Monthly Archives: April 2011

Mary’s Memo #2211

     I have been in the south enough times to know that southern cooks have a flair for food and Nancie McDermott, born and raised in North Carolina, is no exception. She’s a food writer and cooking teacher whose ten cookbooks include best-selling “Southern Cakes: Sweet and Irresistible Recipes for Everyday Celebrations” (Chronicle Books 2007).
     If you like German Chocolate Cake you can’t resist making German Chocolate Pie. There are other delectable pies like Buttermilk, Peach Pecan, Shaker Lemon or Spicy Peanut Butter but what can I say: I am a chocoholic through and through! Each recipe is accompanied by a full page color photograph by Leigh Beigh.

 Pastry for 9-inch single-crust deep dish pie 1-1/2 cups (about 6 oz.) shredded sweetened coconut 1 cup chopped pecans 4 squares (4 oz.) semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate 1/4 cup (half stick) butter 1-1/4 cups evaporated milk 1-1/2 cups sugar 3 Tbsp. cornstarch 1/2 tsp. salt 2 eggs, lightly beaten 1 tsp. vanilla extractHeat oven to 375ºF. Line a 9-inch deep dish pie plate with crust and crimp edges. Combine the coconut and pecans in a medium bowl and mix them well. Break up or chop chocolate into small chunks. Combine with the butter in a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat until melted, swirling the pan to help things along. Add the milk, stir well and set aside. It will not be smooth and that’s fine.
In medium bowl combine the sugar, cornstarch and salt. Use a fork and whisk to combine them evenly. Add the eggs and vanilla and stir to combine everything well. Scrape it into the chocolate mixture and stir well. Pour this fairly smooth chocolate filling into the pie shell. Sprinkle coconut-pecan mixture evenly over the top. Place pie on the lower shelf of the oven. Bake until filling is puffed up, lightly browned and fairly firm, 45 to 50 minutes. Place pie on cooling rack. When cool cover and refrigerate until shortly before serving. Serve lightly chilled or at room  temperature.
Source: “Southern Pies, A Gracious Plenty of Pie Recipes from Lemon Chess to Chocolate Pecan,” by Nancie McDermott: Chronicle Books October 2010, $22.95 soft back


     Would you believe there’s cupcake flavored toothpaste, and pickle and bacon, too. And that’s not all, pickle andbacon flavored dental floss is available. Don’t look for it anytime soon at Chief and Rays but for more information or to order log on to
     If you’re inclined to chew on the end of your pen a young Dutch designer Dave Hakkens came up with an edible one. It comes with twenty itty-bitty pieces of candy, stacked on top of each other, and filled with edible ink. The only thing you can’t eat is the small point that you write with. When it’s finished you can throw it away or put it in a new re-fill pen. That’s all I know about having your pen and eating it, too.

     People who watched a video of a laughing baby and listened to upbeat music did better on a cognitive test than those who watched a report on an earthquake and heard sad music, according to a study published in the December 2010 issue of Psychological Science.
Source: Consumer Reports on Health, April 2011.

     Hummus is a great low calorie spread. I don’t like plain hummus but I love the flavored kind. I am particularly impressed with the Sabra brand you’ll find near the deli area at Chief and Rays. Most dips have MSG but not the Sabra brand. I just finished Sabra Greek Olive but other flavors include Roasted Red Pepper, Luscious Lemon, Sun Dried Tomato, Pine
Nut, Spinach and Artichoke and Salsa. Hummus is a natural source of protein and fiber. In addition to being good tasting and good for you, the container is earth friendly and recyclable.

     I do have parfait glasses because in the 60s a filling station in town gave them away with a tank full of gas. But not to worry if you don’t have any, you can make parfaits in wine glasses or goblets. With only 6 ingredients Orange Raspberry Parfaits are easier to assemble than baking a cake or making a pie.

