Lee Brothers help raise money for Food for Thought
Skillet Asparagus with Grapefruit
1 grapefruit, preferably a ruby variety
2 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp. canola, vegetable or grapeseed oil, plus more if necessary
1 pound medium asparagus, trimmed of woody ends
Freshly ground black pepper
With a zester or microplane grater, scrape some grapefruit zest from the skin of the fruit for garnish and reserve. Segment the grapefruit; trim off the bottom and top of the fruit with a knife so that you have a flat surface on which to rest it as you peel it. Peel the fruit by placing the tip of a sharp knife just inside the border where the pith meets the pulp and slicing down with firm, clean strokes following the curvature of the fruit. Repeat until the entire fruit has been peeled. Then, over a bowl or wide board to catch all of the juice, gently cut the segments of pulp with a sharp knife by slicing toward the core as close as possible to the membranes that separate the segments. Once you’ve extracted all the citrus segments, squeeze the membranes to release any remaining juice and then discard the membranes. Gently strain the segments, reserving segments and juice in separate bowls. Add 1/4 tsp. of salt, the vinegar, 1 tablespoon of water and the mustard to the bowl with the grapefruit juice and whisk to combine. Pour in the olive oil, whisking to combine.
Pour the canola oil into a large skillet over high heats and when it smokes, add half of the asparagus and 1/4 teaspoon of salt and cover. Cook, partially covered, until the asparagus is blackened on one side, 3-4 minutes. Turn the asparagus in the pan, cover, and cook until the asparagus is thoroughly blackened, 3 minutes more. Transfer to a serving platter. Repeat with the remaining asparagus, adding another teaspoon of oil to the pan (if it’s begun to dry) and seasoning with salt.
When all the asparagus is on the platter, scatter the grapefruit segments evenly over the asparagus. If the dressing has broken, whisk to re-emulsify, pour it over the asparagus, and grind some black pepper over the top. Garnish the platter with the reserved zest, and serve.
Butter Beans with Butter, Mint and Lime
6 cups fresh shelled butter beans or frozen baby lima beans
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
Juice of 2 large limes
1 cup loosely paced mint leaves, chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. grated lime zest, for garnish
In a medium saucepan, bring 6 cups of water and 1 tablespoon salt to a boil over high heat. Add the butter beans and cook until tender, 9 to 12 minutes, depending on the size of the beans. Drain in a colander, and shake the colander several times to shed as much water from the beans as possible.
Put the butter in a large serving bowl and pour the warm butter beans on top. Toss the beans with the butter until all the butter is melted. Add the lime juice and toss again to distribute. Fold in the mint, season with salt and black pepper and scatter lime zest over the top. Serve immediately.
Charleston Okra Soup with MRV Beef Shanks
1 1/2 pounds beef shank, cut into 3/4-inch cubes, marrow bone reserved
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. canola oil, plus more if needed
2 cups chopped yellow onion (about 2 medium)
3 bay leaves
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp. smoked paprika
1 (28 oz.) can crushed tomatoes
1 pound okra, trimmed, but on the bias into 1/2-inch-thick ovals
Fresh parsley for garnish (optional)
Season the beef and marrow bone with 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 tsp. black pepper. Put in a shallow dish, covered, and bring to room temperatures, about 1 hour. Pat the pieces dry with a paper towel.
Pour the oil into a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat, and when it shimmers, brown the beef and marrow bone in batches, if necessary, taking care not to crowd the pan and adding oil by teaspoonfuls if the pan becomes too dry. With a slotted spoon, transfer the browned beef and bone to a bowl and turn the heat to medium. Add the onion, bay leaves, red pepper flakes, paprika and 1 1/4 teaspoons salt. Cook, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan and adding a teaspoon of water or oil if the pan becomes dry, until the onion softens, about 6 minutes. You don’t want the onion itself to char.
Add 1 quart of water and the tomatoes, return the beef and marrow bone to the pan and cover. When the soup simmers gently, uncover and reduce the heat to low. Let cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is just tender, about 1 hour. Add the okra and continue cooking until the okra is just tender, about 25 minutes.
Discard the bay leave and season to taste with freshly ground black pepper. Divide among bowls, garnish with parsley, if desired, and serve.
By Deirdre Parker Smith
A celebration of Southern food was a delicious way to raise funds for Rowan Helping Ministries’ Food for Thought program Tuesday night at Morgan Ridge Vineyard.
The theme was Feed the Need, and table centerpieces featured sculpted heads filled with edible plants and vegetables.
The highlight of the evening was special guests Matt and Ted Lee, brothers, cookbook authors, foodies, lovers of Southern food ways.
Matt and Ted have been to Salisbury before, for signings of their cookbooks, and they love the small town. Matt calls it “the biggest little city I’ve ever seen.”
They love the history, the people and the culture of Salisbury. Matt continues to live in Charleston, married and with three children under 9. Ted lives in New York City with his wife, an artist.
