Save the Date! Don’t Miss the Fun at Heidi Billotto’s Cooking Classes

Two fabulous On the Farm classes on the calendar as September rolls into October; plus we’ll be cooking with local product in the At Home with Heidi classes on tap in the next several weeks as well…

Get ready to slice, dice, simmer and saute as you make plans to join in on the fun at any one of my exciting hands-on classes cooking classes taught as the name suggests, “At Home with Heidi ”  in my home kitchen; or  come and experience one of my unique On the Farm Classes are held at various farms in and around Charlotte. Each On The Farm class includes a walking Farm Tour and then we settle into the farm kitchen to cook with whatever is in season. You really just have to experience these classes for yourself, there is indeed something quite special about being on all these local farms…

Classes are a perfect  for a fun date night, night out with the girls and a great way to meet new people or host a team building event.  Don’t see a date that fits – Plan Your Own Private Cooking Class email me and lets plan your own private class with work associates or with friends or family.

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Registration links are at the end of each class descriptive.  Make your reservations by simply sending me an email. Payment confirms your reservation and you may pay by cash, check or credit card. As soon as I gets your email, I’ll be right back in touch to confirm your payment and to give you the  address and details for each class

 

90a40f2d-b135-4501-b4b7-64c102593be3Sun Oct 8, 2-5pm – At Home with Heidi – Gluten Free Gourmet    

This class features an entire Gluten free menu from  appetizer to dessert; plus we’ll make a delicious gluten free pistachio cake with North Carolina’s own chestnut flour from High Rock Farm in Gibsonville, NC and Japanese milk bread gluten free dinner rolls that will freeze perfectly and are ready to reheat when you are. Wine pairings with each course by Assorted Table Wine Shop. Cost for the class is $85 per person.  Email Heidi to make your reservation.

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Sun October 22, 1-4 pm  – At Home with Heidi  – Getting Sauced

Even with great local proteins, its a wonderful well done sauce that often really makes the dish. In this hands on class we’ll cover all there is to know in terms of basic technique for making the five “mother sauces” as  outlined in French culinary technique and then create an all local dish with each one   Wine pairings with each course by Assorted Table. Cost is $85 per person. Email Heidi to make your reservations. 

 

 

 

cropped-heidi-billotto-food-blog-logo-not-compressedPlan a Private Class all your own as a team building event or to enjoy with friends. Start with a cocktail hour complete with appetizers and a wine tasting from our friends at Assorted Table Wine Shop; then move into the kitchen for a hands-on class to cook and enjoy!

Classes are a perfect  for a fun date night, night out with the girls and a great way to meet new people or host a team building event.  

Don’t see a date that fits? Email me and lets plan your own private class with work associates or with friends or family.

 

Don’t Miss These September & October Nibbles and Sips

Tons of fun Food & Drink-centric Events In and Around Charlotte – Don’t Miss a single one!

Do you find yourself in transition from the carefree vacation-full season of summer to what can become a more hectic, more scheduled back-to-school season that starts with September and October and before you know it its November?  Whoa! Let me help you put on the breaks for just a second…

Make + A + Reservation

It’s time to make some plans to keep the fun stuff going. So today I offer you a list of ” and Sips”, a round up of 17 different food and drink events you can attend in the next two months.  Save the dates, Call Your Friends, Make your Reservations, Have Fun this Fall and keep checking  back for more Nibbles and Sips as new fun food-centric events hit the calendar! 

 Don’t forget to #TellThemHeidiSentYou….

imagesSeptember is North Carolina Wine Month!! So plan to spend September sipping, stomping and celebrating North Carolina’s many outstanding wineries and vineyards. With an entire month dedicated to tasting our wine, it’s the perfect time to pair your winery or vineyard visit with harvest festivals, grape stomps, special wine tasting tours and more. There are events at wineries across the state – too many to individually list here, but you will find a list of fun festivals on the NC Wine website here

4462defff12cf8d1eea3160c6d7ffbb0Thursday – Sunday, Sept 7-10 – The 2017 Yiasou Greek Festival, Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox cathedral, 600 Eat Blvd. in Charlotte.  Charlotte’s Yiasou Greek Festival began in 1978 and since then has become one of Charlotte’s largest cultural events. It is eagerly anticipated by the Charlotte community each year. The Yiasou (the Greek word for Hello, Goodbye and Cheers) Greek Festival features Hellenic cultural exhibits, authentic Greek cuisine and homemade pastries, entertainment, live music and dancing, wine tastings, art, shopping and more. Experience the sights and sounds of Greece when you visit the 40th Annual Yiasou Greek Festival. It’s a time of the year when everyone can be Greek! Hours: Thurs., 11am – 9 pm; Fri/Sat., 11am- 10 pm; Sun., Noon-8pm For more info…

Order-Fire_S3E1-poster-663x1024Sunday Sept. 10th, noon  – The season premiere of Order/fire at Free Range Brewing – Chef Matthew Krenz of The Asbury at the Dunhill Hotel is hot off of his NCRLA NC Chef Showdown Chef of the Year award, is the focus of Order/fire’s Season 3 premiere. These events are always a blast – Free Range offers a cash bar with beer and my friend, farmer and local producer Jamie Swofford’s non-alcoholic shrubs; while chef Matthew is making Krenz Ranch beef tacos – my oh my! The doors open at noon, the social hour begins at 1 pm and the screening starts at 2. No admission fee but there is a great raffle to enter, if you would like – generally $10 a ticket, $$ goes to a charity important to Chef Krenz.

downloadSeptember 13, 2017, 6:30 pm – Portuguese Wine Dinner – Roosters Wood-Fired Kitchen, SouthPark. Chef Jim Noble and his team always do it right!  Look for this special evening to start with passed hors d’oeuvres followed by four courses of food paired with fabulous Portuguese wines. Cost $70 per person. Call 704.366.8688 to make a reservation. Seating is limited.

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September 17, 2017, 6:30-9:30 pm – 5 course Mushroom menu at Heirloom Restaurant –   In celebration of the health department approved foraged mushroom consumption in a restaurant setting, Chef Clark Barlowe has prepared a 5 course tasting menu featuring some of his favorite finds and mushroom farming friends. Click here to reserve your seats

21034608_1541902652497378_4269546947028118295_n13091953_1344016235612340_6126695405623522528_nMonday September 18, 6:30-9:30 pm – Southern Beer + Southern Food –  The Asbury at The Dunhill Hotel and Chef Matthew Krenz welcome Sean Lilly Wilson, owner and chief executive optimist at Fullsteam Brewery in Durham, NC and Chef Kyle McKnight, Fullsteam’s Director of Food Operations all reunite once again to bring you a fabulous dinner of food and beer. I attended the dinner this talented trio did last year ( see the photo on the right with Sean and my friend Susan Dosier) and even though I am not a beer drinker ( with apologies to Sean), I had a fabulous time! This year  Raleigh entrepreneur and founder Steve Mangano of CurEat joins in the fun. CurEat is  the new restaurant-finding app you will all want to download to find out where your favorite chefs and foodies are eating out!

