Fire in the City – The Heat is On, Charlotte!!!

HEIDI BILLOTTO FOODFor information on how to book your reservations for Charlotte’s Fire in the city Competition Dining series – click here to the NC Competition Dining page on this blog

For the story on how Competition Dining in Charlotte came to be, read on…..

Several years ago I had the distinct pleasure of being a judge for one of the Fire on the Rock culinary competitions at Crippen’s Country Inn and Restaurant  in Blowing Rock.

The idea for a competiton between the  talented  chefs in the Boone and Blowing Rock region  was the brainchild of restaurateur Jimmy Crippen. He saw it as a way to create some culinary excitement in the area during the off-season. The chefs came to compete on neutral ground ( Crippen’s ) and to make it fun,  Jimmy followed the Iron Chef/Chopped idea of featuring a secret ingredient; but made it his own with the help of food distributors from Pate Dawson/Southern Foods.

At competition dining dinners, you see, the secret ingredient is homegrown – Good to Be In NC products are featured at each and every dinner and the chefs must incorporate them in each course.  That first  dinner I attended was delicious and tons of fun – three courses, two plate for each course and not only did the invited professional judges vote, but everyone at the dinner  voted ( via a Smart phone app) for their favorite dish from each course in an effort to come up with the champion of the culinary battle.

I spoke with Jimmy then about how he wanted to develop the concept. It wasn’t long before Fire on the Rock , opened way to Fire on the Dock in the Wilmington area; and then to Fire in the Triad, in the Raleigh , Durham and Greensboro region.  The Competiton Dining concept has been such a success that Jimmy has since sold the old Crippen’s and is now working exclusively on developing Competition Dining.

Jimmy Crippen and his Competition Dining team don’t do anything in a small way – these dinner are top notch culinary events where everyone enjoys the food and the frivolity – while its a serious competition with high stakes on the line, and  the chefs are very intent on their part of the evening;  Crippen makes it all entertaining – never a dull moment from the start to finish of each dinner.

Jimmy Crippen Your host for each evening of the Fire in the City Competition Dining

Jimmy Crippen
Your host for each evening of the Fire in the City Competition Dining

After much anticipation,  starting next week, September 3,  Crippen’s NC Competition Dining now comes to Charlotte as Fire in the City – a bracketed culinary competition between 16 of the Queen City’s most talented chefs, each bringing their A game to the culinary battlefield and having a great time all along the way – don’t miss out on all the fun-filled action.

At each dinner,  two restaurants battle it out side by side in a single elimination,  using a blind dinner format and you can be a part of it all!

The dinners start on September 3 and run though Oct 22. Tickets are on sale now for each individual dinner  at www.competitiondining.com. Don’t miss out – make your reservations now!!

I am very proud to say that HeidiBillottoFood.com is the official blog of the Fire in the City competition!

Experience the dinners you can’t attend vicariously, by following me via this blog as I savor my way through each of the 15 evenings of the competition. Check back after each individual dinner to get  front row seat on what went on behind the scenes on the kitchen line, what  the chefs first impressions were, photos of all the dishes, what the secret ingredient was,   what diners thought , and most importantly which chef moved up a bracket to compete another day, one step closer to the prize of being Charlotte’s first Fire in the City champion.

Each of the Fire in the City Competition Dining dinners will take place at Bonterra Dining & Wine Room, a fabulous Charlotte dining spot  in  a  110 year old historic church building  at 1829 Cleveland Ave, Charlotte, NC.    Arrive early if you like and  kick off the evening with a cocktail hour in Bonterra’s award-winning bar. Guests are invited to purchase wine, beer or mixed drinks and enjoy;  then the Dinners begin at 7 pm sharp.

As  a participant , you get to savor a six-course menu (three courses from each chef without knowing whose food you’re tasting) created around a “Mystery” North Carolina ingredient. The ingredient is revealed to the chefs at noon the day of their battle and it must be used in each of their three courses.

Check out my Fire in the City – NC Competition Dining page on this blog to see who the culinary contenders are, check out each of the brackets and decided which dinners you’d like to attend.

Reservations are a must  and tickets are selling like wild fire ( pun intended), so call your friends and make your reservations now!

