Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Magnolia Grill lives on in classic cookbooks

UNC Press invites fans of Ben and Karen Barker and the Magnolia Grill to enter the Free Book Friday contest by 3 p.m. Friday, June 1, to win a set of their award-winning cookbooks. If you're not lucky enough to snag free copies, they currently are on sale when purchased through the UNC Press website.

Karen and Ben Barker (@ Southern Foodways Alliance)
It's only a matter of hours now before Ben and Karen Barker shut the lights and lock the doors for the last time at Magnolia Grill, the legendary Durham restaurant that established them both as culinary superstars.

In the weeks since they announced in a handwritten note that they would close on May 31 after nearly 26 years of operation - and 30 of cooking together professionally - countless devoted diners have posted photos and blogs showcasing the Barkers' lusciously plated seasonal fare. Regulars and those who regretted never calling before kept the reservation line jangling until they announced with humble appreciation that every last slot was booked. 

While the opportunity to enjoy the Barkers' hospitality has passed, two books published by UNC Press have placed them firmly in the pantheon of distinguished cookbook writers - and their recipes well within reach of home cooks. Their critical success also helped to establish UNC Press's reputation as promoter of extraordinary, Southern-based culinary talent.

"When we published Not Afraid of Flavor: Recipes from Magnolia Grill in 2000 and Sweet Stuff: Karen Barker's American Desserts in 2004, the thought of Durham without a restaurant run by the Barkers was unimaginable," said Regina Mahalek, director of publicity. "Both books are written with the same attention to quality and detail that these chefs brought to the restaurant."

Not Afraid of Flavor was a finalist for Best Regional/Local Cookbook in the 2001 Gourmand World Cookbook Awards and Magnolia Grill was ranked No. 11 in Gourmet's 2001 List of the 50 Best American Restaurants. The year before, Ben was named Best Chef in the Southeast by the James Beard Foundation. Likewise, the year before Sweet Stuff was released, Karen was named the 2003 winner of the James Beard Foundation's Outstanding Pastry Chef Award; in 1999, she earned Bon Appétit's American Food and Entertaining Award for Best Pastry Chef.

"We are honored to be the publisher of these two fabulous cookbooks that document and preserve the contributions of two of the most talented, revered and innovative chefs in the business," Mahalek said. "The Magnolia Grill tradition and the Barkers' culinary philosophy lives on in these classic cookbooks."

Mahalek herself is glad for the recipes for Magnolia Grill favorites like "Cool as a Cucumber Soup with Buttermilk, Dill, & Vermouth Shrimp," "Baby Butterbean Crostini," "Key Lime Coconut Pie with Rum Cream," "Dark Chocolate Peppermint Pattie Cake" and "Sautéed Summer Berries," which is shared below.

Sautéed Summer Berries
From Sweet Stuff: Karen Barker's American Desserts. Copyright © 2004 by Karen Barker. Used by permission of the University of North Carolina Press.

Serves 6

The application of a bit of heat to fresh berries seems to intensify their flavor. It’s also a great way to doctor up less-than-stellar berries. You can add a touch more sweetness or acid, enrich them with additional butter, or add various herbs and spices as you see fit.

      2 tablespoons (1 ounce) butter
      4½ cups mixed berries
      2 tablespoons sugar
      1 tablespoon Grand Marnier
      1 teaspoon lime juice
      A few grains kosher salt

Melt the butter in a medium-sized nonreactive sauté pan over medium high heat. Add the remaining ingredients. Sauté, tossing a few times, until the berries have just started to release some of their juices and are warmed through.

Baker’s Note: I’ll often start sautéing berries such as blueberries or strawberries a moment or two before more fragile varieties such as raspberries. Please use this as a method rather than a strict recipe. You can sweeten with honey or brown sugar.  Blueberries sautéed with a bit of maple syrup are also delicious. You can add a grating of citrus zest, a bit of vanilla, some chopped tarragon, or fresh ginger. You can season with nutmeg, a grind of black pepper, or a hint of fresh chili. This method also works for other fruits. Experiment with sliced bananas, nectarines, or figs.

Serving Suggestions: Warm sautéed berries are wonderful topped with a scoop of ice cream or sorbet.

Note: For more about the Barkers' extraordinary story, read Andrea Weigl's report in the News & Observer

No comments:

Post a Comment