Cost of this Southern food and beer extravaganza is $65 per person. For reservations, call The Asbury at 704.342.1193

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Sept 21 -24 in Greenville, SC Its time for another big annual gathering of foodies – Euphoria 2017!! Founded in 2006 by platinum-selling singer/songwriter Edwin McCain and restaurateur Carl Sobocinski, euphoria educates, entices, enlightens and entertains. The four-day event includes exclusive tasting events, intimate musical experiences, cooking demonstrations and wine seminars, as well as multi-course dinners and live music concerts and many  Charlotte area chefs such as Amy Fortes, Ashley Boyd, Blake Hartwick, Bruce Moffett, Scott Hollingsworth, Thomas Marlow, Clark Barlowe,  Matthew Krenz,  and more are taking part! Dedicated to excellence, euphoria features domestic and international wines, award-winning chefs, master sommeliers and renowned singer/songwriters. For more info, tickets, etc…

db_logo116sSunday September 24 , 2-5 pm – Heidi Billotto’s Hands-On On the Farm cooking class at Dancing Bees Farm in Monroe, NC.    Just Follow the Buzz and learn all about the Business of Local Bees with Master Beekeeper Jeff Knight. Robin Knight will be there, too, to share with us how she makes all the wonderful bees wax candles, lotions, bath scrubs and more. 5 honey-centric courses perfect for family dinners and entertaining too, make this class extra sweet. Assorted Table Wine Shop will be on hand to provide a wine pairing with each course.  Can’t wait to see you there!  Cost $85 Simply Email Heidi to make your reservations 

17098240_1659386481022112_7978105722794810790_nTuesday, September 26 at 6 PM – 9 PM –  A Caribbean Voyage –  Soul food sessions CLT – a dinner series featuring a group of very talented African American chefs and mixologists in Charlotte, Including Greg Collier, Michael Bowling, Sam Dotse, Jamie Barnes and DiSean Lamar Burns, just to name a few. Their goals are “to promote minorities in the hospitality industry, reclaim the ingredients of our heritage by redefining “soul food”, and donate to charities that help causes that directly affect our communities”   This Soul Food inspired dinner  will be  a progressive culinary journey to the Caribbean with 6 courses  The evening will be coupled with amazing beverage pairings and fantastic music! All of the proceeds from this dinner (like all Soul Food Sessions) will be donated to a local Non Profit that is making a positive impact in our community. This evening’s event will benefit Project 658 and their efforts in serving the refuge, immigrant, and poor of our City. Check out www.project658.com to find out  more. Cost is $80 per person. Link to get your tickets here. For more info visit the Soul Food Sessions CLT page on Facebook.

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TOTN LOGO-1Wednesday, September 27, 2017 – Charlotte’s 22nd Taste of the Nation® for No Kid Hungry 2017 will  at the Fillmore Charlotte, 820 Hamilton Street.  Ensure that no kid goes hungry, whether in Charlotte or across the nation, by joining the city’s finest chefs, sommeliers and mixologists for a remarkable night of dining in support of No Kid Hungry’s work to end childhood hunger in America.   for the fourth year running, guests will have the opportunity to purchase a $20 raffle ticket which will correspond to one of over 100 bottles of wine!  The Wine Grab – always a popular part of this annual event – will be set-up in the bar closest to the Fillmore’s front doors so stop by when you first arrive because these bottles will go quickly!  Each donated bottle of wine ranges in retail value from $20 to over $100!  At the event itself,  mix, mingle, and enjoy food and drink prepared by more than 30 of Charlotte’s top chefs and mixologists.

VIP Admission : $120,  6:00pm – 9:30pm.  General Admission : $85, 7:00pm – 9:30pm  For more information, visit the website and follow Taste of the Nation Clt on all of their social media.

 

8112e840-ea24-4e43-8e44-1237232945f0September 29 & 30, 2017 – Time for a road trip to enjoy a great annual festival – The Carolina Jubilee, a two-day music festival in Harmony, North Carolina at VanHoy Farms.  The fun features local and national music acts, celebrity chefs including Executive Chef Clark Barlowe from Heirloom Restaurant, Carolina breweries, wineries and distilleries.   This is a family friendly event with kid’s activities provided by Discovery Place Kids and the option to camp on-site at VanHoy Farms. There is an a 5k and 10k the morning of September 30.      Tickets to one day of the festival are $35. Both days are $55. Both days and camping is $65. Children under 12 are free. Parking will be $10/car and cannot be paid in advance. Proceeds from the event benefit the Carolina Farm Trust. For more info…

HRG_ChefSaturday, September 30, 4pm-10pm – 25th Anniversary Bash at Harpers’ Restaurant, SouthPark Location. Seems just like yesterday I was writing that the doors opened at Harpers’ Restaurant and now it seems that 25 years have flown by! The restaurant is celebrating all month long with lots of specials you’ll enjoy, but don’t miss the fun when they throw their 25th Anniversary Bash on the 30th on Harper’s outdoor patio. There will be plenty of food and drink specials, like 25% off Bar Bites ALL day and a Tap Takeover by Winston Salem’s Foothills Brewery. Look for some of Foothill’s best sellers, such as Torch Pilsner, Jade IPA, Sexual Chocolate Imperial Stout 2015 & 2016, plus a couple other surprises. Larkin & Gary Dodgen will supply live music from 4pm-7pm and Scott Smith will continue with entertainment on the patio, 7:30pm-10pm. Party-goers will be treated to gift card giveaways and great door prizes from Foothills Brewery. 

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Thursday, October 5, 2017, 3PM “Outstanding in the Field” regional dinner at Renfrow Farms in Matthews
Host Farmer: Pressly Williams, Renfrow Farms, Matthews, NC (Charlotte)
Guest Chef: Adam Reed, Santé of Matthews, Matthews, NC

Adam Reed is one of farmer Pressly Williams’ favorite chefs and a longtime friend. That relationship bodes well for eaters in the field. Chef Reed’s Santé restaurant is across the street from Renfrow Hardware (est. 1900), and has been in the same spot since Adam answered an ad in the New York Times placed by a North Carolina lady looking to hire someone to run her restaurant. Adam moved his family down from NYC and changed the local food scene for good. The rest is accolades and good times. Before we sit down, Pressly will show us around her fields filled with okra and chard, figs and radishes, flowers and happy honeybees. Cost $215 per person Click here for reservations

upStreamFriday Oct 6, 6:30 pm – Upstream Restaurant’s 9th Annual Oyster Bash  Half-shell connoisseurs can reserve tickets now for this all-you-can-eat party that includes oysters from  around the world and pairs them with fabulous, interesting wines and sparklers.  Here’s what’s on the menu: raw oysters paired with incredible wines; Live entertainment; Fire roasted oysters—prepared New Orleans-style; A chance to Win a case of wine in a raffle to benefit Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry. Tickets:  $125 per person, inclusive. Reservations are limited and pre-payment for the event is required. Make your reservation online here.   For more info:  704.556.7730

first harvest of baby ginger - Windcrest farmSaturday Oct 7, 2017 – Heidi Billotto’s Hands-On On the Farm  Ginger harvest cooking class at Windcrest Farm in Monroe, NC, 3-6 pm – This class kicks off with an ginger-centric appetizer and aperitif and a toast to the season of all things ginger! Then the group is off on a walking tour of Windcrest Farm as we explore the lay of the land and visit all the greenhouses to see what is growing for the season. Most of our focus will be in the greenhouse filled with rows of ready to be dug ginger and turmeric. Class participants will learn how to harvest their own and can try a hand at digging if they would like.  Once we learn the farming and harvesting side of this year’s ginger season, we’ll head back to the garden shed where I will have a makeshift kitchen  all set up for all of use to work together to prepare 4 courses of  “Ginger-liciousness” with all of Windcrest’s fine local, USDA certified organic produce and the local protein and products of other producers as well. our friends at Assorted Table wine shop will provide wine pairings for each course.  Cost of the class is $85 per person. Simply email Heidi at Heidi@HeidiCooks.com to make your reservations.

90a40f2d-b135-4501-b4b7-64c102593be3Sunday Oct 8, 2-5 pm – At Home with Heidi Cooking Class – Gluten Free Gourmet – If you are tired of not being able to eat the pizza crust or pie crust, or the stuffing or the bread, then be tired no more. In this hands-on cooking class, we’ll work together prepare an entire meal – all of it gluten free from the appetizers right down to dessert and the bread in the bread basket. As always its as hands on as you would like to be – or if you want to watch, take it all in and eat and enjoy that’s fine too! Assorted Table Wine Shop will provide our wine pairings for each and every course. Cost is $75 per person Email Heidi at Heidi@Heidicooks.com to make your reservations. 