HOW IT WORKS: Paying guests will savor each course in a blind tasting alongside a panel of culinary and celebrity judges in a series of 15 dinner competitions. Each evening, two restaurants “battle” it out side-by-side in a single elimination format. Guests savor a six-course menu (three dishes from each chef without knowing whose food they’re tasting) created around a “featured” ingredient. For each dinner, the ingredient will come from a North Carolina farmer or artisan producer. The featured ingredient is revealed to the chefs only an hour before they start cooking, and it must be used in each of the three courses. It’s going to be great fun to see what our Charlotte chefs do to creatively and deliciously present this local and regional product.

Diners, alongside culinary and guest judges, will rate each dish and determine who moves on to the next round and who goes home. At stake in each series is a grand prize of $2,000, a handmade chef knife by Ironman Forge in Charlotte, and the coveted “Red Chef Jacket.” The runner-up receives $500. Reservations for dinners cost $59 excluding beverage, tax and tip. Reservations for the semi-final and final are $69. Diners can attend as many dinners as they like.

Don’t wait to make your reservations, I’ll count on seeing you there!   Tickets are on sale now at www.competitiondining.com.

Heidi’s Cooking Stage at Charlotte’s Southern Ideal Home Show – August 23-25, 2013

home show promo

This weekend, August 23-25, 2013, I have the pleasure of once again hosting the cooking stage at the Southern Ideal Home Show, held at Charlotte’s The Park Expo and Convention Center – Its a labor of love as I get to work with some of my favorite Charlotte Chefs presenting back to back cooking demos every hour on the half hour.

Showgoers will enjoy complimentary samples at each cooking demo, recipes, giveaways and more; plus the opportunity to chat with your favorite chefs up close and personal too!

As our grand prize giveaway at the cooking stage this year, two lucky visitors to the cooking stage will win a pair of tickets to one of the Competition Dining Dinners held in Charlotte in September and October as a part of the upcoming Fire in the City Competition – more news on that to come…

Meanwhile, imagine my delight when I read this – about me – today on the  Southern Ideal Home Show’s website:
Heidi Billotto – Host and darling of the IDEAL Cooking Stage

“Everything’s cooking with Heidi at the helm of the cooking stage. She’s our darling, your darling and just about everyone’s darling in the food world. She’s a culinary expert, food writer and editor/Charlotte Living, a cooking instructor, a food stylist and caterer and host of the cooking stage. She will be on-hand to guide you through each of the fabulous daily cooking demonstrations. The cooking stage is a crowd favorite for recipes, tastes, how-to’s and everything in between for your palate and reservations are not required.”

You can plan your visit to the home show based on when your favorite area chefs will be cooking…. and if you click on the link at the right to follow this blog – I’ll have two complimentary tickets waiting for you at the show’s Will Call desk… I’ll email you the details once you sign up to follow.
So Now, Here’s the complete schedule of cooking demos for the weekend – you’ll want to come back all three days to see and taste it all! Looking forward to seeing you there!

IDEAL Cooking Stage Schedule – Friday August 23
11:30 am All you want to know about local ‘cue- how to rub Butt and more   Presented By : Pitmaster Dan “Boone” Gibson from TBE Foods
12:30 pm Mangia, its Mediterranean with Chef Gene Briggs   Presented By : Blue Restaurant & Bar and Osso Bar & Restaurant
1:30 pm Modern Southern Cuisine   Presented By : Chef Chris Coleman
2:30 pm Meet the Farmer: Heidi Billotto Cooks with local organic grass-fed beef   Presented By : Shelley Eagan with Proffitt Cattle Co.
3:30 pm Quick, Easy and oh so Good   Presented By : Personal Chef Jill Aker-Ray from “What’s for Dinner”?
4:30 pm Make it Italian   Presented By : Charlotte Culinary Expert Heidi Billotto and Nada Vergili of Nada’s Italy
5:30 pm Conscious Eating   Presented By : Chef Andres Arboleda from Boutique Chef Services
6:30 pm Pseudo Southern   Presented by: Chef Troy with WCCB Charlotte the CW


