Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Tobacco Road


If you aren't from around here or you aren't an ACC basketball fan, you might not have any idea what Tobacco Road is.  I am sure there are other places with a street by the same name, but it's not the same as ours even though ours isn't really a street or road. It is a basketball rivalry that we consider unmatched.  Duke, the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, and North Carolina State University.  The Blue Devils, the Tarheels, and the Wolfpack.  A triangle of heated hatred during basketball season.  I wish school would be called off the day after each Duke-UNC game.  I am happy when the games are played on Saturdays.

It's not just a bouncy ball, though.  In Durham, we have the American Tobacco Trail, named for the American Tobacco Company, a cigarette-making company founded by Mr. J.B. Duke in 1890.  The makers of Lucky Strike.  The trail is a 20-mile walking-biking-running trail built where abandoned railroad tracks used to be.

I moved here in 1980 and when the wind was blowing just right, I could smell the tobacco being made into cigarettes from outside my classroom.  The cigarette industry is gone now, but the buildings remain and have been turned into restaurants, shops, and businesses.

We have the Durham Bulls, our AAA baseball team, named for Bull Durham tobacco.

My favorite Durham restaurant is named for the city.

We are what we are because of tobacco, for better or for worse.  I like to think it is for better.

A few days ago, I was asked to come over to a friend-colleague's house to help with dinner.  SM is a member of the Junior League of Durham and Orange Counties.  She and her committee are preparing to launch their new cookbook.  It is appropriately named.

They are taking the rivalry to cookbook status.  Only good things can come of this.  My favorite cookbook is this one, published in 1986.

Black bean dip, vinegar pie crust, classic pound cake, layered potato salad... more than 300 pages of great recipes.

I did not get an advance peek at the recipes, only the cover.  SM and her committee talked business and the BFF and I prepped for dinner.  The gals helped, too,  of course, in between appetizers and their business meeting.  One of the gals, Amy, has her own blog Coffee Beans and Bobby Pins. Check it out for fashion and food.  A sharp knife and my hand got into a little spat and the knife won. No stitches needed.  Luckily, that was the only injury.  Well, SM broke a wine glass, but there was no blood involved.

It was a lot of delicious fun.  Seth, of Bull City Burger and Brewery and Pompieri Pizza fame (as well as the BFF's boss and former co-owner of Wine Authorities), provided wines matched to our menu.

Tapenade à la Fanny

Granny's Tomato Tart

Warm Goat Cheese Salad

Ratatouille Casserole (recipe follows)

and last but not least Tarte Tatin.

The BFF has become the Queen of Tarte Tatin.  Chef Érick would be so proud.

It was a lovely evening.  Cookbooks can be pre-ordered (my order is in!) by using this link:


Thanks for having me over, SM, and good luck with the cookbook.

Ratatouille Casserole
serves 8
from www.12tomatoes.com
  • 1 six-ounce can tomato paste *
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic (garlic lovers can add another tablespoon!)
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil (divided)
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 small eggplant, thinly sliced **
  • 1 zucchini, thinly sliced
  • 1 yellow squash, thinly sliced
  • 2 bell peppers, thinly sliced (we recommend one red and one yellow)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (can substitute basil leaves)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Place a skillet over medium heat and add the chopped onion, sautéing the onion until tender and translucent (only a few minutes). Then, add the garlic and sauté for another minute. Remove the skillet from the heat and set aside.
  3. Get a 10x10-inch baking dish and lightly grease with cooking spray. Mix the tomato paste, sautéed onion and garlic, water, and one tablespoon of olive oil together in a bowl until everything is thoroughly combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and then spread this mixture along the bottom of the dish. 
  4. Toss sliced vegetables in a bit of olive oil, just enough to very lightly coat them.
  5. Take the thinly sliced eggplant, zucchini, squash, and peppers and begin arranging them along the outer edge of the dish – alternating between vegetables. You’ll follow the outer edge of the dish and then work in a circle toward the middle, until you get to the center.
  6. Finish by drizzling the top of the vegetables with two tablespoons of olive oil and adding salt and pepper to taste. Then, sprinkle the top with thyme leaves.
  7. Cover the dish with a piece of parchment paper, trimmed enough to fit inside the dish and cover the vegetables.
  8. Bake until the vegetables are tender and fully roasted, about 45 minutes.
  9. Enjoy!
*If you don’t have tomato paste, then simply replace the paste, onions, garlic, water, and one tablespoon of olive oil with your favorite pasta sauce.

** If you’re going to use eggplant, you might want to salt each side of the sliced eggplant and let them sit for about 30 minutes before adding them to the recipe. This helps get some of the moisture out of the eggplant so it doesn’t get soggy.
This would be really good served over couscous, rice or another grain, too.

Bon appétit, SM (and her awesome husband), the JLDOC cookbook committee, the BFF, and the city of Durham.  Go Duke!! (Oui, that's my team on Tobacco Road!)

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