WineandTapasWeek-just-charlotteOct 13- 22, 2017 – Charlotte Wine & Tapas Week – Fall Edition . The first Charlotte Wine & Tapas week took place last spring and was a huge success – you can read about it in an article I wrote for Charlotte Living Magazine – The concept is a delicious one, its all about little plates, sharing and pairing food and wine. Many Charlotte restaurants participate with special menus and for $30 or $35 you get a trio of little plates to enjoy on your own or share with your friends. You’ll be hearing more from me as the event gets closer – just pencil these dates on your calendar so you won’t miss a single bite!

DI_wEiCWsAIweIjMonday October 16, 2017 at Heirloom Restaurant. My friends photographer Peter Taylor and Chef Marc Jacksina have done it again… Don’t Miss, Order/fire’s first ever ordertogether dinner!  Tickets are $125 each and includes a 7 course dinner from 14 of Charlotte’s best chefs and beer pairings from Free Range Brewing. Plus the promise of other special guests in the kitchen! The evening also includes a silent auction, a grand raffle and the sharing of some great stories.

 

download-1October 18-21, 2017 – Terra Vita Food & Drink Festival  in Chapel Hill, NC – The Chapel Hill, NC-based nationally noted festival of food & drink, now in its eighth year, offers exceptional dinners, tasting events, after parties, chef demos as well as the “Sustainable Classroom” – educational experiences featuring renowned chefs, authors & national media. Many Charlotte chefs and food-centric folk are involved including Clark Barlowe, Matthew Krenz, Joe Kindred, Keia Mastrianni and Bruce Moffett just to name a few. Detail on all the dinners, workshops, and seminars as well as reservation links are all on the very informative Terra Vita website.

https-cdn.evbuc.comimages348776111395543578761originalSaturday Oct. 21, 3-6 pm – The annual Carved event sponsored by the Piedmont Culinary Guild.  This is an annual pumpkin carving extravaganza with lots of local chefs and food-centric folks in the mix! Its a family-friendly fall festival and pig pickin’ and included in the $20 ticket purchase price , you will enjoy a delicious plate of locally sourced food, created by Piedmont Culinary Guild chefs, a beverage from Lenny Boy Brewing Co. ( with the option to buy more), entry into the public pumpkin carving competition, and more. For more Info and tickets… 

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Save the dates, Call Your Friends, Make your Reservations, Have Fun this Fall and keep checking  back for more Nibbles and Sips as new fun food-centric events hit my calendar! 

All Things Ginger-licious

Its that time of the year, when  the summer heat starts to give way to the cooler days of fall. If you are Mary Roberts at Windcrest Certified Organic Farm in Monroe NC, the first week or two of September means that the official start of ginger season is less than a month away!

Heidi_s Ginger Sesame Tuna Burgers with Ginger Slaw

Mary planted her first crop of certified organic ginger using organic seed from Hawaii in 2011. I am delighted to say I was there the day they dug up that first hand of ginger and was as delighted as anyone in the greenhouse that day to see the success of that harvest. I couldn’t be more pleased to see how Mary’s ginger business has continued to grow. That first year the harvest was small, it was an experiment to see if it could be done and if there was a market – Yes and Yes!

To help people learn how to use the baby ginger I have teamed up with Mary and Ray Roberts-Tarlton to teach on of my On the Farm cooking classes at Windcrest each October to celebrate the ginger harvest.

cropped-heidi-billotto-food-blog-logo-not-compressedHeidi Billotto’s 2017 On the Farm cooking class is on the calendar for Saturday Oct 7, 2017 from 3-6 pm. 

We work hard to make these class as much  fun as they are informative. To that end, the class will kick off with an ginger-centric appetizer and aperitif and a toast to the season of all things ginger!

Then the group is off on a walking tour of Windcrest Farm as we explore the lay of the land and visit all the greenhouses to see what is growing for the season. Most of our focus will be in the greenhouse filled with rows of ready to be dug ginger and turmeric. Class participants will learn how to harvest their own and can try a hand at digging if they would like.

IMG_6423Once we learn the farming and harvesting side of this year’s ginger season, we’ll head back to the garden shed where I will have a makeshift kitchen  all set up for all of use to work together to prepare 4 courses of what I like to call “Ginger-liciousness” with all of Windcrest’s fine local, USDA certified organic produce and the local protein and products of other producers as well. our friends at Assorted Table wine shop will provide wine pairings for each course.

Cost of the class is $85 per person. Simply email me at Heidi@HeidiCooks.com to make your reservations.

A Hand of Ginger to Call Your Own

IMG_6431With Nearly 800 lbs of ginger in the ground right now at Windcrest, you’d think there would be plenty for everyone, but this is a coveted crop that goes fast once harvest begins. Chefs and caterers are already placing preorders and you can too!  Preorder your Windcrest certified organic baby ginger now and Mary will call you when it is available for pick up at the Matthews Farmers’ Market on Saturdays in October, or get a jump on the crowd and preorder with your cooking class reservations and you can pick up your purchases at class. Preorder info is all on the Windcrest website and you can place your order by clicking here.

Plus it seems Windcrest Farms certified organic ginger is celebrating this harvest with its own Facebook page, so you can follow along with the harvest and tag photos of your Windcrest ginger recipes by tagging them in your Facebook post at @OurOrganicGinger

How the local Ginger-liciousness begins
IMG_6414Mary plants the seed in January, keeping them warm and comfy in the greenhouses until they are big enough to transplant. The growing season is nearly 10 months long, but about this time of year, the plants begin to really shoot up first just one long main shoot which comes straight up from what as known as the “mother” and then as smaller nodules or fingers of ginger start to develop.

Mary knows when to harvest by the looking at the height of the leaves and the number of shoots coming up from the mother root to form what is called a hand of ginger. The “fingers” may be broken off and sold separately or the hand may be sold in one large piece.

The baby ginger root is tender and pink and not quite as spicy as its older counterpart which will start to develop a thicker brown skin as it ages. Baby ginger and older ginger may be use interchangeably in recipes.

Speaking of recipes, here is one of my favorites recently showcased on WCNC’s Charlotte Today . Watch it through and then scroll down to for the complete recipe for my Sesame Ginger Tuna Burgers and slaw.

Heidi’s Ginger Sesame Tuna Burgers with Ginger Slaw

1 lb. fresh sushi-grade tuna fillet

2 Tbs. chopped fresh cilantro

2 Tbs. finely chopped red onion or scallion

1 Tbsp. mayonnaise

1 Tbsp. sesame oil

2 Tbsp. minced fresh WIndcrest Farm Organic baby ginger

Windcrest Farm Ginger salt and Heidi’s Hot Pepper Blend

1 Tbsp. sesame oil + 1 Tbsp. Olive Crate Kores Estate EVOO for frying

 

IMG_6440Cut the tuna into 1-inch chunks and pulse in a food processor until just chopped, about 4 quick pulses – so that it looks like coarse ground beef. Gently stir in the cilantro, onion, mayonnaise, sesame oil, Windcrest Farm Organic baby ginger, salt & pepper. Shape the tuna into 4 burgers.

This may be done up to 3-4 hours ahead of time.

 

Heat the sesame and olive oils in a large skillet or griddle.  Cook the tuna 1-2 minutes on each side – finished burgers will bel nicely browned on both sides but still have a pink center

Serve on a bun or on a bed of letter with sliced ripe tomato and Heidi’s Sesame Ginger Slaw ( recipe follows).

