Monday, September 26, 2011



We recently ate at a new Greek restaurant in Morehead City, where we were served artisan bread and dipping oil.  The oil was flavored simply with a fresh rosemary stem.


It looked appetizing in the bottle, but the oil was completely flavorless.  This started my hubby remembering the luscious dipping oils he tasted on business trips to Chicago, and he set out to duplicate those flavors. 
An internet search the following day turned up an interesting recipe for flavored olive oil.  All the herbs used in the recipe were dried, but our pantry was missing dried rosemary and parsley.  He substituted fresh, since that’s what we had.  And he was so excited, he more than doubled the recipe.   That night, a simple dinner of sauteed mussels with bread and oil was soul satisfying.


But something was nagging at Guy, something he seemed to not quite remember, so he did another internet search.  He found that, “…there are safe and unsafe ways to make infused olive oil.  The unsafe way is to put anything in the oil that contains any trace of water or moisture.  That would include garlic, lemon peel, fresh peppers, fresh herbs and spices.  The oil will not support bacterial growth, but the water containing fresh herbs will.  Botulism bacteria can grow in this type of environment, even in a sealed bottle.”

We found that we needed to use this oil up quickly and keep it refrigerated, and that salt and vinegar added to the oil help to retard bacterial growth.  (Think salad dressing using a lesser amount of vinegar.) After a few days, I strained out the herbs and used the remaining infused oil every way possible.  Next time, we won’t make quite as much so it can be used up quickly.  And I’ll never give it as a gift! 


Herbed Oil for Dipping Bread like Carrabba’s
Adapted from Robbie’s Recipe Collection
Rating:  9.5 out of 10
1 tsp. crushed red pepper
1 tsp. ground black pepper
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried rosemary
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. parsley flakes
1 tsp. granulated garlic
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, best quality you can afford
2 tsps. balsamic vinegar

Combine all ingredients in a bowl or bottle.  Let flavors infuse several hours before using.  Fresh herbs may be substituted, but it’s best to wash, dry, then sun-dry them first to remove water.  Whether made with all dried herbs or a combination of fresh and dried, the infused oil should be used as quickly as possible (within a week or so) and kept refrigerated when not in use.  Be aware that even trace amounts of water in any of the ingredients can cause dangerous botulism bacteria to grow in the mixture.  DO NOT GIVE AS GIFTS!

Friday, September 23, 2011


pillsbury carrot cake (8)

Here is yet another carrot cake recipe, this time from old reliable Pillsbury.  Instead of cinnamon, Pillsbury uses vanilla for the flavoring.  Their frosting is combined with coconut and chopped nuts.  I had my doubts, but because it was Pillsbury, I gave it a try, and I was not disappointed.  The cake is moist, sweet and flavorful, and has a lighter texture than some of the very dense carrot cakes I've tasted.  I've rated this cake as highly as my previous top pick, Cook's Illustrated 2003 Simple Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting.

I reduced the sugars in both the cake and the frosting.  Trust me, it’s plenty sweet without the extra sugar, and everyone who tasted it agreed.  The only other change I made was to substitute buttermilk for half the oil, as I do with all carrot cake recipes.  Surprisingly, this is one really good carrot cake, one that I would make again.

pillsbury carrot cake 
Carrot Cake with Creamy Supreme Frosting
Adapted from “Lovin’ from the Oven,” The Pillsbury Company, 1987
Rating:  9.5 out of 10

2-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, lightly spooned and leveled
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1-1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk (or 1/2 cup milk + 1-1/2 tsp. cider vinegar or lemon juice)
2 tsp. good-quality pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups carrots, grated on large holes of box grater
8-1/4 oz. can crushed pineapple, drained
1/2 cup raisins, plumped in heated drained pineapple juice and drained
1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts or pecans

Heat oven to 350F.  Grease and flour a 13x9” pan.  In medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt; set aside.  In large bowl, combine sugar, oil, buttermilk, vanilla and eggs; beat on medium-high speed of electric mixer till smooth, about 2-3 minutes.  Stir in flour mixture on lowest speed and just barely mix.  Add carrots, pineapple, drained raisins and nuts.  Pour into pan.  Bake about 45 minutes, or till cake springs back when touched lightly in center.  Cool completely.  (Directions were not clear, but I removed cake from pan and pulled parchment off cake, then cooled cake on wire rack.)

8 oz. cream cheese or Neufchatel cheese, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
2 tsp. high-quality pure vanilla extract
1 cup Baker’s sweetened dried coconut
1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts or pecans

In large bowl, combine cream cheese, sugar, butter and vanilla.  Beat at medium-high speed of electric mixer until smooth.  Stir in coconut and nuts.  Spread over cooled cake.

pillsbury carrot cake (11)

Sunday, September 18, 2011



In their September 2010 issue, Food Network Magazine printed a very clever outline for making virtually any kind of fruit crumble.  It goes like this:

1.PREP:  Preheat the oven to 375F.  Butter a 2-quart shallow baking dish or eight 6-oz. ramekins.