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IDEAL Cooking Stage Schedule – Saturday August 24
10:30 am N’awluns Inspired American Cuisine   Presented By : Chef Brian Mottola from e2 emeril’s eatery
11:30 am Conscious Eating   Presented By : Chef Andres Arboleta from Boutique Chef Services
12:30 pm Modern Southern Cuisine   Presented By : Chef Chris Coleman
1:30 pm Meet the Farmer –Heidi Billotto Cooks with local lettuces, microgreens and more with Mindy Robinson   Presented By : Tega Hills Farm
2:30 pm Quick, Easy and oh so Good   Presented By : Personal Chef Jill Aker-Ray from “What’s for Dinner?
3:30 pm A taste of Mimosa Grill   Presented By : Chef Jon Fortes
4:30 pm Meet the Farmer – Heidi Billotto Cooks with local certified organic herbs and veggies   Presented By : Mary Roberts with Windcrest Farms
5:30 pm All you want to know about local ‘cue- how to rub Butt and more  Presented By: Pitmaster Dan “Boone” Gibson from TBE Foods

IDEAL Cooking Stage Schedule – Sunday August 25

11:30 am Summer Sippin’ with Amy and Scott McCabe
Presented By : Savory Spice Shop in Southend

12:30 pm The Art of Grilled Cheese with Brian Stockholm
Presented By : Papi Queso Food Truck

1:30 pm Farm to Table Appetizers from Roots Food Truck
Presented By : Chef Craig Barbour

2:30 pm A Taste of Passion 8
Presented By : Chef Evan Micek and Chef Matthew Krenz

3:30 pm American Café – Comfort Foods
Presented By: Chef Luca Annunziata and Chef Dan Steel from American Café

In Celebration of Julia and Four More Fabulous Cooking Classes

cropped-heidi-cooks-logo.jpgAnyone can cook, let me show you how to make it fun!

You’ll find  the entire list of my new August, September and October cooking classes each week in my email newsletter  ( just shoot me an email if you would like to subscribe) and in the Cooking Class section of HeidiBillottoFood.com.

I thought you would like a more detailed  taste of the four classes I have coming up in the next few weeks ahead…..I’d love to have you come and join in the fun for one or all.

These classes are always a blast! The At Home with Heidi classes are held at my South Charlotte home in my kitchen  and my unique On the Farm Classes take place on local area farms.

Once you email me to make your reservations I will send out directions to our home or to the individual farm. In every class we offer Wine parings with every dish, recipes packets and wine notes for each class participant. Cost is $65 – $75 per person. Class size is limited – your advance reservations via email to me gets you on the class list and advance payment confirms your space in class.

300-JULIA-BRANDING-FINALAt Home with Heidi – Tuesday August 13; 6:30-9:30 pm – For the Love of Julia – Years ago I had the great good fortune to interview Julia Child by phone – twice – truly a highlight in my culinary career! On August 14, my hero Julia Child would have been 101 years old! No better way to celebrate her culinary contributions and inspirations than with a class in her honor. This class will be comprised of my take on four of my favorite Julia dishes from an assortment of her cook books – I have so many I am still trying to decide which ones to prepare -of course we’ll use local product as much as possible and I’ll probably base my selections on what I find at the market before class. As always Josh Villapando from the Sorting Table will provide our wine pairings.
Cost $65 per person – email Heidi at hlnc@carolina.rr.com  to make your advance reservations

IMG_0412

At Home with Heidi – Tuesday August 27; 6:30-9:30 -Late Summer Herbs and Spices – A great “season”al class – we’ll cook with all the fresh herbs we can get our hands on and blend them with product from my go-to spice shop – the Savory Spice Shop in SouthEnd and Pour Olive olive oil shop on East Blvd.  to make a perfectly seasoned dinner for four – or more! Tips on preserving your fall herb harvest as well. Our menu will include Bistecca Florentine ( grilled steak with olive oil and fresh rosemary) and my wild salmon version of the same; marinated local feta  with local tomato concasse on pasta with a fresh-made herbs de province blend; lamb chops with mint gremolata and  mixed berry basil pie  –  Wine pairings with each course, of course! Cost $65 per person Email Heidi at hlnc@carolina.rr.com  to make your reservations.