 

IMG_6437Heidi’s Sesame Ginger Slaw

½ head organic or local green cabbage

2 organic carrots, cut into Julienne shreds

¼ cup minced parsley

2-3 Tbsp. fresh grated Windcrest farms certified organic baby ginger

 

For the dressing:

3 Tbsp. minced onion

3 Tbsp. sesame oil

2 Tbsp. Olive Crate certified organic strawberry balsamic vinegar

3 Tbsp. finely minced Windcrest Farms certified organic baby ginger

2 Tbsp.  ketchup

1 Tbsp. Mushroom-flavored soy sauce ( Heidi likes Best Boy Brand available at any Asian grocery store)

1/2 clove minced garlic (optional)

Windcrest Farms Ginger salt and Heidi’s Hot pepper blend to taste

 

Shred cabbage and combine in a bowl with the julienne carrot and minced parsley.

Mae the dressing by Combining the onion, sesame oil, strawberry balsamic vinegar, Windcrest Farms Certified organic baby ginger, ketchup, soy sauce, garlic, salt and pepper in a blender or food processor and process until combined.

Toss with the shredded vegetables and serve on top of the tuna burgers.

Variations: use shredded Brussels Sprouts in place of or in addition to the cabbage

on-the-farmDon’t forget to make your reservations for my On the Farm cooking class at Windcrest Farms on Oct 7, 2017 – Simply email me at Heidi@HeidiCooks.com to hold your spot. And if you love the idea of attending an On the Farm class and really learning first hand where your food comes from, then you’ll also be interested in my On the Farm cooking class at Dancing Bees Farm , also in Monroe, NC on Sunday Sept 24 from 2 to 5 pm.

Just Follow the Buzz and learn all about the Business of Local Bees with Master Beekeeper Jeff Knight. Robin Knight will be there, too, to share with us how she makes all the wonderful bees wax candles, lotions, bath scrubs and more. 5 honey-centric courses make this class extra sweet – Can’t wait to see you there!  Cost $85  Email Heidi to make your reservations now.

Cooking Classes with Heidi Billotto

img_7806More Fabulous “At Home with Heidi” and “On the Farm” Cooking Classes coming up soon… 

Get ready to slice, dice, simmer and saute as you make plans to join in on the fun at any one of my exciting hands-on classes cooking classes taught as the name suggests, “At Home with Heidi ”  in my home kitchen; or  come and experience one of my unique On the Farm Classes are held at various farms in and around Charlotte. Each On The Farm class includes a walking Farm Tour and then we settle into the farm kitchen to cook with whatever is in season. You really just have to experience these classes for yourself, there is indeed something quite special about being on all these local farms…

Classes are a perfect  for a fun date night, night out with the girls and a great way to meet new people or host a team building event.  Don’t see a date that fits – Plan Your Own Private Cooking Class email me and lets plan your own private class with work associates or with friends or family.

simply-email-heidi-to-make-your-reservations

Registration links are at the end of each class descriptive.  Make your reservations by simply sending me an email. Payment confirms your reservation and you may pay by cash, check or credit card. As soon as I gets your email, I’ll be right back in touch to confirm your payment and to give you the  address and details for each class.

Looking forward to seeing you at one (or more) of these “At Home with Heidi”  or “On The Farm” Cooking Classes soon…

on-the-farmSOLDOUT On the Farm Cooking Class at Proffitt Family Cattle Company – Saturday June 24, 4-8pm THIS CLASS IS SOLD OUT BUT WE HAVE PLANNED ANOTHER FOR SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 9, 4-8 PM AND ARE ACCEPTING RESERVATIONS NOW…. So excited to be back working with my friend Shelly Eagan at Proffitt Family Cattle Company for another wonderful On the Ranch farm tour, class and dinner. Proffitt is located in Kings Mountain and is a certified organic grass fed cattle ranch. Come join us to meet the herd and the dogs and the chickens, tour the ranch and find out what exactly goes into raising the kind of beef you need to be eating. Class participants will also be able to purchase beef after class if you would like. Josh Villapando will. of course. be on hand with wine pairings – it’s going to be spectacular. Cost is $85 per person.  For reservations email Heidi Here and then check out the blog post I wrote about Proffitt earlier this year – the post included some tasty NC Beef recipes I know you’re gonna love!

imgres-2SOLDOUT Sunday, June 25, 2-5 pm – At Home With Heidi – North Carolina Seafood & SeaSalt with special guest Amy Gaw from OuterBanks SeaSalt
This class was inspired by a recent media tour I took of the NC coast where I met a tremendous group of North Carolina fisherman and farmers raising and harvesting fresh seafood and offering incredible local product. I was inspired and now I want to share it all with you!   Turns out my friend Amy Gaw of Outer Banks SeaSalt will be in town, so the stars aligned to put together this “Fresh from Carolina Waters” cooking class.  Hands-on as always, but to celebrate Amy joining us we’ll start with a special round of appetizers upon arrival and then follow with four fabulous courses of seafood and Outer Banks SeaSalt! Wine pairings for each course by Josh Villapando at Assorted Table Wine Shop, gift bags for each participant  and tons of sea salty fun!!
Cost is $85 per person. For Reservations Email Heidi Here
IMG_3056Tuesday June 27, 6:30-9pm – At Home with Heidi – Vegetarian & Gluten Free  
With so many summer veggies at hand and a host of local North Carolina miso and tempeh products on the market ( from Miso Masters and Smiling Hara brands) I thought it was time to plan a course without the meat and dairy. As always the class will be as hands-on as you would like to be. We’ll prepare 4 courses including a trio of from scratch veggie burger recipes ( one easily adapted into a from scratch veggie dog as well!), rice and noodle bowls, a simply delicious stir fry master recipe you can adapt through the seasons and a spectacular dessert. We will use some local pasture raised eggs as well as some fun egg substitutes  as it turns out these recipes are all delicously Gluten Free as well!!
Cost is $75 per person.For reservations Email Heidi Here

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Monday July 17 – 6:30-9 pm – At Home with Heidi | Food and Wine of France –

With Bastille Day on the 14th, it seemed the time to celebrate with a bit of French flair and flavor. All local ingredients as always and its an entire meal from start to a fabulous flaming finish! Cost $75    Email Heidi To Make Your Reservation! 

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Saturday July 22 – 5-8 pm| On the Farm at Windcrest Farms| Its Tomato Time!!

Farmer Mary Roberts grows more varieties of local certified organic tomatoes than you can shake a stick at! On the menu in this season’s second On the Farm class at Windcrest – all things tomato from homemade ketchup to tomato pie and then some! ‘Tis the Mater season – c’mon and join us! –  Cost $85 Make your reservations by emailing Heidi Now

Sunday July 30, 2-5 pm – On the Farm at Fading D Farms in Salisbury – 

downloadFading D Farms is a unique Water Buffalo Ranch and Dairy in Salisbury NC. Faythe and David DiLoreto are our hosts as we cook with the lean water buffalo meat and the deliciously rich cheeses to make a four course meal. Between courses, well also enjoy a cheese making session/demonstration,  fascinating stuff – don’t miss it!!  Cost is $85 Email Heidi to make your reservations  

Sunday September 24, 2-5pm – On the Farm at Dancing Bees in Monroe,NC –

db_logo116sHoney, Honey – Just Follow the Buzz and learn all about the Business of Local Bees with Master Beekeeper Jeff Knight. Robin Knight will be there too to share with us how she makes all the wonderful bees wax candles, lotions, bath scrubs and more. 5 honey-centric courses make this class extra sweet – Can’t wait to see you there!  Cost $85 For Reservations Email Heidi Here

 

And. last but not least, here are All the Details and the Fine Print on my regular series of cooking classes, both At Home with Heidi and On the Farm….

Living the Loving Local Mantra: In my classes and catering I cook for clients as if I were cooking for my family. It is important to me to use the healthiest, freshest product so I shop Local and cook with produce, proteins and products sourced primarily from local farms and vendors, using certified organic or product that is grown by organic standards when I can’t find what is needed from a local source.

Wine Not?  I partner with my friend Josh Villapando of the Assorted Table Wine Shop at 7th Street Station to provide wine ( and sometimes beer) pairings at each class (with the exception of the cocktail and appetizer class), so you’ll not only leave with some great recipes, but you’ll know what beverages to pair with them as well.

