5@5 is a food-related list from chefs, writers, political pundits, musicians, actors, and all manner of opinionated people from around the globe.
Editor's note: Brothers Matt Lee and Ted Lee recently both hosted and cooked at the James Beard Book, Broadcast, and Journalism Awards ceremony. Their latest book, "The Lee Bros. Charleston Kitchen" won an International Association of Culinary Professionals award in the American cookbooks category, and the duo are about to launch Cookbook Boot Camp, a two-day intensive workshop for professional chefs and others eager to publish cookbooks of quality.
Like many regions of the country, South Carolina's Lowcountry experienced a cold, hard winter that seemed like it would never end. And it wreaked more than a bit of havoc on the ingredients we forage for - and typically find abundant - come Spring. Something about their being less plentiful made us realize how much we love them and wish they had a bigger platform, a more prominent venue, leagues more supporters.
It’s exciting to have farmers in the South digging deep into seed banks, finding heirloom grains and legumes that haven’t been tasted for decades. But we’d also like to shine a light on these five naturalized plant ingredients that already grow in abundance and are often overlooked. So this is a call to action to chefs in the South - and elsewhere - to get hip to the brilliance of FREE FOOD.
5 practically free ingredients we wish more Southern chefs would use: Matt Lee and Ted Lee
2. Chainey briar
3. Fresh bay leaves
In the 19th century, rice was stored in barrels with bay leaf to drive off bugs - an aging process that these days results in a cooked grains with an otherworldly flavor. There are sweet applications as well—infused syrups that can add layers of flavor to cocktails.
Home cooks make sweet preserves out of the fruit of Eriobotrya japonica (also known as “Japanese plums”). Their fresh, tart, cherry-meets-Granny-Smith flavor is overshadowed by the almond-like character imparted by the pits, when used in recipes like “Loquat Wine” - a vodka infusion that shows off the whole fruit.
5. Glasswort (aka Salicornia, Sea Beans, Sea Kale, etc.)
Is there someone you'd like to see in the hot seat? Let us know in the comments below and if we agree, we'll do our best to chase 'em down.