions, garlic and rosemary until the onions start to turn clear or slightly brown.

5. Add the ground lamb and spices, brown 2-3 minutes.

6. Add zucchini and corn to mixture, turn heat to low for a light simmer. Taste to adjust spices as needed.

7. Once peppers are done, flip over and fill peppers with mixture.

8. Bake in oven for another 3-5 minutes.

9. Enjoy!

Optional sauce: Stewed tomatoes or tomato based sauce of choice

IMG_2857

Food for thought: What is your favorite way to stuff peppers? How are you celebrating Labor Day Weekend?

 

‘Tis the Season for Farmers Markets! #1

It is officially summer. This may be my favorite time of the year. Not only do we have sunshine for over 12 hours, but the opportunities for in-season, local, fresh produce are almost endless. From farmers markets to roadside stands to CSA’s, each week we can be sure to find a mouthwatering summertime favorite.

As part of my practicum project, I have the opportunity to make it a point to visit farmers markets outside the Raleigh area. This makes me happy, as I get to drive to new places, meet farmers from various counties and most importantly…..EAT! Eat real, wholesome, locally grown food. Anyone who knows me will agree that I absolutely love grocery shopping. It doesn’t get any better when you actually get to MEET the farmer who grew your food. When it comes to waking up early on a Saturday for a market, I’ll be there.

I decided I will start a series of posts of farmers markets I visit over the course of the summer, which will very well lead into fall and winter. I’m so grateful for those farmers who brave the weather all year round! (Thank goodness I live in the South!)

The first ‘non-Raleigh’ market of the year started with a trip to Columbus County. After a drive through back-country roads to meet Elena, not knowing what to expect, I ended up at the pavilion.

2014-05-31_11-56-09_627

After speaking with a few farmers and buying cucumbers, beets, and turnip greens, grown mostly pesticide free, I was extremely ecstatic when I found a farmer from Higher Ground Gardens selling rhubarb!! Yes, North Carolina grown RHUBARB!!! Being from WI, this was a treat. I have not once found a farmer who was able to grow rhubarb in this state in the past 4 years I’ve lived here. Every time I asked about it, I received the same response: “It’s too hot for rhubarb to grow here.” Well, this farmer has proven that he is able to grow some great looking (and tasting) rhubarb!

The Columbus County Community Farmers Market is surely one I would recommend to anyone who is looking for good quality, wholesome food who lives south of Fayetteville, near Wilmington or even close to the eastern South Carolina border. Follow them on Facebook and Twitter!

Carrot, Beet, Rhubarb Smoothie
Serves 1

1 cup water
½ cup sliced raw carrots, frozen
¼ cup sliced raw red beets, frozen
¼ cup chopped raw rhubarb, frozen
½ tablespoon Coconut oil
Sprinkle of Ginger
Handful of Goji berries

1. Slice and chop carrots, beets and rhubarb after getting back from market. Freeze together in 1 bag for convenience.
2. Pour water into blender, add frozen ingredients and blend to break up.
3. Add coconut oil and ginger, blend. Taste. If the flavor is too earthy, add Goji berries to sweeten.
4. Enjoy!

I thank Elena for inspiring me to add beets to my smoothies and drink them out of blue mason jars!

IMG_0765

 Read more about my ‘Discovering North Carolina’ project here

Food for thought: What is your favorite summertime food or favorite smoothie ingredient?

Got to be NC Festival

IMG_0408

This month marks the start of my project, ‘Discovering North Carolina.’ Last weekend I had the opportunity to experience a ‘state-fair’ like festival held in Wake County, the Got to be NC Festival. This three day event had everything from carnival rides and antique tractor pulls to John Deere Ice Cream Makers, a Food, Wine & Beer Expo and a North Carolina local bluegrass band competition.

IMG_0418

2014-05-17_15-02-21_597

My focus of attending this festival was not only to enjoy the sunshine and listen to some traditional live bluegrass music, but I was hoping to speak with anyone who might be from Wake, Forsyth or Buncombe County who was selling a local food/product in which I could learn a little more about their particular unique food culture and heritage. (see ‘Discovering North Carolina’ page for project details.) While I was strolling in the Food, Wine & Beer Expo I came across a booth from Old Salem Museums & Gardens, featuring the renowned Moravian Cookies from Forsyth County, NC.

IMG_0388
The two men who were tending the booth were both very knowledgeable and were able to tell me a brief but detailed summary of the history of the Moravian settlers. Topics we discussed included not only the history of the ever so famous Moravian cookies, but the mathematical origin of the Moravian Christmas star, traditional dishes such as the veggie-less chicken pie, and a potato and yeast bread known as Moravian sugar cake. Next to a couple cookbooks that were for sale was a gem of a book entitled ‘Preserving the Past – Salem Moravians’ Receipts & Rituals’. This book of “receipts contains a variety of topics ranging from 18th and 19th century etiquette notes to medicinal remedies to brief recipe descriptions for veggies, breads, meats, sweets and more. According to the author, this book is the first ever published recipe collection from the 250-year-old Moravian Archives in Old Salem. I immediately purchased a copy for myself as I felt this was a great find and productive start in researching Forsyth County.

IMG_0426
Overall my experience at the ‘Got to be NC Festival’ was enjoyable and a success. Even though I didn’t partake of any fried Oreos or corn dogs, I did indulge in a chocolate chip cookie from a Triangle (and Wake County) favorite, La Farm Bakery. This festival had something for everyone and exhibited the past and present culture of North Carolina in food, music and agriculture. Stay tuned and check back often as I continue with my series of ‘Discovering North Carolina’!

IMG_0401 IMG_0402 IMG_0400 IMG_0409 IMG_0413

Read more about my ‘Discovering North Carolina’ project here.
Food for thought: What is your favorite food or restaurant in Wake County, NC? I’d love to hear!