Musical pairing – Missed Opportunity by Hall & Oates
Last March, The Professor and I took our first trip to Charleston, SC and absolutely fell head-over-heels in love! Instead of staying in a hotel, we rented a house about one block from one of the prettiest beaches I’ve ever seen and spent the entire week riding bicycles, combing the beach for shells and discovering all that Charleston and it’s rich history has to offer – including the food . . . oh my stars-and-garters, the food.
We dined at 17 North Roadside Kitchen, Closed for Business, Monza Pizza and 82 Queen; we ate gelato from Paolo’s, upscale deli fixings from Caviar & Bananas and pastries from Baked. We toured the Middleton Place Plantation and took a cooking class at Maverick’s Charleston Cooks. We even managed to score coveted tickets for Charleston’s ‘Lowcountry Gospel Brunch.’ But the highlight of our trip happened in Blue Bicycle Books . . . only I didn’t know it was the highlight of our trip until after I had returned home. Because I met Ted Lee of the Lee Bros and didn’t know it or rather, had no idea who the Lee Bros were . . . and I’m a food blogger . . .
We walked into Blue Bicycle Books on a Sunday afternoon and noticed a display of boiled peanuts and two very large stacks of cookbooks; and cookbooks are my weakness. Some girls like shoes, clothes and handbags – and I love those things too but given a choice, I’ll choose a cookbook every time. There’s a tall, lanky guy putting finishing touches on the display of peanuts, checking the stack of books and generally looking like he’s getting ready for a book signing event. I’m thinking he’s the cashier . . . I flip through both books not really ‘seeing’ any of the recipes; I head down the hall and find the resident kitty, spend a few minutes loving on him and back up front I go. I wander around looking at other books, artwork, photos and then find myself standing at the stack of cookbooks again; lanky guy is still flitting around getting things ready. Finally, the chapter on pickling catches my eye because I know we’re planting a big garden this year and I want to pickle some of the squash, peppers and tomatoes – and I did spy a Radish Butter recipe I wanted to try. Done deal – sold on the cookbook. The Professor takes the book to the counter to pay and lanky guy says, ‘Matt should be here in just a minute, do you want to wait? He’d be happy to sign it for you.’ ‘Oh that’s ok, we’re fine . . .’ says The Professor. Still no clue for me other than I start to think that maybe the Lee Bros are local guys who wrote a couple of cookbooks and are celebrities in town; town support, local bookstore cheering them on – you know, like cheering for your First-grader’s soccer team? Right. Lanky guy then says, ‘Do you want me to sign it for you?’ ‘Sure,’ says The Professor, ‘we’re interested in pickling and this looks like it’s got some good recipes.’
So lanky guy writes, ‘To Debra and The Professor, have fun pickling! We hope you enjoy our new recipes! Very Best, Ted Lee, 3/7/2010.’
Once home, I hunker down with my new book reading from cover to cover . . . I reach the back flap and I read: ‘Their first cookbook, ‘The Lee Bros Southern Cookbook,’ received the James Beard Award for Cookbook of the Year in 2007. They are contributing editors for Travel + Leisure and the wine columnists for Martha Stewart Living.’
These guys are freakin’ James Beard Award winners . . . and I totally dissed them . . . life lesson here? You can’t judge a book signing by its cover.
Matt & Ted, if you’re reading this (and here’s where I’m completely delusional because of course you’re not reading this) my apologies; and not that it’s likely to happen, but if I ever meet you again, hell yes I want your autograph! And could I bother you for a picture too??
CANTALOUPE W/BLACK PEPPER & MINT
The Lee Bros – Simple, Fresh, Southern Page 223
8 Sprigs Fresh Mint
6 Tablespoons Sugar
1/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1 ripe 3-pound Cantaloupe, halved and seeded
Coarsely ground Black Pepper
1. Strip the leaves from 6 of the mint sprigs and put the leaves in a small saucepan. Add 3 Tablespoons water, the sugar and the salt and set pan over low heat. Stir with a wooden spoon, bruising the mint against the sugar with the back of the spoon until the sugar has dissolved completely and the mint leaves have shriveled and are no longer bright green, 5 to 6 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, cover it and set aside in a cool spot.
2. While the syrup cools, use a 1-inch melon baller to scoop out the cantaloupe, letting the balls fall into a large bowl; you should have about 1 quart melon balls.
3. When the mint syrup is cool enough to touch, strain it into the cantaloupe in the bowl, and toss to coat. Grind black pepper over the melon to taste, and chill in the refrigerator, covered, for 30 minutes or up to 2 days.
4. Strip the leaves from the remaining 2 mint stems. Toss the cantaloupe in the bowl and serve the cantaloupe and syrup in tumblers or bowls, garnished with the fresh mint leaves.
GARNISH IT RICH TIP: Thick yogurt – particularly whole-milk Greek yogurt, enriches this dessert considerably, in addition to giving it a pleasing buttermilk-like tang. Alternate spoonfuls of yogurt with the melon balls in the tumbler so it looks like a parfait and garnish the top with the fresh mint leaves.