The Take Away: Everyone participates in the preparation of each dish and each class participant leaves with a packet of recipes, wine notes and coupons and other fun party favors.

Class size is limited: Your advance reservations via email gets you on the class list and advance payment confirms your space in class. Once I hear from you with a reservation I will contact you with specifics on how to pay. I will send out directions and any other details you might need, several days prior to  the class date.

Cancellation Policy: I try hard not to cancel events; but reality is. There is a three person minimum for my At Home With Heidi Classes and if weather is a problem we try hard to reschedule. If you need to cancel  more than 7 days prior to class I am happy to provide a full refund of your advance payment. If you cancel 6 days or less before the class date I know you will understand that I will have already started making plans and purchases and am glad to offer you a refund of half of your original payment.

This Little Figgy Went to Market

IMG_5573I love the summer. Fresh produce and veggies abound and each week at local farmers markets reveal a new harvest of seasonal favorites. For some the season is long: tomatoes, cucumbers, summer squash,  peppers and chilies will all be around well into September, some up until the first frost. For others the season is short: corn is in its prime right now, although it will still be available in the weeks ahead. In these parts, figs are a late summer 3-4 week crop at best and the local fig season is flourishing now – but don’t blink, they will be gone before you know it!

Fig trees put out fruit slowly at first and then the branches are filled to brim with sweet ripe fruit.  Farmers pick as fast as they can, but once picked fresh figs only last a couple of days before they will start to over-ripen or go bad. To quote farmer Jessica Smith at Strong Bird Farm in Monroe, “Its time to get figgy with it!”

If you love figs like I do, you’ll want to buy several containers as you hit local farmers’ markets this weekend. One to snack on as you drive back home and the other to enjoy this weekend or to freeze , dry or cook with to preserve their flavor for weeks or months to come.

Where to Find the Figginess You Seek

In the Charlotte area, recent rains have played havoc with the crop, but fresh figs are out there and well worth the search. If you are lucky, you have a neighbor or friend with a backyard fig tree and you could go pick your own. If you are shopping at local markets, know that last weekend I spotted several vendors with figs at the both the Matthews Community Farmers’ Market in Matthews NC and at the Charlotte Regional farmers’ market on Yorkmont Road in Charlotte, and I suspect figs will make an appearance at those markets this weekend as well.

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Tip of the Season: Store fresh figs in paper egg cartons

Once you buy your figs, if they are ripe – and I suspect they will be  – you’ll need to use them right away.  Keep them in the fridge, but know they will ripen and then over ripen quickly.

Here is a great  fig storage trick I learned this year, again from Strong Bird Farm, if you keep the nearly ripe or just ripe figs in an egg carton, each fig in its own separate compartment, they will stay fresher longer. If you pile the figs in a plastic container or bag, the ones on the bottom bear the weight of the load and will start to get soft fast!

In the Charlotte area, the likelihood is great that you will buy one of two varieties, Brown Turkey Figs or Celeste. Brown Turkeys are by far the more prevalent.  Because they are so perishable its unusual to regularly find fresh figs in local grocery stores; but if you do, you may see other  varieties such as the beautifully green kadota figs or  dark black mission figs.

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The difference between fresh and dried figs

Not to be confused with our fresh local Brown Turkey varietal, nearly any kind of Turkish fig you would find in North Carolina would be dried; and if the dried figs you buy don’t come from Turkey or the middle east, they come from California. Turkey is the largest producer of dried figs in the world. California is the largest producer of dried figs in the United States.

Most of the recipes here work equally well with fresh or dried figs, save for the stuffed figs which for me are the very best way to toast in and enjoy this glorious season of fresh figs! For this  “don’t-even-need-printed-directions” recipe, cut open your figs with a cross cut on the stem end or cut them in half. Top them with your favorite local chevre, ricotta, feta or goat cheese and then drizzle with honey.  Serve them as an evening appetizer of for breakfast, brunch or a midday snack.

It is my experience, that they disappear as fast as you can make them.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Well then, a video is worth many more. Here local figs from Strong Bird Farm (follow them on Instagram)  take center stage topped Uno Alla Volta cottage cheese and Dancing Bees Sourwood Mountain Honey –my oh my!

 

The Fig-eliciousness that Awaits

Short of eating them “au natural”, because figs come to us originally from the Middle East, they are best paired with other Mediterranean flavors such as pistachios, olives,  olive oil, honey and oranges. And, you’ll be happy to know the rich sweet tastes also pairs well with dark brown liquors.

Lets start with that last thing, first: Liquor.

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“Figcello”

Once or twice a year I make homemade lemoncello. I have for many summers past now, and  thought that it would be fun to apply the same recipe to my favorite summer fruits, namely peached and figs. I have yet to try making a homemade peach-cello; but I can tell you that I have deemed  my first batch of figcello to be a tasty, albeit, potent, success.

The recipe for lemoncello is pretty easy and I thank Luisa at Charlotte’s Dolce Ristorante for originally showing me how its done.

Take 12 lemons and peel them. Add the peels to a half gallon of Everclear and let the mixture stand for a couple of weeks. Strain the Everclear and mix with a half gallon of simple syrup. Refrigerate and viola!

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I applied the same principles to the fresh figs; but as figs are sweet  I needed to add in acidity.   I cut up about a dozen sweet fresh figs – this is a great way to use overripe figs – and put them in a 2 cup jar of Everclear ( I have since determined that this will be even better if you put the figs in an aged Whiskey ( I like TOPO Aged Oak Whiskey from Chapel Hill, NC).

 

 

IMG_5746I let the figs sit in the Everclear ( or Whiskey) for 2 weeks. Then, I made a simple syrup with the juice and zest of one orange, 3-4 drops of Crude Small Batch Bitters “Sycophant” bitters ( another great North Carolina product), added a tsp of cardamon, 1 1/2 cups of water and 2 cups of organic sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil; turn down the heat and continue to summer 10 minutes or until the mix starts to get syrupy and thick. Let cool.

Then add the cooled orange syrup to the fig infused liquor. Refrigerate for about a week. The longer your Figcello sits it the refrigerator the more mellow it will become. Enjoy!

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I posted the photos of this next recipe on my Facebook and Instagram feeds to rave reviews. Now, here is the recipe you’ve all been asking for with thanks to Farmer Dan Kypena and his wife Meg of Middle Ground Farm in Monroe.

Heidi’s From the Farm Summer Fig Tart

IMG_5687pie crust – use your favorite recipe, your favorite refrigerated brand or  use my favorite from scratch recipe – you’ll only need enough for one pie

12-15 fresh ripe figs, cut in half lengthwise

2 duck eggs ( available at from Rowland’s Row Farms in Gold Hill, NC) ( you may substitute 3 chicken eggs, but duck eggs make the tart richer and creamier)

1/2 cup organic sugar

1 cup organic heavy cream

Roll out the finished pie crust large enough to fit in a false bottomed 9-10 inch tart pan. Arrange the figs, cut side up in the crust. In a separate bowl mix the eggs and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the heavy cream and blend well. Pour the egg/cream mixture over the figs. Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 20-25 minutes or until the top of the pie starts to  brown nicely. Remove from oven and sprinkle the top with brown sugar or maple sugar ( available from the Savory Spice Shop). Cool. Cut into wedges and serve topped with real whipped cream!

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For the next two recipes you’ll need to start with what I call a fig paste. The first recipe is salty, and the second sweet – both are delicious.

IMG_5723To make the fig paste: take about a pound ripe figs, stem them and cut them in half or quarter them. Place them in a saucepan with just enough water to barely cover them. bring to a boil and then lower the heat to a simmer until the figs soften. Strain the figs well to remove most of the water but not all of the juices and puree just until smooth in  food processor fitted with the metal blade. Freeze the puree for later use or use as directed in either of the following recipes.