2.PICK A NUT:  Chop 3/4 cup of any of these nuts, shelled – walnuts, almonds, pistachios, pecans, hazelnuts.
3.CHOOSE A GRAIN:  Put 1/2 cup rolled oats or cornmeal in a bowl.  Add 3/4 cup flour, 1/2 cup light brown sugar and a pinch of salt and whisk.
4.MIX THE CRUMBLE:  Add the nuts to the bowl.  Work in 7 Tbsp. softened butter with your fingers until evenly moistened; set aside.
5.MAKE A FILLINGApple-Raspberry – 3 lbs. baking apples cut into 3/4-inch chunks tossed with 2 cups raspberries, 3 Tbsp. sugar, 2 Tbsp. flour, 1 tsp. vanilla and a pinch each of nutmeg, cinnamon and salt.                                       
Plum-Nectarine-Blackberry – 4 nectarines and 2 plums halved, pitted and sliced 1/2” thick, then tossed with 2 cups blackberries, 1/2 cup sugar and 1 Tbsp. flour.                                                             
Pear-Pineapple  --  3 lbs. baking pears peeled and cut into 3/4” chunks combined with 3 cups pineapple chunks, 2/3 cup sugar, 1/2 tsp. ground ginger and 1/4 tsp. each salt and cinnamon in a skillet.  Cover and Cook over medium heat, stirring, 12 minutes.  Stir in 2 Tbsp. flour; cook 1 more minute. 
Blueberry – 4 cups blueberries tossed with 1/3 cup sugar, 1 Tbsp. flour and 1 tsp. lemon juice in a bowl.  Double the blueberry filling if using 8 ramekins.    
Quince-Grape – 3 lbs. quinces, peeled and cut into 1” chunks, then tossed with 1/2 cup sugar, 1/3 cup water and a pinch of salt in a skillet.  Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until tender, 15 to 20 minutes.  Stir in 1 lb. seedless red grapes and 1 Tbsp. flour.
6.BAKE:  Transfer filling to prepared dish or ramekins and dot with 2 Tbsp. cut-up cold butter.  Squeeze handfuls of the crumble mixture and scatter on top of the fruit.  Bake until golden and bubbly, 40-45 minutes.  Let sit 10 minutes before serving.  Top with whipped cream or ice cream, if desired.
Click here to PRINT THIS RECIPE.

Thursday, September 15, 2011



An easy way to cook chicken is to just baste it with bottled Teriyaki sauce and call it a day.  (Teriyaki sauce is a mixture of soy sauce, a sweetener and Mirin, but it can also contain ginger and sesame seeds.  (Cheaper versions will use high-fructose corn syrup as the sweetener, and vinegar in place of the Mirin.  I used Kikkoman Original Teriyaki Sauce, a slightly upscale version of their regular Teriyaki, containing Mirin and no high-fructose corn syrup. )


It’s a little more work to brine the chicken and make a glaze, but the end flavor is worth it, when you have the time.  For succulent, tasty grilled chicken that you would be proud to serve to company, give this recipe a try.

Grilled Honey-Teriyaki Chicken Wings
Loosely Adapted from Tyler Florence
Rating:  9.5 out of 10
1 quart water
1/4 cup brown sugar
6 garlic cloves, smashed slightly, divided
3 slices ginger root, gently bashed to open up, divided
1 Tbsp. kosher salt
3 sprigs fresh thyme
6 – 8 chicken wings, sectioned, tips discarded
1/2 cup Teriyaki sauce
1 Tbsp. honey
1-1/2 tsp. toasted sesame oil, divided
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
About 1/2 tsp. black pepper
Sliced scallions for garnish
Toasted sesame seeds for garnish

Combine water, brown sugar, 2 garlic cloves, 1 slice ginger root, 1 Tbsp. salt and 3 sprigs thyme in a large resealable bag; swirl to dissolve sugar and salt.  Add chicken pieces and allow to brine for 1-2 hours in the fridge. 

Heat grill to 400F with one burner turned off.  Season grates with a wad of paper towel that has been dipped in vegetable oil. 

Make glaze:  In a small saucepan, over medium heat, combine  Teriyaki sauce, honey, 2 slices ginger root, 4 garlic cloves, 1/2 tsp. sesame oil and crushed red pepper.  Simmer until rich and slightly reduced. 

Remove chicken from brine; pat dry; place in large bowl.  Drizzle with 1 tsp. sesame oil; sprinkle with black pepper; toss to coat.  Grill over indirect heat on turned-off burner about 20-25 minutes, basting with glaze during last 5 minutes.  Serve garnished with finely sliced scallions and toasted sesame seeds.  Serves 2-3  (Leftovers are great for next-day’s lunch.)

Monday, September 12, 2011


LHJ carrot cake

In my quest to find the best carrot cake recipe, I find I am faced with a dilemma:  I like them all, though my fave still remains Cook's Illustrated 2003 Simple Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting, for its lighter texture and slightly spicier flavor. 

Could carrot cakes be like brides and Christmas trees -- no losers?  For me, it seems so.  Here’s another great recipe, as magazine recipes usually are.  This one makes a dense cake with excellent flavor, thanks in part to raisins that get soaked in bourbon (or in my cake’s case, Canadian Mist whiskey).  The frosting, with very little sugar, is the perfect counterpart to the sweet, rich and moist cake.  Timing is perfect.