 2 Tbsp. sugar 1 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. cornstarch 1/4 cup orange juice 2 tsp. orange zest 1 quart orange sherbetMix sugar and cornstarch together. Blend in orange juice. Stir in raspberries and orange zest. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and boils. Boil for 1 minute. Chill. Layer sherbet and raspberry sauce in parfait glasses, starting and ending with raspberry sauce. Store in freezer. Remove from freezer to soften slightly before serving. Recipe makes 8 to 10 parfaits. Download PDF of Memo #2211

Mary’s Memo #2210

Although a brunch is still my favorite way to entertain, nowadays most holiday meals are festive potlucks with the hostess providing the meat while guests bring salads, sides and desserts. This kind of dinner party doesn’t put a burden on anyone.
     Ham is probably the meat-of-choice for Easter although lamb is also a favorite but not in this part of the country. If you’ve been asked to make a potato dish I’m suggesting Marinated Mashed Potato Salad (only potatoes are not mashed) from “The 25th Anniversary Fresh Market & Friends Cookbook.” I can’t resist anything flavored with dill and this being Easter time, you also have hard cooked eggs available.

3 lbs. potatoes, peeled and cubed1-1/2 cups mayonnaise(my preference is Hellmann’s Light)3/4 cup chopped celery1/4 cup chopped sweet onion1/4 cup sweet pickle relish2 tablespoons Dijon mustard1 teaspoon dill weed2 hard cooked eggs, choppedPinch of sugarKosher salt and pepper to tasteAdd potatoes to a large stockpot of cold, salted water. Bring to a boil, and then reduce to medium-high heat for 20 to 25 minutes. Drain and place in large mixing bowl. Combine potatoes and mayonnaise. Stir in other ingredients until well mixed. Chill at least 3 hours before serving.
Source: “The 25th Anniversary Fresh Market & Friends Cookbook”

     Fresh Mushroom and Parsley Salad is a Food Network personality Giada De Laurentis recipe but it wasn’t lemony enough to suit my taste so after making it once I doubled the amount of fresh lemon juice.


1 lb. button mushrooms, cleaned and thinly sliced1/3 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley1/4 cup olive oil (I prefer the light kind)1/2 cup fresh lemon juice(2 large lemons should be enough)Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to tasteShaved Parmesan cheese for garnish (2 ounces)In medium salad bowl, mix together the mushrooms and parsley. In small bowl whisk together oil and lemon juice until well blended. Season with salt and pepper. Add oil mixture to salad mixture and toss until well coated. Using a vegetable peeler shave Parmesan
cheese on top and serve. Recipe makes 8 servings.Note: Chief and Rays’ button mushrooms are  Pennsylvania Dutch brand and grown in Pennsylvania. The label says to wash them but to do that would make them water-soaked. Instead, wipe them clean with moist paper towels, replacing towels as needed. I change them a couple times per 8-ounce package. Source: Adapted from Giada De Laurentis recipe.

     Next, pineapple and ham go together like ice cream and cake! Cut your own pineapple according to label directions on all fresh pineapple sold at Chief and Rays. It is cheaper than buying it already cut up and you’ll get more mileage from the whole fruit.


7 slices of Texas toast bread1 cup packed light brown sugar1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted2 cups fresh pineapple chunks3 large eggs3/4 cup milk (whatever kind you drink)Cube the Texas toast bread and toss with brown sugar and melted butter. Add pineapple. Beat eggs and milk together. Combine with bread and pineapple. Spoon into oblong 2-quart glass baking dish. Bake in preheated 325ºF oven for 45 minutes or until a knife inserted in center comes out clean. Serve immediately.
Recipe makes 8 servings. Can be made ahead and refrigerated until time to bake.

     Grain shortages, Middle East turmoil and extreme weather in critical crop-production regions have combined to push retail food prices higher this year, according to Purdue University agriculture economist Corinne Alexander. Prices could climb further if commodities markets continue their upward march. American consumers can expect to spend about 4 percent more for food this year than in 2010. “We’re returning to a period of food price inflation after coming off a period where we saw food price deflation,” Alexander said. “We don’t expect this to be a long term, permanent higher food price period. We’ll see these higher food prices until we rebuild global stocks of the primary crops.”

