New books and a new Bookwatch

UNC-TV’s North Carolina Bookwatch begins a new season on Friday, August 5, at 9:30 p.m., and Sunday, August 7, at 5 p.m.
My editors let me share with you my reading suggestions. They know that the suggestions parallel exactly upcoming Bookwatch shows.
Because earlier columns have already discussed several books on the list, some descriptions will be short.
The new series opens with one of North Carolina’s most respected authors, UNC-Greensboro’s Michael Parker. He discusses “The Watery Part Of The World,” an imaginative story that blends coastal history and legends with race and other complexities to make a gripping and lovely story.  (Aug. 5, 7)
In “Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next,” John D. Karsarda, director of the Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise at UNC-Chapel Hill, explains why efficient, well-designed airports attract economic development and will be the central cities of the future. He discusses the challenges and opportunities that face North Carolina’s major airports. (Aug. 12,14)
Can a retired professor of religious studies write a successful science fiction novel? David Halperin’s “Journal of a UFO Investigator, ” proves that UFOs, science fiction, and religion can come together to make compelling fiction in a most unusual way. (Aug. 19, 21)
Sara Foster’s “Southern Kitchen: Soulful, Traditional, Seasonal” will be the first of several food-related books featured on Bookwatch this season. Foster, who once worked with Martha Stewart, generously shares favorite recipes from her family and from her market. (Aug. 26, 28)
Best-selling author Steve Berry’s many visits to eastern North Carolina led him to set much of his newest adventure novel, “The Jefferson Key,” in and around the town of Bath, where fictional modern-day pirates live in palatial estates. (Sept. 2, 4)
Rosecrans Baldwin’s first novel “You Lost Me There” is set in Maine, and Baldwin has only recently settled in North Carolina. But when the book was named one of National Public Radio’s Best Books of 2010, a Best Book of Summer 2010 by Time and Entertainment Weekly, and a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice, I knew Bookwatch viewers would want to learn about Baldwin and his highly praised book. (Sept. 9, 11)
Watauga County native Sheri Castle’s “The New Southern Garden Cookbook: Enjoying the Best from Homegrown Gardens, Farmers’ Markets, Roadside Stands, and CSA Farm Boxes” is a guide to finding the best seasonal foods in our region. She organizes her recipes into about 40 chapters, each featuring a different vegetables or fruit. (Sept. 16, 18)
Where do you get these seasonal foods? Diane Daniel’s “Farm Fresh North Carolina: The Go-To Guide to Great Farmers’ Markets, Farm Stands, Farms, Apple Orchards, U-Picks, Kids’ Activities, Lodging, Dining, Choose-and-Cut Christmas Trees, Vineyards and Wineries, and More.” Durham’s Daniel’s great travel writing skills describe where doors are open for us to learn how the best North Carolina foods are grown and raised. (Sept. 23, 25)
Marjorie Hudson’s “Accidental Birds of the Carolinas: Stories about newcomers and natives, and the healing power of the rural South” is a collection of fiction that gives a true look at how rural North Carolina is changing and staying the same. (Sept. 30, Oct. 2)
“Butterfly’s Child” by former N.C. State writing teacher, Angela Davis-Gardner, is a sequel to Puccini’s opera. It answers fictionally the question, “What ever happened to Madam Butterfly’s son after she committed suicide when her American lover came back to Japan with his American wife?” (Oct. 7, 9)
Morehead Scholar and Rhodes Scholar Robyn Hadley used her experience in counseling students in the Alamance-Burlington school system to write a book for students planning for college. The book is “Within View, Within Reach: Navigating the College-Bound Journey.” Hadley’s good advice might be even more important for parents of prospective college students. (Oct. 12, 14)

What books are you looking forward to this fall? Let me know below.

More help for farm fresh food eaters

Last week I introduced you to two authors of new food books that celebrate the joys of preparing and eating fresh farm food in season.

In that column I wrote about Andrea Reusing’s “Cooking In The Moment: A Year of Seasonal Recipes,” which, as the title suggests, is organized by season, and “Sara Foster’s Southern Kitchen,” which uses a more traditional cookbook approach of groups of related dishes.

This week we feature Watauga County native Sheri Castle’s “The New Southern Garden Cookbook,” with groups of recipes organized into chapters on each of about 40 vegetables and fruits. Finally, we introduce Diane Daniel’s “Farm Fresh,” which organizes its information by the geographic location of the farms, markets, and other places to get fresh food.

Castle is a popular food writer and cooking teacher who celebrates delicious and healthy home cooked meals made possible by fresh, local, seasonal food. She has packaged that enthusiasm into “The New Southern Garden Cookbook: Enjoying the Best from Homegrown Gardens, Farmers’ Markets, Roadside Stands, and CSA Farm Boxes.”

Castle’s book has about 40 chapters, each one devoted to one particular fruit or vegetable from apples to zucchini. She suggests that you go to the market without a shopping list, buy what is the most freshly available and tasty, bring it home, consult her book, and find all kinds of ways to prepare your purchase.