As I mentioned earlier, the sweet sticky taste of figs is a delicious foil to the salty taste of olives. What better way to start a summer dinner than with a fig and olive spread served on crackers, toasted sweet potatoes ( just thick sliced and toast them in your toaster or oven – go ahead, try it, you’ll be glad you did!), or on toasted sliced of French bread.

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Heidi Billotto’s Olive and Fig Tapenade

 Heidi’s Olive and Fig Tapenade

1/2 cup coarsely chopped pitted dry cured black olives

1/2 cup fig paste ( see recipe in this post)

2 Tbsp. capers
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
zest of two lemons

Mix all ingredients in small bowl to blend. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

 

I couldn’t complete this post without some sort of fig cookie.  I won’t name names here, but growing up I honestly didn’t love the standard fig bar – you know which one I mean, just didn’t love the crust. These days, I find myself obsessed with hand pies and absolutely adore a light flaky pie crust wrapped around some sort of sweet filling. Use my pie crust referenced in the tart recipe in this post, cut it onto circles to make mini hand pies or these melt-in-your-mouth fig bar cookies – the perfect sweet salute to the summer’s fabulous fig season!

IMG_5776Heidi’s Fig Hand Pies

pie crust – use your favorite recipe, your favorite refrigerated brand or  use my favorite from scratch recipe – you’ll only need enough for one pie

1 recipe of Heidi’s fig paste ( see directions above)

2-3 Tbsp. local honey

1 tsp. dried ground cardamon

Pinch of salt

IMG_57731 tsp. vanilla

1 cup ground pistachios ( maybe more depending on the consistency of your fig paste)

1 egg beaten with 1 Tbsp. of water or milk to make an egg wash

Roll out the pie crust and cut into 3 inch circles or into a rectangle approx. 9 inches long by 6 inches wide. Don’t sweat it if your measurements are a little off. Reserve

Combine the fig past with the honey, cardamom, salt, vanilla and ground pistachios and blend well.

Heidi's Tips and Tricks

If you’d like you can use this sweet fig paste as a summery spread on toast, French toast or waffles as well!

 

 

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Brush the rounds of pie crust with some of the egg wash, taking care to lightly coat the whole round. Spoon a bit of the sweetened fig paste into the center of each of the rounds. Fold the round in half and pinch the sides to seal. crimp with a fork and them gently make three slits in each half. Brush with the egg wash once again. Place the semi circular mini hand pies on a parchment lined baking sheet.

 

 

IMG_5759Take the rectangle of dough and brush the edges with the egg wash. Fill he center with the sweet fig paste. Fold the edges up and over the filling and pinch the ends and side to seal. Place seam side down on a parchment lined baking sheet. Make small crosswise cuts in the top of the crust every inch or so – this will allow for easier cutting after the bars have baked.

Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown, Cool on  rack before eating. Its hard to wait, but they really are better if they’ve had a bit of rest time after baking is done.

Once the long cookie roll has cooled a bit, use a chef’s knife to cut along the marks you made before baking to cut the bar into fig filled cookies.

PrintIf you love to cook with local and seasonal ingredients like fresh figs – you won’t want to miss any of my At Home with Heidi or On the Farm cooking classes. I source as many local ingredients as I can and I am always adding on new classes for you to enjoy.

Its all as hands on as you would like and each class included wine pairings, printed recipes and a gift bag full of  coupons, samples and fun swag for you to take home and enjoy! Check out my upcoming August and September classes here!

 

 

 

In Honor of Julia – My Julia Child Story

PrintThis Tuesday August 15 2017  would have been Julia Child’s 105th birthday.

I invite you to join me in celebration at my annual In Honor of Julia Cooking Class, to be held this year on Sunday Aug 13, 2017 from 2-5 pm.  Like all of my classes this is a hands-on experience, but if you’d rather just sit back, watch, eat, drink and enjoy that’s fine too and I feel sure Julia would agree! In class we’ll prepare 5 of my favorite Julia recipes using all local ingredients that I will pick up from area farmers’ markets this Saturday.  Do come and join in on the fun – Look for details on the class itself and reservations links on the cooking class page of my blog. I’d love to have you join us!

julia child on setChild, who passed away in August of 2004 was our nation’s grande dame of cuisine and my personal  culinary hero. She got her  start at what would become  her lifelong career because she wasn’t afraid to take a chance and then happened to be in the right place at the right moment and made it work; but I don’t think even she had any idea of what her eventual  impact would be. She took her passion and ran with it, with wild abandon, to lead the charge to change the culinary world. She brought the style and technique of French cuisine to American home cooks first in a two volume culinary tome, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, VOLs. 1 and 2, which she co-authored; and then continued to influence the world via of number of her own television series. It all started with The French Chef produced by Boston PBS station WGBH in 1963 .

Ask any food writer, chef or culinary professional who has been writing and working since the 1960’s or ’70’s and they probably have a Julia Child story.

julia-child-in-kitchenMy Julia Child story started in the mid 1960’s when I was eight or nine. I loved to watch what was then the first television show of its kind, the new Julia’s PBS series, The French Chef.  I wasn’t so interested in cooking at first, as much as I was fascinated by Julia herself, her attitude and her panache; to say nothing of all of the little bowls into which each and every ingredient was placed, the mis en place, ready for Julia to whip into something wonderful. And I loved her flourish as she raised her glass and to toast us all goodbye and “Bon Appetit!”

 

Back then, the home I grew up in in Jacksonville, Florida was set up so that my brother Jaimie and I shared a large bathroom fitted with a lengthy vanity and large wall mirror situated low enough to the counter top that we could see ourselves without having to stand on a stool.

julias cookbooks

Heidi Billotto’s much loved and much used collection of Julia Child’s books & cookbooks

Inspired by Julia, I would often while away hours by taking a few pots and pans and every little bowl I could find with me into the bathroom, cover the sink with Mom’s well-worn wooden cutting board and would pretend to cook, with all of the Julia –like flourish I could muster, watching myself in the mirror just as I had watched my mentor on television.

Several years later my parents gave me my very own copy of The French Chef Cookbook and encouraged me to move from the bathroom to the actual kitchen, where I began to cook for real.

Fast forward to September 2001. I was living in Charlotte, North Carolina and was teaching cooking classes  and catering and working as a food writer and restaurant critic.  The 40th Anniversary edition of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Julia’s first cookbook, originally published in 1961 had just been released. In promotion for the new edition, Julia Child was available for interviews. I set up the interview and dialed the number the PR people had given me. Low and behold it was Julia’s home and I got her answering machine. In her own unmistakable warble, she explained that “no one was home right now, please leave a message…”  I left my name. Later that day, I came home to find a message on my machine.

“ Hiiiiiideeeee, Julia here…” My heart raced, I think I may have actually stopped breathing for a moment. She was headed out to dinner with friends but I could call her back in the morning. I don’t think I slept a wink that night.  I saved her message on the machine ( in a time before the world was digital, like most of the rest of the world I had a mini cassette tape voice recorder) for months until the tape  finally broke from repeated play.

300-JULIA-BRANDING-FINALI never met Child in person, but had the great good fortune to interview her over the phone on two occasions. Initially in that first conversation with this culinary icon, I stammered and stumbled over my questions, unable to think of much more than the fact that I was actually speaking on the phone with Julia Child. She was her delightful and unpretentious self and immediately put me at ease. After a while it was like chatting with an old friend. She even asked me for a recipe.

“I hear your fried chicken is really quite good down there,” she said. “Would you send me the recipe, if you have a good one?”

Julia Child asked me for a recipe – I was floating on cloud nine. I mailed a recipe off the next day and still have her number and address in my old paper bound address book.

A native Californian, Julia graduated from Smith College in Massachusetts in the 1930’s. At that time women were expected to graduate to become be a nurse or a secretary or a wife and a mother, but that was not for her.

