Thursday, May 19, 2011


Beets are perhaps the only vegetable that taste almost the same whether they're from a can or cooked fresh.  In spite of that fact, I take the long route and always buy beets fresh to avoid the sodium content of canned foods.
They are mostly a spring vegetable and are available now in two places that I know of:
 1. at our local farmer's market (Saturdays 8AM - 2PM) and
 2. at Parker Farms' stand on Trent Road, behind Moore's BBQ (Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from   Noon to 5:30, and Saturdays 10AM - 1PM).  

When beets are out of season locally, I buy them at Harris Teeter or Wal-Mart.  If you have never learned to appreciate this deeply hued vegetable, it's not  too late to make an effort.  Considered to be blood builders, detoxifiers and anti-inflammatory, beets are loaded with vitamins A, B1, B2, B6 and C.  They also contain choline, folic acid, iodine, iron, manganese, organic sodium, potassium, fiber and carbohydrates in the form of natural digestible sugars.  

Do you think fresh beets are too expensive?  Think again.  You're actually getting two vegetables in one.  Don't throw those green tops away.  Cook them like spinach, because they taste almost the same.  And, believe it or not, the greens have all the nutrients of the roots magnified.    

Thanks to a friend who has a large vegetable garden, we have been eating beets and beet greens for several weeks and loving it.

Here's my simple recipe for a delicious beet salad.

Roasted Beet-Feta Cheese Salad
Rating:  9 out of 10

INGREDIENTS:  4 medium beet roots, cut from green tops, scrubbed
2 tsp. + 1 Tbsp. olive oil, divided use
Sea salt and pepper
2 tsp. red wine vinegar
2 tsp. honey
2 Tbsp. Feta cheese, crumbled
2 Tbsp. toasted, broken walnuts

Heat oven to 400F.  Place beets in oven-proof dish and drizzle with 2 tsp. oil.  Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper and toss to combine.  Roast in oven, uncovered, about 40 minutes, or till a fork can be inserted in beet without resistance.  Cool.  Trim tops and bottoms of beets; peel and slice; place in serving dish.  Drizzle with remaining 1 Tbsp. oil, vinegar and honey.  Toss to combine.  Sprinkle cheese and walnuts over top and serve.  Yield:  4 servings

Thursday, May 12, 2011


Eddie Browning writes about the most interesting recipes each Wednesday in our Sun Journal newspaper.  A few weeks ago, he gave us this recipe from his friend Penny.  The hard-boiled eggs are brined in a spicy soy-sake concoction, then simply filled with the yolks that have been mashed and mixed with mayo, Sriracha, wasabi paste and chives.  They are deliciously different.  The brown color of the egg white exterior contrasts with the creamy white interior, and, of course, the egg yolk filling.  These eggs will please the eyes as well as the palate.

Note:  Star anise pods, Sriracha chile sauce and wasabi paste are available at Asian supermarkets.  There are two in New Bern:  one is on Glenburnie Road near the ABC store, and the other is in the Trent Road Shopping Center.

Penny's Sriracha-And-Wasabi Deviled Eggs
Rating:  8.0 out of 10

INGREDIENTS:  1 dozen large eggs
2 cups low-sodium soy sauce
1/2 cup sake (or dry Marsala)
10 star anise pods
1/2 cup chopped scallions
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup coarsely grated peeled fresh ginger
1/4 cup + 1 Tbsp. low-fat mayonnaise
1 Tbsp. Sriracha chile sauce
2-1/4 tsp. wasabi paste
1/4 cup snipped chives
pinch of Chinese 5-spice powder (optional, I left it out)

In a large saucepan, cover the eggs with cold water and bring to a boil; boil for 1 minute.  Cover the saucepan, remove from heat and let stand for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, combine soy sauce with sake, star anise, scallions, sugar and ginger.  Add 1 cup of water and bring to a boil.  Transfer mixture to a heatproof bowl and let cool completely.

Drain water from eggs and shake pan gently to crack the eggshells. Cool eggs slightly under cold running water, then peel them under running water.  Add eggs to cooled soy mixture.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours.