They were having a good time, mingling and meeting, but, really, it was all about the food. The line for the luscious buffet didn’t slacken until well into the evening.
Morgan Ridge staff passed biscuits filled with Shrimp and Deviled Egg Salad and Ham and Rice Croquettes with Tomato Sauce.
Morgan Ridge Chef Jason Nain and his staff had been working long hours to prepare all the food for the hundreds of guests. It was set up buffet-style, with options galore.
Perhaps a bowl of Charleston Okra Soup with MRV Beef Shanks? That was one of the recipes Nain prepared when the Lee brothers invited him to put his own spin on their recipes. Many of the dishes were from their 2013 cookbook “The Lee Bros. Charleston Kitchen.” Pre-signed copies of the book were available for purchase by patrons.
Along the table, guests could choose from breads with radish butter, a fall salad of arugula, slivered red onions, dried cranberries, spiced pecans and Morgan Ridge Chambourcin Raspberry dressing (Chef Nain aded feta cheese to the salad). For entrees, the choice was Cornmeal Crusted Mahi-Mahi with Artichoke Tartar Sauce or Pork Loin Chops with Mushroom Chutney.
The vegetables were really the stars, ranging from Skillet Asparagus with Grapefruit, Butterbeans with Mint and Lime, Brussels Sprouts with Bacon, and Sweet Potatoes with Marshmallow and Pimento Cheese Potato Gratin.
The asparagus and grapefruit was a favorite among diners, and Nain added purple limas to the green to make a beautiful and delicious dish.
Of course, there was beer and wine.
The Lee brothers said they could tell Nain had dug deep into their cookbooks to come up with the menu. The Lees said his interpretation was excellent. Nain had a couple of minutes to talk to Matt and Ted after the food was served. Nain, a true Cajun, also worked in Charleston, where Matt says “food gets into you.”
They traded stories of places they’d been and things they cooked.
Nain felt right at home with the Lees’ recipes, “It’s just good Southern food” he says, “with a little something extra here and there.”
Matt and Ted loved coming to Salisbury’s Literary Bookpost, visiting then-owner the late Deal Safrit. His daughter, Daphne, came to the event to see the brothers.
The Lees, Matt said, like to do things addressing food insecurity and food injustice, and make it a point to attend at least two charity events each year. Their office remains in Charleston. Ted calls their business as cookbook writers, commentators, food researchers and their own specialty food line a “chopped salad of businesses.”
Ted and Matt do a cookbook boot camp for other chefs to learn what it’s really like in a busy kitchen.
Their next book, though, is a departure for them. It will be their first straight non-fiction book about the unbelievable demands of the catering industry.
“Catering is wretched,” Ted says. He and Matt were embedded as $10 per hour chefs in a prep kitchen of one of the largest catering companies. They were able to interview many of the top catering professionals.
“Matt says it’s an expose, but we marinated in the catering culture, we went to one party rental warehouse” and discovered what a huge business story the catering industry is.
“We followed the personal narratives of the chefs working 80 hours or more a week, and the emigres working awful hours in the food world.”
Ted admires the “fearlessness and resourcefulness “ in the industry.
“It really is grace under pressure,” Matt says.
The level of triage and reprioritizing on a big catering job is extraordinary, Ted says. “It’s harrowing for mere mortals.”
The Lee brothers first came to Salisbury almost 20 years ago when they were asked to do a television show about food in the South and they did a documentary about Cheerwine.
Their first cookbook, “The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook: Stories and Recipes for Southerners and Would-be Southerners,” brought them back to Salisbury on their book tour, where they impressed patrons at Literary Bookpost with a sampling of their foods and their diverse personalities.
They remember meeting Linda Ketner, daughter of Food Lion founder Ralph Ketner, back in the 1990s. They were so impressed by her energy and her work helping others that they wanted to see Salisbury.
Matt says they met more people like Linda Ketner once in town, people who wanted to make changes and did the work.
Ted says a lot of people are food insecure, and a program like Food for Thought helps tremendously.
“Hungry kids can’t concentrate,” Matt says.
During their brief talk at the event, Matt thanked Nain for his hard work, happy “we didn’t have to chop any onions.”
Guests went gaga over the dessert, Pineapple Cornbread Pudding with a Whiskey Sauce.
Both brothers agreed to personalize the already-signed cookbooks and one of the first to ask was
Janice Hunt, who was helping Nain in the kitchen and at the buffet. She has studied at Livingstone College’s culinary arts program.
Kyna Grubb, executive director of Rowan Helping Ministries thanked Matthew Michael Brown, for bringing the Lee Brothers to the event. Food For Thought is a program for school children to ensure they have food on weekends. Chase Hicks is the coordinator.
For more on the Lee Brothers, from cookbooks to specialty foods, visit mattleeandtedlee.com