“I just wanted to have a good time,” she said. And she did. In 1944, she found herself in working in Washington DC in the office of War Information. She was later upgraded to the Office of Strategic Services or OSS, the precursor to the CIA and was sent on assignment to Ceylon, now Sri Lanka, to gather intelligence during World War II. In Ceylon she met the man who would become her husband, Paul Child. Just after the war the Childs moved to Paris, France where he was a diplomat at the American Embassy.

If you have seen the movie Julie & Julia or much better still, read Julia’s book “My Life In France”, then you know the story; but I am so honored that I heard it first from Julia herself.

Julia told me that she had taken French all of her life, but when she got to France, she couldn’t say a word.

“At least not a word that anyone could understand,” she laughed. “My husband was practically bi-lingual; he was taken for French all the time, but somehow I could just never pull it off.”

Eventually she found herself looking for something to do and began taking a culinary class set up for housewives at Le Cordon Bleu. Her interest piqued and Julia talked the famous culinary school into admitted her to a training class for former GI’s offered as a part of the GI bill. After six months of classes she was hooked! “This was for me”, she said. Indeed.

Friends and fans have continuously celebrated and applauded her life and her career. All of her cookbooks remain in publication and several of her television shows are syndicated. Video clips are now available on itunes and YouTube and she even has her own Facebook Page!

Julia Child

While Julia refused to ever allow her name to be attached to a kind of cookware or kitchen utensil brand, in 2000-2001 she did allow her good friend Gary Ibsen, a grower of more than 400 varieties of heirloom tomatoes and founder of the annual Carmel TomatoFest in Carmel, California, to name a tomato for her. Her only request was: “That it be tasty.”

Ibsen complied and today one can purchase packets of seeds for The Julia Child Heirloom Tomato through Ibsen’s website, where you can also read a bit about Ibsen’s long time friendship with Julia and his memories of her.

 

Heidi and Julia

Heidi Billotto 2003 at The Julia Child Kitchen exhibit at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC

The kitchen Julia and Paul Child shared in their Cambridge. MA home, the same kitchen seen in her last three PBS television shows, was disassembled in November of 2001 when Julia moved back to California. Julia donated the kitchen to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History in the hope that it would inspire home and professional cooks to ”make your kitchen a real family room and an important part of your lives.”

Literally millions of visitors a year, “tour” Julia’s kitchen. It has been rebuild exactly as it was and encased in clear glass walls so visitors can peep in where windows, doors and wall used to be and see it all in all its glory. Julia was a gadget person and as she told me, “sort of a knife freak.”  That is an understatement. Julia’s collection of kitchen gadgetry is amazing and it’s all there, including the knives lined up on magnetic strips and the pots and pans hanging on the pegboard wall. It’s a wonderful exhibit – a must-see for culinary enthusiasts of any age. If you don’t have time for a trip to the Smithsonian right now, you can take a virtual tour of Julia’s kitchen  and hear her thoughts on making the donation and having the kitchen open and available for everyone to see and visit.

Heidi Billotto 2008

 

Over and above that she has influenced many more of us than she would have ever know, including a little girl who pretended to cook in front of the bathroom mirror and now gets to do it for real.

We raise our glasses to you Julia, Happy Birthday and  Bon Appetit!

 

 

simply-email-heidi-to-make-your-reservationsWhile I don’t have an exact menu For my Annual “Celebration of Julia” Cooking Class just yet, I can promise we will recreate several of her classic master recipes to make a meal.  As the menu is based on local ingredients, I’ll wait until I hit Saturday markets to make final decisions, but rest assured, the fun will start with a bubbly toast in Julia’s honor and an appetizer upon arrival. Do plan to join us. Cost is $85 per person. Simply Email me to make your reservations– Cheers! Heidi

 

Home Grown Tomatoes

Tomato TimeFresh off the VinePlant ’em in the spring eat ’em in the summer, All winter without ’em’s a culinary bummer…                                 From “Home Grown Tomatoes” | John Denver

I don’t know about you but I have been like a kid in a candy shop with the flood on homegrown tomatoes now available in local markets. I long ago gave up on growing my own, deciding to leave the important work of seeding and sowing such seasonal pleasures to the professionals. Now I buy at every market from a host of farmers and you should too!

There is nothing quite like that first taste after a winter and spring without the real thing, but after a month or so it feels like you  just can’t eat them fast enough.

Truth is though, with one master recipe, you can use this season’s perfect fruit (or vegetable) to create a host of dishes to enjoy. And the best news is that these pan roasted tomatoes freeze well. So cook ’em down and pack ’em up and enjoy this, oh so special, taste of summer throughout the rest of the year as well.

This past week in particular has been a tomato-ey one for me. I’ve done a tomato time cooking class at Windcrest Certified Organic Farm in Monroe as a part of my On the Farm series of classes and then have been on television twice this week to help promote the first ever HomeGrown Tomato Festival to benefit 100Gardens.org in Charlotte.  I’ll be appearing as an official judge at the festival along with mixologist Stefan Huebner of the newly opened DotDotDot at Park Road Shopping Center and North Carolina’s own “Tomato Man”, Craig LeHoullier – Raleigh NC- based author of the award-winning book “Epic Tomatoes” and THE MAN who developed and named the famed Cherokee Purple heirloom tomato.  More about the festival at the end of this post along with the video segments that aired to promote it, but first -lets get on to the recipes of how best to eat ( and drink) up the sensational taste of summer tomatoes.

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Just a little reminder from my friends at Barbee Farms

First thing…How do you know when your tomatoes are ripe? You can’t always tell by the color because many heirloom varieties are not red – they are often green, yellow or striped. Look follow your nose, they should smell wonderfully tomato-ey and should be firm to the touch – although when you are shopping, don’t go around squeezing the tomatoes – farmers hate that and while we are on topic the same goes for peaches!

tomato tips

Now that you know how to choose and how to tell when your tomatoes are ripe, let’s start with a cocktail, shall we? Now I am not a bartender or mixologist by trade, but if you’ve got a good recipe and use great ingredients, making a refreshing summer cocktail is just like cooking a meal. You can do it, too, and here’s how…

Heidi's Summer SmashTomato watermelon cosmopolitanHeidi’s Summer Smash | Tomato and Watermelon Cosmopolitan

1 small local watermelon (check out the watermelons from Rowland’s Row Farm, available at the Matthews Community Farmers’ Market and the Davidson Farmers’ market or the melons from Barbee Farms, available at the Davidson Market or at the Barbee Farms farm store in Concord)

1 ½ lbs. local red, pink or yellow heirloom tomatoes ( in truth the color doesn’t matter – its about the taste of the ‘mater; but for this cocktail, rosier hues help keep it in the pink!)

1 cup organic sugar

1 cup water

3/4 cup Your favorite Vodka ( lots of great choices distilled right here in North Carolina)

lime

1 local jalapeno, sliced and candied*

Cut the pulp of the watermelon from the rind; remove any seeds ( see my tomato seeding tip below) and puree the watermelon until it is smooth. Refrigerate or freeze the puree.

Cut smaller cherry tomatoes in half or seed larger tomatoes; then cut them into chunks. Combine sugar and water in a small saucepan. Heat and add the tomatoes. Allowing the tomatoes to cook for 15 mins or so in the simply syrup made when the sugar melts into the water. Ad the tomatoes cook down, their flavor transfers to the syrup. Remove the syrup from the heat and allow it to cool. The longer the tomato pieces sit in the syrup, the more tomato-ey goodness they will impart.

For two ( or maybe three) cocktails: combine 1 cup of watermelon puree with 1 cup of the candied tomato syrup ( use the candied pieces of tomato themselves for a garnish) Add the vodka and shake well. I like to do this in a large canning jar as I find it easier to shake than a cocktail mixer; but if your watermelon puree is frozen, you could also whip it up in a blender. Blend well; pour over ice. Add a squeeze of fresh lime.