Drain eggs and rinse them lightly to remove any bits of scallion or ginger; pat dry.  Using a slightly moistened thin, sharp knife, cut eggs in half lengthwise.  Gently pry egg yolks into medium bowl and mash with a fork.  Stir mayo, Sriracha, wasabi and 3 Tbsp. snipped chives into mashed yolks.  Transfer mixture to pastry bag fitted with a star or plain tip.  Set halved egg whites on a serving platter and pipe in the filling.  Sprinkle deviled eggs with remaining 1 Tbsp. of chives and the Chinese 5-spice powder (if using) and serve.  Yield:  24 deviled egg halves

Friday, May 6, 2011


Franco's has real New York-style pizza.  The crust is thin and crispy and the pizza tastes good.  There's a little less flavor than Luigi's pizza because there is no added oregano or basil to the cheese, but it's still good.  With their new location across from the Post Office on Glenburnie Road, this is going to be very convenient for me and other Greenbrier residents.

For all you carb lovers out there, Franco's also has hot or cold subs, salads, strombolies, calzone, Sicilian (thick crust) pizza, Spaghetti and meatballs, other Italian Specialties and desserts and coffee. They'll soon be offering beer and wine in addition to soda and tea.

Franco's is open Monday through Saturday, 11AM - 10PM.  They're located at 1822-2 S. Glenburnie Road, across from the Post Office.  Phone:  252-633-0836

Update April 2012:  We've been told that Mario's (of Havelock) will be taking over this restaurant.


Being from the Northeast, I'm always on the lookout for a good New York-style pizza.  The crust has to be thin and crispy, the sauce has to have good homemade flavor, and there should be some oregano and/or basil for added flavor.  A pizza that fits this description is hard to find in the Southeast, but we did find it at Luigi's Pizza in Morehead City.

Big Apple Pizza, by its name, implies that it serves New York-style pizza, but I didn't find it to be.  The pizza we ordered from the Twin Rivers Mall location came with a tough, rubbery, partly soggy crust and flavorless yet oversalted sauce.  I called the manager, who told me he has lots of satisfied customers, he's from New York, and he learned to make pizza from -- guess who -- Luigi.  He offered to give me another pizza, made properly.  The problem here is that he is the one who made the pizza in the first place.

I'm not sure what went wrong because the manager insists that his crust is crispy and his sauce is homemade.  He also said he uses the same suppliers that Luigi does.  I thanked him for his offer to make good on the pizza we threw out, but declined.  To be fair, I should go back and give him another try.  (My neighbor from New Jersey says that's her favorite pizza place in New Bern.)

Monday, May 2, 2011


Fresh spinach is available at the New Bern Farmer's Market.  I bought some, and it's super fresh and delicious.  Spinach is a cool-weather crop, so it's available locally in the spring and fall.  We love it in a salad or sauteed simply in olive oil and garlic as a side dish.

Time is short for this wonderful nutrient-laden veggie.  If you want your beta carotene, iron, calcium and folate, better get on over to the Farmer's Market this Saturday.  Buying local produce means you skip the heavy pesticides used on commercially grown veggies.  R Garden, Putnam Family Farms and Scott Organic Farm are three of my favorite vendors at the market.  They also sell strawberries, lettuce, beets, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, scallions, cucumbers and zucchini.  The tomatoes and cukes are greenhouse grown, but the zucchini at Putnam Family Farms is field grown.  Their field-grown tomatoes will be available in three short weeks.  They have an interesting system, where they sow the seeds in the field, then cover the row with "tents" that are removable on warm days.  This enables them to harvest field-grown vegetables well before other farmers.  

When you get your spinach, save some of it to make this great breakfast.  Spinach and eggs are a great start for your day!

Spinach and Eggs
Rating:  9 out of 10

INGREDIENTS:  1 Tbsp. Smart Balance buttery spread (or olive oil or butter)
1/3 cup chopped onion, preferably sweet onion
1/2 tsp. minced or grated garlic (1 small clove)
3 cups chopped fresh spinach
2 pinches sea salt or kosher salt
4 eggs, preferably free range
1/4 cup heavy cream (or half and half or milk)
3 Tbsp. finely grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 cup grated Monterey Jack with Jalapeno Pepper cheese
Big pinch grated fresh nutmeg
Big pinch black pepper

In large heavy skillet or cast-iron pan, using medium heat, saute onion and garlic in Smart Balance till soft, about 3 minutes.  Increase heat to medium-high.  Add spinach and salt and stir till spinach wilts, about 3 minutes.  In medium bowl, whisk together eggs, cream, cheeses, nutmeg and pepper.  Pour over veggies in skillet.  Decrease heat to medium.  Stir mixture with spatula or spoon till eggs are softly set, about 2 minutes.  Yield:  2 servings