LHJ carrot cake (2)

The shape of the cake is odd.  It’s baked in a 10-inch springform pan, but I didn’t want long thin wedges.  So I cut a circle in the middle and cut thicker, smaller wedges from the outside circle.  The inside circle became my special, hidden treat.

LHJ carrot cake (5)

Ladies Home Journal Carrot Cake
Source:  Ladies Home Journal Magazine
Rating:  9.0 out of 10

INGREDIENTS:  1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup bourbon (I used Canadian Mist whiskey)
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, spooned and lightly swept
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. sea salt or kosher salt
3/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
2 cups granulated sugar (I used 1 cup sugar + 1/4 cup Nu Naturals Stevia)
1 cup vegetable oil (I used 1/2 cup oil + 1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk)
2 large eggs
3/4 lb. (12 oz.) carrots, peeled, grated coarsely, then chopped
1 cup toasted pecans, coarsely chopped

Heat oven to 350F (325F for dark or coated pans).  Grease a 10-inch springform pan or a 10-inch round cake pan.  Line bottom with wax paper; grease paper.  Combine raisins and bourbon in small bowl; set aside.

Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder and spices in a bowl.  Set aside.

Using a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat sugar, oil and buttermilk if using, until blended.  Add eggs, 1 at a time, scraping side and bottom of bowl after ach addition.  At low speed, beat in dry ingredients just till combined.  Drain raisins through sieve; discard bourbon or save for future use.  Add raisins, carrots and pecans to flour mixture.  At medium speed, beat about 3 more minutes, until batter is well blended.  Pour into prepared pan; bake 1 hour and 15 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean.  (Feel pick with finger to see if it’s  dry.  If gummy, bake longer.  Carrot cakes are difficult to test for doneness and you can be deceived into thinking it’s done when it’s not.  I found the timing to be perfect.) 

Cool cake in pan on wire rack 15 minutes; remove side of pan.  Invert onto rack and remove bottom of pan and wax paper.  Cool completely.  (If using cake pan, run a knife around side of pan and invert cake onto rack; remove pan and wax paper.)  Transfer to serving plate.

Make frosting:  In medium bowl, beat 8 oz. softened cream cheese or Neufchatel and 4 Tbsp. softened butter until smooth.  Beat in 1 cup confectioner’s sugar, 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract and 1/2 tsp. fresh lemon juice until light and fluffy.  Spread over top of cake.  If desired, garnish with toasted pecans or walnuts.  Serves 12-18, depending on size of slices

LHJ carrot cake (4)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


The South has the corner on pork, and New Bern is in the heart of pig country.  But the new pork that's being marketed is leaner and meaner.  This means you must take care when preparing it, or you will have tough meat.  Brining the meat overnight in a salt-sugar-water solution all but guarantees moist, flavorful meat.

Don't be put off by the title of this recipe.  Pork Tonkatsu is just breaded, fried pork chops using those flaky, crispy Japanese panko crumbs that you can buy just about anywhere nowadays.  Some grocers even sell whole wheat panko, if you're inclined that way. 

Once the brining is done, this is actually a quick entree to put together, and one that I'm sure you'll enjoy as we did.  Get the easy recipe....

Monday, September 5, 2011


We went to two crab parties in August.  At the first, we came away with custom-made T-shirts featuring the photos of the three sponsors:  my hub Guy, Tom and Mark.  At the second, we came away with a recipe for the host’s grandmother’s low-country stew.  Read more....

Sunday, September 4, 2011


Keeping cut basil green is a challenge.  I usually place it in a jar of water and leave it on my kitchen counter, where it will stay fresh for about a week and a half.   But my favorite food magazine, Bon Appetit, found a new way with basil. 

First, they tried storing it in the fridge, both wrapped and unwrapped, and found that it resulted in a wilted brown mess .  No wonder:  basil is sensitive to cold.  Like all plants, it produces ethylene gas, which is what ripens fruit but deteriorates leafy greens when they’re not allowed to breathe.  Bon Appetit’s solution?  Trim the stems as you would flowers to remove dried-up ends, then stick the bunch in a tall glass of water, loosely cover the basil with a plastic bag, and keep it on the counter.  This method allows moisture to stay in while ethylene escapes, making for basil that remains vibrant for nearly a week, by which time you may even see some roots sprouting.

I decided to try my own experiment.  I placed one sprig of basil in a jar with a plastic bag.  Two sprigs were placed in another jar without a bag.  Here they are at Day 1:
Every day at the same time, I changed the water in each jar.  No changes were noted in the leaves until about day 11, when the uncovered basil started showing signs of deterioriation.  Black spots appeared on some of the smaller leaves.

  By day 13, one sprig of uncovered basil had wilted. 

Note that my kitchen temperature was maintained at 76F during this time.  Remember, basil likes warm temperatures.  If your kitchen temperature is below this, deterioration will likely set in sooner; above this, and the basil may last longer.  On day 14, the covered basil was showing signs of deterioration, but had formed beautiful roots.  I may try to plant it.