     Not all news is bad for consumers. Milk production remains high, despite poor prices of dairy producers are receiving. And the total amount the average U.S. family spends on food continues to be about 10 percent of their take-home income, compared to 40 to 50 percent in developing countries such as  Bangladesh.
Source: Purdue News Service

HAPPY EASTER TO ALL! Download PDF of Memo #2210

Mary’s Memo #2209

     Many readers have been to Hilton Head in Beaufort County, I’m sure, but how many of you have been to historic Beaufort, founded in 1710? Our hosts at Hilton Head took us there February 28 for lunch at the Beaufort Inn and afterwards a carriage ride around the antebellum city where Forrest Gump with Tom Hanks was filmed. Our lunch at the Beaufort Inn was outstanding and the house bread was fresh baked popovers. They were so good I’ve resurrected my popover pan from the basement to make them at home. From the menu Fried Green Tomato-Bacon-Lettuce Salad screamed try me, try me! Like Daddy, born in Knoxville, TN, I love fried green tomatoes! In fact I still drool when I think about how good the salad was and the lovely presentation. Entree prices in my opinion were also reasonable.

     The carriage ride proved to be equally enjoyable with a young lady with lots of personality as our guide and led by an obedient Duke, the world’s tallest horse. Duke formerly called home Roscoe Village near  Columbus. It was a step backward in time seeing beautiful old mansions, many of which still have residents. In the tear-down society in which we live, I rejoice whenever I see preservation alive and well and this time it was in Beaufort. Instead of souvenirs I look for community cookbooks to remember where I’ve visited. I was directed to the McIntosh Book Shoppe on Bay Street where vintage and rare books as well as the latest best sellers are available. A Barnes and Noble it was not, but I found just what I wanted: “Full Moon, High Tide, Tastes and Traditions of the Low Country,” now in its third printing and published by parents of Beaufort Academy students K thru 12. The Academy is a private school offering a challenging curriculum for children of all religious, racial, social and economic backgrounds.


     I also touched base this year with a lady I read about in the Hilton Head newspaper in 2009 and with whom I only communicated via email. Although the Sally Kerr-Dineen article was about her food involvement on the Island, I contacted her when I came home because of the Dineen part of her name. My maternal grandmother’s maiden name was
Dineen and her mother and father came to America from County Cork with an older brother and sister after the potato famine. But to make a long story short, Sally and I are not related. However, we do share a passion for food and cooking, even though she’s nearer my Mary Ann’s age than mine! I set up our luncheon at the Red Fish Restaurant and from the moment I saw her we talked non-stop for almost two hours like we’d known each other for years! For more information about my new-found friend check her website: One thing she does is a full page article in Pink, a free monthly publication that is distributed in the Island area. If you are a tourist look for the latest issue because it has many good articles about what to do, see and eat in Hilton Head. We brought the March issue home with us so we could read Sally’s latest entry. Lucky you, I’m sharing her recipe for Chicken Marsala with Mushrooms. I’ve since made it and what more can I say, “it’s all delicious!” Make this entrée when Chief and Rays have Miller’s boneless, skinless chicken breasts on sale.


 4 Miller’s boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, pounded to about 1/4 inch thickSalt and pepper All-purpose flour 5 tablespoons olive oil, divided 6 tablespoons butter, divided 4 tablespoons finely chopped shallots(available in Chief and Rays produce departments)3 cups cleaned and thinly sliced mushrooms(be sure they’re dry so they brown nicely)3/4 cup Marsala wine1 cup chicken broth2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley     Season chicken on both sides with salt and pepper to taste. Dredge chicken in flour. Over medium heat, add half the olive oil and butter in a large 12-inch skillet. When butter begins to foam brown chicken until golden, about 3 minutes on one side, turn over and continue cooking the other side for about 2 minutes more. Lift from pan and set aside. Drain fat from skillet and return to medium heat. Melt remaining fat and add shallots. Cook until softened, then add mushrooms and season again with salt and pepper to taste. Cook until browned. Pour Marsala wine over mushroom mixture. Continue cooking until wine turns slightly syrupy. Add chicken broth. Boil until sauce is reduced about half, keeping in mind that you do want an adequate amount of sauce to spoon over chicken. (I say this because I think I cooked
my sauce too long and didn’t have much to spare.) Return chicken to skillet and cook in sauce until chicken is heated through, turning occasionally to coat in sauce. Add parsley and serve. Recipe makes 4 servings. Source: Used with permission of Sally Kerr-Dineen, Hilton Head, SC. Download PDF of Memo #2209

