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Welcome to WFAEats — a fun adventure where we explore all things tasty and interesting in the Charlotte food scene. We want to share stories, recipes and culinary escapades and hear about yours!

WFAEats: Beat The Heat With Cool Summer Books

carrot salad for WFAEats
Noah Fecks

Welcome to the summer doldrums. It’s too hot to cook. We’re bored with burgers and ho-hum hot dogs. We’re drowning in seas of zucchini.

So it’s time to step away from the stove, pour yourself a cold beverage, and kick back with this six-pack of recently released books.

For anyone who believes "We eat with our eyes first," check out Saladish: A Crunchier, Grainier, Herbier, Heartier, Tastier Way with Vegetables by Ilene Rosen with Donna Gelb. By choosing ingredients not only according to their flavors, but by colors and textures, salad lovers can experience an endless variety of combinations. The book is handily arranged by seasons so it’s easy to flip to a section that features what’s most abundant. Go from a simple Every-Leafy-Green-You-Can-Find-Salad to a show-stopping Smoked Trout and Pumpernickel Bread Salad.

Fans have been following accomplished chef and world traveler Mardi Michels through her blog Eat. Live. Travel. Write., where she taught readers how to make the perfect authentic macarons, step by step. So it’s doubly exciting that her book is arriving in print this month. In the French Kitchen with Kids: Easy, Everyday Dishes for the Whole Family to Make and Enjoy delivers the knowledge that Michels has acquired as a French language and culinary teacher in Toronto through her Les Petits Chefs classes for boys ages 7 to 12. Late-blooming adult foodies can finally learn how to make classic sweet and savory dishes while having fun as a family.

Masala Mamas: Recipes and Stories from Indian Women Changing Their Communities Through Food and Love, edited by Elana Sztokman, is a remarkable book. It showcases the work of a group of 16 women who meet six days a week to cook meals for schoolchildren in the Kalwa slum of Mumbai. Ironically, many families leave remote, rural villages so their children can attend schools in urban areas, only to face lack of access to healthy food. Providing meals for children – that ultimately leads to better school attendance – is one of the initiatives of the umbrella NGO, the Gabriel Project Mumbai. This lovely book is filled with photos, lore, and tempting recipes for breads, pilafs, curries, beverages, and sweets. It puts a compelling, human face on the group’s outstanding accomplishments.

Can vegans have it all? Yes, if they get their hands on Sweet Potato Soul: 100 Easy Vegan Recipes for the Southern Flavors of Smoke, Sugar, Spice, and Soul by Jenné Claiborne. It’s an audacious undertaking to remake the region’s classic recipes, but Claiborne does it cleverly. There’s a simple recipe for homemade Smoky White Bean Sausages that give flavor and texture to Bootylicious Gumbo and other savory dishes. For hearty fare this fall, we’ll be serving those with “Sweet Jesus!” Mac and Cheese, made with non-dairy milk and Dijon mustard. In the meantime, we’ll celebrate summer with a Ginger-Kissed Peach Cobbler and coconut-based Bourbon Vanilla Ice Cream. 

We Want Plates started on social media by people posting photos of their restaurant food arriving on slates, boards, shovels, and shoes. This full-color book compiled by Ross McGinnes is both hilarious and slightly horrifying as it depicts tasteless concepts such as condiments dispensed in medical syringes and stew served in an actual dog dish. “Do any of us enjoy chasing blueberries around on a roof tile covered in icing sugar, racing against time to eat the accompanying ice cream before it melts all over the table and onto our lap?” the author asks. Sadly, this “Hipstergeddon of plateless buffoonery” isn’t over yet. Might as well laugh about it.

Bring It!: Tried and True Recipes for Potlucks and Casual Entertaining by Ali Rosen unlocks the secrets of perfect pot-luckery. “These recipes are practical, fun, and foolproof…aspirational and attainable,” she writes. The Charleston, S.C., native now lives in New York but incorporated some southern influences such as pimiento cheese in her recipes. Anyone whose beautifully-plated dish took a tumble in transit or arrived limp and listless will appreciate Rosen’s savvy advice on transporting, reheating, and keeping food safe in sweltering summer weather. (But when it comes to keeping food hot during an ice storm, we’ve still got a few months to go before that becomes a problem.) So for now, here’s a dish that’s simple, colorful, and cool.

Shaved Carrots Salad

Makes 6 to 8 servings

  • 1 pound carrots
  • 1 cup pomegranate seeds
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup chopped parsley
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • Dash of salt

Using a cheese slicer or a vegetable peeler, peel the carrots. Discard the first outer layer of every carrot but then make each thick peel into as long of a strand as you can. You won’t be able to use the entirety of every carrot, but when you start to run out of room you can always flip the carrot over to the other side – just make sure to always discard that initial peel.
In a large salad bowl, combine the pomegranate seeds, lemon juice, olive oil, sesame oil, vinegar, parsley, sesame seeds, and salt with the carrots and toss until fully combined.

Note: The length of the noodle-like carrots here is up to you: long strands look beautiful but they are also slightly less easy to eat. If you are going to an event where there are plastic knives and no tables, you may want to chop the carrots a bit before serving. You can even use precut matchstick carrots in a pinch.

(Excerpted from Bring It!: Tried and True Recipes for Potlucks and Casual Entertaining by Ali Rosen; used by permission of the author.)

Amy Rogers writes WFAEats, a fun adventure where we explore all things tasty and tackle the meatier side of the food scene in and around Charlotte.

Amy Rogers is the author of Hungry for Home: Stories of Food from Across the Carolinas and Red Pepper Fudge and Blue Ribbon Biscuits. Her writing has also been featured in Cornbread Nation 1: The Best of Southern Food Writing, the Oxford American, and the Charlotte Observer. She is founding publisher of the award-winning Novello Festival Press. She received a Creative Artist Fellowship from the Arts and Science Council, and was the first person to receive the award for non-fiction writing. Her reporting has also won multiple awards from the N.C. Working Press Association. She has been Writer in Residence at the Wildacres Center, and a program presenter at dozens of events, festivals, arts centers, schools, and other venues. Amy Rogers considers herself “Southern by choice,” and is a food and culture commentator for NPR station WFAE.