Castle entertains her readers with stories about her mountain family and even a song or two. Because I love tomatoes, here are lines she shares from a song by Guy Clark: “Only two things that money can’t buy/That’s true love and homegrown tomatoes.”

But tomatoes are not the only stars in Castle’s catalogue of fresh foods. For instance, she gives great advice to overcome two different contradictory ideas about how long to cook snap beans. “At one time, most snap beans were sturdy pole beans with thick, tough pods that required extensive cooking to become edible. However, subjecting the newer stringless varieties to long cooking would dissolve them into a tasteless mess. … If a bean pod is delicate and tender enough to eat raw, it needs quick, gentle cooking. If a bean pod is thick and has strings…, it needs long slow cooking. When you know your bean, you know your cooking method.”

Assuming that you now are sold on the idea of doing anything you can to get fresh seasonal food on your table and in your tummy, where can you get the your raw materials?

There are good answers in Diane Daniel’s “Farm Fresh North Carolina: The Go-To Guide to Great Farmers’ Markets, Farm Stands, Farms, Apple Orchards, U-Picks, Kids’ Activities, Lodging, Dining, Choose-and-Cut Christmas Trees, Vineyards and Wineries, and More.”

Daniel, a nationally known travel writer who lives in Durham, tracked down farms, farm stores, markets, and other agricultural related places that welcome visitors. She organized her finding by region and wrote them up in travel guide fashion.

As a result, you can find detailed information about farm related places to visit near where you live or travel. For instance, you learn that you can visit the Millstone Meadows Farm near Morganton and purchase daylilies without appointment from May to July. Or, at other times for visits or meals, you need to call in advance.

Daniel includes favorite recipes from farm kitchens. Anticipating my love for fresh summer tomatoes, she included a recipe from Millstone’s co-owner, Sara Hord, for an heirloom tomato cobbler. It combines a pastry with tomatoes, a sweet onion, basil, parsley, and fontina and white cheddar cheeses. I can’t wait.

Should I rush up to Morganton or preheat my oven to 350 degrees and try to make my own tomato cobbler?

Help for farm fresh food eaters—part one

What is North Carolina’s most widely available summertime pleasure that we most often pass by without partaking?

It is the bounty of delicious fresh foods that are available throughout the state all summer long.

I have been spoiled by the year-round availability and wide selection of fruits and vegetables at our grocery stores. So I sometimes forget how much better foods are when they are fresh from the field, tree, or vine.

Then somebody shares a fresh-picked ripe strawberry or peach or tomato.

And I remember joyously the pleasures of in-season eating.

This year I have help. It comes from four new books from food experts who celebrate the value of farm fresh eating. Each author takes a little bit different approach to getting the food from farm to table.

James Beard award winning chef Andrea Reusing organizes her recipes and advice by seasons of the year. Sara Foster catalogues her favorite recipes and stories by types of dishes, from hors d’oeuvres to sweets. Watauga County native Sheri Castle puts her collection of recipes in separate chapters for about 40 vegetables and fruits. They are in A to Z order from apples to zucchini. Finally, travel writer Diane Daniel organizes by geographical location the farms, markets, restaurants and other places where we can find and buy in-season fresh vegetables and fruit.
We will take up the Reusing’s and Foster’s books in this column and follow up next week with a discussion of those by Castle and Daniel.

Andrea Reusing owns of the acclaimed Chapel Hill restaurant Lantern, one of the former Gourmet Magazine’s top fifty restaurants. Her “Cooking In The Moment: A Year of Seasonal Recipes” takes its readers through every season, showing how to shop for and prepare the variety of local foods that are available in North Carolina during different times of the year. Reusing’s restaurant is known for its complex Asian inspired flavors. There is some of that influence in the recipes in her book.

But, for the most part, the foods and the directions are simple and designed to take advantage of what is fresh and available. I loved her great advice about my favorite food, the tomato: “The secret to eating great tomatoes all summer long lies not in which variety…, but in watching them—making space for them to lie flat someplace cool near the kitchen, checking them daily, eating the ones that need eating and continuously making plans for the ones that are getting there. Even tomatoes that are picked ripe need a little time out at room temperature to reach their peak flavor. It is shocking how long it can take even a just slightly firm tomato to get there … and how fast a perfect one rots.”

Many folks in the Research Triangle area know Sara Foster for the wonderful food and fellowship at Foster’s Market in Durham and Chapel Hill. Fans throughout the country admire her as a communicator about southern foods, wonderful teacher, and author of lovely and understandable cooking books.

She grew up in Tennessee in the country surrounded by family and other rural and small town characters and family. Her recipes reflect southern cooking traditions familiar to North Carolinians.
Foster also worked for and with Martha Stewart. The elegant photography to illustrate the recipes, the photos and stories about old time home cooking restaurants throughout the South, and the overall presentation of the book show that Foster knows how to produce a product Martha Stewart-style. As a result, when you have finished looking through her book, you will want to stand up and give an ovation for the production.

More next week.