Garnish with a candied tomato and a candied slice of jalapeno if you want to spice things up!  **To candy the jalapeno, make the same simple syrup mixture you did for the tomatoes, but this time add in fresh sliced jalapenos instead.

What Would Heidi Do-

pan roasted tomatoesNow that we all have a cocktail in hand, lets get down to cooking with all of this season’s wonderful tomato – you will find them everyone, just be sure you are buying local. In these photos you will see local tomatoes from Windcrest Farm in Monroe, New Town Farm in Waxhaw and Tega Hills Farm in Ft Mill ( all available at the Matthews’ Community Farmers’ Market), from Burton Farms ( available at the Cotswold Farmers’ Market and the Regional Market on Yorkmont Road) and from Rowland’s Row Family Farm ( available at the Matthews’ Community Farmers’ Market and the Davidson Farmers’ Market)

Heidi’s Master Recipe for Pan-Roasted Summer Tomatoes

 

3 Tbsp. Olive Crate Kores Estate Extra Virgin Olive Oil ( available on Saturdays at the Cotswold Farmers Market and at all of my cooking classes)

1 small local yellow onion, diced ( optional)

2 cloves local garlic, optional ( optional)

OuterBanks SeaSalt & Heidi’s Hot Pepper Blend (made from a blend of three peppercorns found at the Savory Spice Shop in Southend Charlotte)

3-4 Lbs. local tomatoes,  diced or quartered

Place 2-3 Tbsp. of Kores Estate olive oil in a large pot and saute diced onion and garlic with salt and pepper. Saute for about 5 minutes or until the onions are translucent. If you don’t want to add the onions and garlic, then just start with the oil.

Add all of the tomatoes to the pan and cook for 4-5 minutes until the tomatoes start to soften. Puree the onion-garlic-tomato mixture with an immersion blender or food processor and use as a spread on toast for a wonderful appetizer all on its own or proceed with any of the following recipes…

Just Like Disney Did It RatatouilleJust Like Disney Did It Country French Farmers’ Market Ratatouille

One pan of Heidi’s Master Recipe for Pan-Roasted Summer Tomatoes

Your choice of any of these veggies:

2-3 local Haikuri Turnips

1 local eggplant, trimmed and very thinly sliced

1 zucchini, trimmed and very thinly sliced

1 yellow squash, trimmed and very thinly sliced

1 red bell pepper, cored and very thinly sliced

1 yellow bell pepper, cored and very thinly sliced

3 Tbsp. Olive Crate Kores Estate olive oil, or to taste

2 Tbsp. Herbs de Provence

¼ cup Uno Alla Volta cottage cheese ( available in cheese and gourmet shops all around Charlotte as well as on Saturday mornings at the Matthews’ Community Farmers’ Market and the Charlotte Regional Farmers’ Market on Yorkmont Road)

Spread the pan roasted  tomatoes on the bottom of an oven to table casserole.

Arrange alternating slices of eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, red bell pepper, and yellow bell pepper, starting at the outer edge of the dish and working concentrically towards the center. Overlap the slices a little to display the colors. ( Remember how the little chef did it in the movie Ratatouille? Layer your veggies, just like that!) Drizzle the vegetables with 3 tablespoons olive oil and season with salt and black pepper. Dollop with the Uno Alla Volta cottage cheese or ricotta cheese.  Sprinkle with Herbs de province. Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 20-30 minutes until veggies are roasted and tender and slightly browned. Top with the remaining pan roasted tomatoes just before serving.

Summer Tomato BisqueHeidi’s Summer Tomato Bisque

 

One pan of Heidi’s Master Recipe for Pan-Roasted Summer Tomatoes

2-3 firm, ripe tomatoes, diced

5 large Italian  basil leaves, cut in a chiffonade (roll the leaves up and then thinly slice them and viola! You have a chiffonade of basil!)

2 cups water

drizzle of Olive Crate Chile Pepper organic vinegar

1/2 cup Greek yogurt

Start by heating the tomato puree you made in the Master recipe. Add the remaining diced tomatoes, basil leaves, and water. Simmer 10-12 minutes.

Remove from heat; spoon into bowls. Top each with a drizzle of the chile pepper balsamic vinegar. Serve with Greek yogurt and additional fresh basil on top.

Homemade KetchupHomemade Tomato Ketchup and Fries

For the Ketchup:

2 Tbsp. Olive Crate Kores Estate  Extra Virgin Olive Oil

½ local red onion, minced

¼ cup minced local celery

One pan of Heidi’s Master Recipe for Pan-Roasted Summer Tomatoes

1/2 cup water

2/3 cup organic sugar

3/4 cup Olive Crate Honey vinegar

2 Tbsp. sea salt

Heidi’s Hot Pepper Blend, to taste

Saute onions and celery in olive oil until tender. Add tomatoes, stir to mix.

Add remaining ingredients.  Cook on medium high heat, stirring constantly, uncovered, until mixture is reduced by half and very thick.

Smooth the texture of the ketchup using an immersion blender, about 20 seconds.

Adjust seasonings to suit your tastes

 For the Fries:

Peel and rinse 4-5 local potatoes.  Cut the potatoes into your desired shape.

Place them in a large bowl and cover with cold water. Allow them to soak, 2 to 3 hours.

Drain the potatoes and blot dry on several thicknesses of paper towels.

Heat a few inches of  organic canola oil in a heavy pot.  ( you can tell that the oil is hot enough by placing a dry wooden spoon in the oil as it heats. When little bubbles start to form around the spoon, then the oil is hot enough for frying)  Cook the potatoes in small batches for just 4-5 minutes – they will not be brown, but remove them from the oil and drain on paper towels.  Then refry them in hot oil until brown. Salt to taste and serve with your homemade ketchup!

More about the first ever Home Grown Tomato Festival to benefit 100Gardens.org in Charlotte.

Come on out and join in the fun at 1 pm on Saturday July 29, 2017 at Midwood Country Club in Charlotte. Purchase tokens for $5 each to buy delicious homegrown tomato sandwiches made with bread from Sunflower Bakery and Burton’s Farms heirloom tomatoes or tomato pies from Christine’s Konditorei; beverages from Eli’s Lemonade and more. You and your kids may also adopt and take home a dwarf tomato plant; listen to the bands, watch the mixologists compete for the best tomato cocktail and see, taste and vote for all the homegrown tomatoes vying for the best of show.

On the Charlotte Today segment I did this past Monday with Home Grown Tomato Festival creator and farmer Sam Fleming of 100Gardens.org in Charlotte and mixologist Stefan Heubner, Sam tells show hosts Colleen Odegaard and Eugene Robinson more about his aquaponic operation and how he is teaching kids how to farm. I talked about all of the dishes I’ve showed you here and Stefan shares another great tomato cocktail recipe. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anyone Can Cook; Let Heidi Billotto Show You How To Make It Fun!

heidi with cookware “At Home with Heidi” and “On the Farm” Cooking Classes continue through August, September and October…

Get ready to slice, dice, simmer and saute as you make plans to join in on the fun at any one of my exciting hands-on classes cooking classes taught as the name suggests, “At Home with Heidi ”  in my home kitchen; or  come and experience one of my unique On the Farm Classes are held at various farms in and around Charlotte. Each On The Farm class includes a walking Farm Tour and then we settle into the farm kitchen to cook with whatever is in season. You really just have to experience these classes for yourself, there is indeed something quite special about being on all these local farms…

Classes are a perfect  for a fun date night, night out with the girls and a great way to meet new people or host a team building event.  Don’t see a date that fits – Plan Your Own Private Cooking Class email me and lets plan your own private class with work associates or with friends or family.

simply-email-heidi-to-make-your-reservations

Registration links are at the end of each class descriptive.  Make your reservations by simply sending me an email. Payment confirms your reservation and you may pay by cash, check or credit card. As soon as I gets your email, I’ll be right back in touch to confirm your payment and to give you the  address and details for each class