Coffee and Dish

Have you ever watched WRAL’s noon news on Fridays?Every week they have a short cooking segment that focuses on NC products.  It’s hosted by Bran Shrader, a wide-eyed, fresh-faced reporter who looks like the mischievous kid that might TP the vice principal’s house on Friday night, but show up bright and early on Saturday to help clean it up.

His culinary cohort is Lisa Prince, a member of the NC Agriculture Department who acts as guide to all things Tarheel food.  Her knowledge is bolstered by an infectious enthusiasm that makes you want to run right into the kitchen and get to work.Lisa also hosts the PBS show, Flavor NC, and a new show celebrating the grape called From The Vineyard.  Lisa travels around the state, talking to farmers, chefs, and other diverse folks who have a love for, and connection with feeding North Carolina.

WRAL takes recipe submissions from viewers to make on air.  A couple years ago I sent in a recipe and months later Lisa contacted me to let me know it would be made on the show.  During our email exchange I told her that I wrote food columns for the Herald Sun.  She asked me if I might be interested in judging specialty food contests at the State Fair, which she coordinated.She had me at food.

At this year’s fair (my second as a judge) I asked Lisa if she would be willing to have a food chat after the all the state fair business was concluded.   Last week we met at La Farm; a carb lover’s paradise, for coffee and a food chat.

I started by asking about her TV appearances.

Local Dish, her cooking segment on WRAL, is celebrating its 10th anniversary.  It started as a one-off holiday episode.  It was so popular they eventually decided to air it every Friday.

There’s no glam squad and no crew to prep the ingredients.  Lisa does her own hair and makeup, and she and her sister do all chopping and measuring themselves.  They shoot each episode in her sister’s kitchen, which means familiarity and a working pantry that can supply any missing items.Five years ago a new program was born on PBS, when Lisa was approached to do Flavor NC, an edible travelogue which talks to North Carolina food folk from one end of the state to the other.  Now there’s a new show, From The Vineyard.

I asked for a recipe and she offered this cornbread recipe that is a favorite of her WRAL partner, Brian Shrader.  Here it is, in her words and with her notes.

Pimento Cheese Cornbread

A friend shared this recipe with me who got it from Kathy Moore. She had this cornbread recipe and decided one day to make cornbread cupcakes. Then she decided to “ice” them with some pimento cheese she had made. A new dish was born!pimento-cheese-cornbred2 boxes Jiffy cornbread mix

1 cup sour cream

1 cup cottage cheese

1 stick (8 TBSP.) butter, melted

4 eggs

1 large can corn, drained (optional)

1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated

Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together and pour into a greased 9 x 13 pan. Bake at 400 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes, until golden. When out of the oven, top with pimento cheese.

*Lisa’s Notes: Be generous with the pimento cheese.  It’s the best part.  Use a good quality pimento cheese if you aren’t making it from scratch.  I also like to use jalapeno pimento cheese for a little extra flavor.   This is a great side dish with chili.**Debbie here-the amount of pimento cheese is not specified, but Lisa said ‘generous’ so I would start with 16 ounces and go from there.

Lisa Prince is one more person that I have been lucky to get to know because of this gig.  And just like almost every other food-related acquaintance I’ve made, she is insanely generous and lots of fun to be around.

It’s not just one Thursday in November.  Writing this column, meeting the folks, and eating all the amazing food; for me it means that every day is Thanksgiving.Thanks for your time (and I really mean it).

Seriously, Cornbread

Durham, one of the most diverse, tolerant cities in the nation is my much loved home.  I wouldn’t trade living in the Bull City for anything.  It’s a funky, lively, friendly burg that is willing to give every person and idea a fair shake.

And yet, up until a few weeks ago I was guilty of a prejudice, which was acknowledged to anyone who cared to ask.  I had no patience for this particular belief system and harbored serious doubts about the character and stability of its adherents.

I love too.  Steaks, burgers, pork chops, scrambled eggs, bacon…

I’m not very proud to admit it but, I was utterly bigoted against all things vegan.  I was convinced it was the flavorless choice of persnickety, joyless, holier-than-thou people with whom I wouldn’t want to be stuck next to at a dinner party.  I mean, they can’t eat honey, but bread is okay.  Yeast is a living organism too, right?

But then, at Whole Foods, I discovered the moistest, most delicious cornbread I’ve ever eaten, and was completely flabbergasted to discover that it was vegan.

Whenever I eat something that I really like, I try to get the recipe to share with you, gentle reader.  If the answer is no, often I try to come up with a recipe which is inspired by what I’ve eaten.

I’d say my success rate is 85-90%.  Funnily enough, I’ve never had anyone offer the recipe but refuse permission to print it.

Getting this one was a little tricky.

Unlike an independently owned and operated business, or where the recipe is owned by the individual, Whole Foods has a corporate structure.  The bakers at your local store can’t just give out the recipes all helter skelter-like.

I was directed to contact Pat Parker, the baker in charge of 38 Whole Foods bakeries in the South.  He generously sent me the recipe for the corn bread.  But its arrival brought with it a number of new complications.

Being much more precise, professional bakers use weight, not measure.  Meaning instead of 1 ½ cups of all-purpose flour, it will be 6.75 ounces, or 180 grams, because to confuse things further for the home baker, sometimes recipes are in metric.

And, if a bakery is going to make something, say cookies, they don’t make a home amount like two or three dozen, it’s more like twenty dozen.  So then, the ounces in the recipe become pounds.

And that is what Mr. Parker sent me.

I converted the recipe to ounces, and reduced the amount by 75%.  But, I felt that after two such drastic conversions, that to convert to cups and tablespoons would be pure folly.  It would be like translating a novel from Russian to English, then putting the whole thing in iambic pentameter.  I was afraid that instead of making corn bread, you would get some kind of mutated abomination that would climb out of the oven under its own steam, and steal your car.

So, the recipe is in ounces.  But I don’t recommend attempting this unless you have a very accurate digital scale.  My scale is analog, and I’m too chicken to give it a go.

Whole Foods vegan cornbread

vegan cornbread

0.65 ounces Baking Powder

0.156 ounces Baking Soda

2.06 ounces Frozen Corn Kernels

7.75 ounces Yellow Corn meal

.25 ounce Egg Replacement

3.71 ounces Evaporated Cane Juice

4.45 ounces Canola Oil

6.2 ounces Pastry Flour

0.165 ounces salt

12.375 ounces Soy Milk

3.09 ounces water

Rub a couple teaspoons oil into cast iron skillet and put in oven.  Preheat to 375 degrees.

Sift together baking powder, baking soda, corn meal, pastry flour, and salt.

In a separate bowl, whisk together egg replacement, cane juice, oil, milk, and water.  Add corn kernels.

With wooden spoon, combine wet and dry until just mixed.  Do not beat. 

Pour into skillet and bake 15-20 minutes or just until it browns around the edges and center springs back when touched by finger.

Makes 1-10 inch skillet which serves 6-8.

So I will leave you with two pieces of information about me.

I’ve rethunk my whole vegan people/vegan food bias.  And, when I want some more of that fabulicious corn bread, I think I’ll probably head over to Whole Foods, and buy it.

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Thanks for your time.