Mary’s Memo #2208

     I have never been to Florida but after the winter we’ve had I can understand why so many northerners leave us when the snow flies! Probably because I had to tolerate the ice and snow, The Flavors of the Florida Keys by Linda Gassenheimer had special appeal. This unique combination of Cuban, French, British, Caribbean and American cuisines reads like a world trip. Grassenheimer is also the author of the James Beard Award winning cookbook, Dinner in Minutes, and ten other cookbooks, produces and hosts a weekly segment, Food News and Views, on WLRN National Public Radio and makes guests appearances on numerous radio and TV programs throughout the United States and Canada. She lives in Coral Gables, FL.
     After a brief history of the Florida Keys, author Gassenheimer credits originating restaurants for the recipes in her newest book. With Lent in progress, Beach Grill Fish and Salsa seems timely to share and the foods are readily available in our northern neck of the woods as well as the Florida Keys.

     Cucumber-Tomato Salsa:
1 cucumber, peeled and seeded
2 large red tomatoes
1/4 cup bottled key lime juice
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Cut the cucumbers and tomatoes into 1/4-inch dice. Place in bowl and add the key lime juice and salt and pepper to taste. Toss well and serve over fish.

1-1/2 lbs. tilapia
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Brush the fish with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Place on a hot grill, close the lid and grill ten minutes. If using grill without a lid, turn fish after 5 minutes. The fish should flake easily and will be creamy on the inside. Serve with the salsa. Recipe serves 4.
It seems to me that Key Lime Mayonnaise would also complement the grilled tilapia or any fish entrée or sandwich.

1 cup good-quality mayonnaise
2 tablespoons bottled key lime juice
4 teaspoons Old Bay or mild jerk seasoning
Mix the ingredients together.
Source: The Flavors of the Florida Keys by Linda Grassenheimer (Atlantic Monthly Press; December 7, 2010; $27.50 hardback). Order from ABOUT CAPERS
     Caper is the flower bud of a bush native to the Mediterranean area. There was a time when hardly anyone asked about capers but I like the salty tang they add to a lot of dishes. The capers Chief and Rays carry come from Spain. I called Cross & Blackwell’s toll-free number to get information about their shelf life, mainly because I had some in the refrigerator that were getting cloudy and they did need to be discarded. There is a date toward the top of the jar that advises you to use before a certain date and it’s wise to use it as your guideline. I was told on the phone that an unopened jar of capers is good for two years after production. When they’re opened they are good for 12 months. It’s a good idea to rinse them to remove excess salt. Internet cooks use them in a lot of dishes and I do believe that has triggered their popularity. Look for capers in the condiment aisle.

     For your information dry shallots like the onions we buy are available in the produce department. There is a fresh green shallot that some stores carry in the spring but Chief and Rays have the dry shallots with dry skins and moist flesh year-round. I keep freeze-dried shallot flakes on hand because they’re handy when I can’t get to the supermarket. Shallots are a member of the onion family but milder in flavor.
Shallots are formed more like garlic than onions with
a head composed of multiple cloves, each covered with a thin, papery skin. Bulbs should be plump and firm. Avoid shallots that show signs of wrinkling and sprouting. Dry whole shallots will keep a month in a cool, dry place. Like capers there is more demand for shallots today.


     Nuts can help protect against heart disease by improving cholesterol levels, according to a recent review of 25 trials by California’s Loma Linda University. In 2003, the FDA approved a health claim that eating a daily serving of 1.5-ounces of nuts as part of an overall diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol reduced heart-disease risk. The claim covers a wide range of nuts including almonds, hazel nuts, pecans, pistachios and walnuts.
Source: DukeMedicine HealthNews, February 2011.
Download PDF of Memo #2208