Looking back over 2017, I now recognize our own household’s food trends.
Besides indulging in glühwein (German mulled wine) almost every evening throughout January, we repeated other memorable culinary experiences from last year’s Bavarian adventure. Goulash, goulash soup and chicken paprikash were welcome additions to our winter supper repertoire. As I write, a large jar of Penzeys paprika bides its time in my pantry, waiting to be reopened after the first frost.
Our most beloved souvenir from Munich was a mysterious local salt mixture. We fell under its spell, pouring the seasoning on everything in sight. This addiction led to an effort to import more, and when that failed, we landed on Fiddlehead Farm’s “ramp salt” sold at Funny Girl Farm farmstand on Erwin Road.
As the year wore on, we experimented with a CSA from Ten Mothers Farm in Orange County. Kohlrabi, exotic turnips, radishes and unusual greens were just a few of the veggies that appeared in our box every week. Most of these were delicious roasted simply with olive oil and, of course, a sprinkling of ramp salt.
Now that the holidays are almost here, that amazing ramp salt would make a terrific stocking stuffer for friends … if we haven’t already depleted the supply! If so, Pittsboro’s Fiddlehead Farm offers other intriguing flavors of salt including habanero and black trumpet mushroom, as well as jams, jellies and other condiments sold at Weaver Street Market and the Carrboro Farmers’ Market.
For the vegetable lovers on your list, or maybe yourself, a subscription to a CSA is not an inexpensive gift, but one that keeps on giving all year.
My own holiday gift to Chapel Hill Magazine readers is not one but two of the best recipes I’ve used in 2017 – both even better when ramp salt is substituted for plain salt! My friend Mimi shared the most delicious rendition of one of my old favorites, clam linguini, which we’ve used a dozen times this year. Luckily for us, excellent clams are easily obtainable at Tom Robinson’s Seafood, Whole Foods and The Fresh Market. The second is Creole Shrimp with Endive, which was a huge hit at a cocktail event we threw this fall. I promise it will be the most popular hors d’oeuvre at your holiday party!
Creole Shrimp with Endive Adapted from Louisiana Cookin’
8 oz. cream cheese
2 Tbsp. horseradish
1 cup mayonnaise
¼ cup Creole mustard (Zatarain’s) or grainy Dijon mustard
1 ½ lb. cooked shrimp, peeled and deveined
¼ cup chopped chives or scallions
½ cup diced red bell pepper
Salt and pepper to taste
½ tsp. grated lemon rind
3-4 Belgian endive heads
With a hand mixer combine cream cheese, horseradish, mayonnaise and mustard in a large bowl until well blended.
Chop the shrimp into pieces.
To the sauce in the bowl, add shrimp, chives, red pepper, salt, pepper and lemon rind.
Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours.
Cut the ends off the endive heads and separate the leaves. Spoon the shrimp mixture into the leaves and serve on a platter garnished with chives, chopped red peppers or both.
Mimi’s Clam Linguini
½ lb. spaghetti or linguini
¼ cup olive oil
2 medium-large shallots, peeled and chopped
5 garlic cloves, minced
6 or more white mushrooms, sliced (optional)
20 middleneck clams
½ cup dry white vermouth or white wine
2 Tbsp. butter
Zest of a small lemon
Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain the pasta but don’t rinse.
Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add shallots and garlic and mushrooms if using. Saute until soft.
Add clams and wine. Cover and simmer until all clams open. Stir in the butter and lemon zest. Add drained pasta and mix well.
Sprinkle liberally with parsley and serve immediately.