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April McGreger's Posts

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Berry delightful

Cobbling together a delicious and easy summer dessert

Life's a big container of cherries.All photos by April McGreger I'm bored by chocoholics. Don't get me wrong; I very much appreciate good chocolate. But after attending four cookouts in the past month without a fruit-based dessert in sight I have had enough. Had the scent of perfectly ripe peaches somehow escaped my hosts? Are they unaware of the painfully short cherry season--whose end is near? What about all the bramble berries that line the ditches and roadsides this time of year? What sort of person does not delight in these things? Please, hold the chocolate cupcakes. It's summer--the season …

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Jam session

I find my thrill in blueberry preserves–and so can you

As we approach the summer solstice, long, hot days spur a growth frenzy in the garden. That explosion of fertility produces the excesses that I live for. I love being swamped by 100 pounds of the fragile soft fruits of summer. It is a race against time. I must work quickly in order to get the fruit processed while it is at its prime. There is no satisfaction quite like turning the problem of too large a harvest, bound for the compost heap, into a prized condiment that will brighten the rest of the year. Have you pancakes and eat …

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Pizza party!

How to turn your backyard into the best pizzeria in town

Photo: Whitney BrownWhat is it about the flicker of a flame, the crackle of burning wood, and the wafting clouds of wood smoke that enchant us so? Combine an outdoor fire with a spring breeze dancing on one's skin and the sound of leaves rustling in the trees, and merriment abounds. The effect is liberating; the appeal is elemental. Add delicious, smoke-kissed food, and you have a wholly sensory experience. All of my favorite food experiences take place outdoor over a hardwood fire: oyster roasts, hickory-smoked barbecue, and wood-fired pizza. I have come to believe that my happiness and well-being …

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Bread winners

Against the grain of industrial agriculture, truly local bread stages a comeback

David Bauer of Farm and Sparrow BakeryPhoto: April McGregerOn a recent vacation to Asheville, North Carolina, I headed to the market to get a loaf of bread. Asheville is home to a large a number of small-scale bakeries, many of which sell primarily at tailgate markets and wholesale to nearby specialty food shops. I found the market shelves stocked with lovely loaves of ciabatta, baguette, marble rye, and challah, but I was most intrigued by a few loaves that I knew at first glance were special. Packaged in brown paper bags with a hand-stamped wood-cut logo, the loaves were not …

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Egg-streme Flavor

Springtime is peak time for naturally raised eggs — and bread puddings and meringues

Before moving on to the more glamorous spring harvests of asparagus, sweet peas, and strawberries, let us first praise the pastured farm egg. That’s right: Eggs, too, have a season. Spring has long represented the beginning of a new cycle, and eggs are the epitome of rebirth.  Easter egg huntshave their origins in ancient Pagan spring traditions associated with the Goddess of Fertility. In natural conditions, hens’ egg production is dependent on hours of daylight. During short winter days, egg production slows down drastically or even stops. Come spring, longer days spur egg production. Plus, increased sunlight means lots of …

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Where the Wild Greens Are

When the season’s first edible weeds poke through, it’s time for gumbo z’herbes

You can't beat them, you might as well eat them. Here in central North Carolina, the harbingers of spring have arrived. No, not daffodils. I'm talking about my favorite wild greens: pepper cress and dandelions. Just this week, I've tucked handfuls of these herbs into sandwiches, topped pizza with them, and folded some into soft scrambled eggs. Their peppery kick and bittersweet bite are just what I need after a winter of sweet, earthy, and starchy root vegetables. Almost everyone I've encountered loves young spring greens -- even if they don't know it. For the uninitiated, I wait until the …

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A decadent chocolate cake for your sweetie, minus the animal products

In the many years I worked in the restaurant world, Valentine's Day meant whipping up confections for other people's sweethearts. The pressure was steep: People scramble for reservations on the romantic holiday, and desserts are expected to impress. This year, I'll be at home -- and focusing on a Valentine's Day sweet for my very own Valentine. I knew the dessert would have to be chocolate, and it would be a huge boon if was also dairy-free, because Phil, like millions of others, has difficulty digesting lactose. I also knew that he prefers cakes to pies, puddings, tortes, or even …

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Take the chill off the bad economy with a frugal, delicious vegetable soup

Photo: Library of Congress In our food system, the part of the animal that delivers the most flavor -- the bones -- often gets thrown away. Purveyors then sell the boneless meat at a higher price. During hard times, such wasteful practices come into relief. We explore humbler, bone-in cuts of meat and underappreciated vegetables. And we begin to take leftovers seriously, putting them to use in other dishes. Amazingly, our cuisine actually benefits from this frugality. Winter is the ideal time for trying your hand at such rustic, country-style dishes. Tough cuts of meat simmered slowly for hours transform …

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Maintaining healthy wild-oyster beds isn't quite as easy as oyster pie

Pearl, interrupted. I have long been partial to oysters. But it wasn't until a few years ago that I came to understand the environmental challenges they face. Many folks assume that water pollution poses the main threat to oysters. Turns out the real damage comes from water scarcity -- specifically, a lack of freshwater draining into coastal areas, often due to overdevelopment. At a Southern Foodways Alliance a couple of years ago, I was lucky enough to hear a talk by Robb Walsh, a Houston-based food journalist. Walsh had heard about the attempts of conservationists and the states that border …

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Long forgotten, chestnuts are coming back with a vengeance, and make a delicious holiday pudding

  Nuts about chestnuts.   I first learned about chestnuts from "The Christmas Song" (most likely, the Chipmunks' version), not from tasting one. That happened much later. A couple of years ago, a farmer brought locally grown chestnuts to the back door of the restaurant where I worked. My coworkers and I were excited to see them and, of course, we wanted some. However, we had no idea what to do with them in their raw form -- not one of us had ever cooked with them. Chestnuts seemed almost exotic to us -- I assumed they must be of …

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