Shelley and Brian of Proffitt Cattle Co.,

Shelley and Brian of Proffitt Cattle Co.,

Heidi’s Unique On The Farm Cooking Classes – Saturday, September 7; 3- 7:30 pm – On the Farm  at Proffitt Cattle Co.  in Kings Mountain

Home to Shelley and Brian Eagan and Shelley’s parents Diane and Steve and their family, Proffitt Cattle Co.  is the first and largest cattle ranch in NC to raise beef on certified organic pastures. This beef is pasture finished, dry aged, 100% grass fed, USDA processed with no hormones and no antibiotics. Proffitt’s certified organic beef is available in Charlotte at Whole Foods

Upon arrival at the farm, we’ll start with an hors d’oeuvre and an aperitif and then settle into the kitchen for a cooking class with a beef-centric seasonal menu.  As always our menu will include wine pairings from our good friend Josh Villapando at The Sorting Table at Seventh Street Market to match each course. The afternoon at the farm will wind up  with an incredible tour of the Proffitt’s homestead property where you will get to experience first hand all that goes into raising this high quality local certified organic grass fed beef. Meet the cows and bulls, the horses, chickens, ducks and guinea hens and the bevy of friendly farms dogs too!

Enjoy the friendship, fellowship, generous samples, wine pairings and take away recipe packets and wine notes and more!

Lots of hands on opportunities for those who want to slice, dice and saute along with me. Or if you’d rather just enjoy the wine and drink and the beautiful view from the Proffitt’s comfy porch and patio, that’s fine too.

Cost $75 per person –    email Heidi at hlnc@carolina.rr.com to make your advance reservations

thai food

At Home with Heidi – Saturday, Sept 14; 11 am – 2 pm – Thai One On –  Come and delight in the Asian cuisine that brings together sweet, spicy, salty and hot flavors in each and every dish. An entire meal with all the intricate flavors of Thailand. Recipes include my twist on a Thai chicken and coconut soup, local grilled pork with green curry sauce, classic Pad Thai and savory fishcakes with spicy cucumber sauce -don’t miss it! Cost is $65;  email Heidi at hlnc@carolina.rr.com  to make your advance reservations.

grilling out shot

 Please Note the New Date – Sunday, Sept  22; 1-4 pm – Fire and Spice –  Cooking from the fall grill -You’ll  be good to grill for any occasion after this fun,  flavorful and informative class. Lots of tips and tricks to help you achieve grilling perfection. On the menu – grilled antipasto veggies and house marinated olives, tuna burgers with grilled jalapeno and cilantro pesto,  dry rub bbq chicken with tabouli,  grilled from-scratch sausage biscuits and a fun grilled dessert you are going to love.                   Cost is $65 email Heidi at hlnc@carolina.rr.com to make your advance reservations

Check the Cook Class Info page for the rest of the list of late September and October cooking classes  and simply email me to register for those that catch your fancy,

Private cooking classes
 If my regularly scheduled class times don’t suit; but a topic is of interest, then perhaps you’d like to plan a private cooking class or team building event all your own – I have several groups doing just that I am happy to accommodate you all – just give me a shout and we’ll get a date and topic for YOUR class on the calendar.
A private class at your home kitchen or in mine is a fabulous way to entertain friends, family, celebrate birthdays or get to know your co-workers better – plus we have a blast – so you’ll be the host or hostess with the mostess for putting it all together!
 If you have a group larger than 16 or so I have several other kitchen options we can explore -again simply contact me at hlnc@carolina.rr.com and we’ll get it all figured out.

Gift Certificates –  If you’d like to give the gift of a cooking class to your favorite foodie – I’m here to make it easy – You may select any dollar amount at $65 or $75 dollar increments for your gift certificate option and I’ll put it all together for you. My gift certificates are cute and clever if I do say so myself – which make the gift giving even more fun – they come all wrapped up, personalized and tied up with a bow  the perfect gift for your favorite gourmet or gourmand! Email me at hlnc@carolina.rr.com to order or for more details.

Homemade Creamed Corn and Heidi’s Snappy Jalapeño Cornbread

cropped-heidi-cooks-logo.jpgFeeling Corny?
Even with the effect of all the rain on our local crops, it is still the season for local corn – here’s a great blend of recipes to help you enjoy the harvest…plus lots of prep and cooking tips to make cleaning, cutting and cooking the corn a breeze…
This recipe will be featured on August 8 on WCNC’s Charlotte Today ( Channel 36) in cooking segment done with my good friends show host Colleen Odegaard and Ramona Holloway.
The corn for the segment came from Cabarrus County farmer, Paul Brewington and his neighbor. Paul offers his corn and a bevy of beautiful produce for sale at the Atherton Mill Farmers’ Market in Charlotte on Saturday mornings.

This is an early morning post – a preview of sorts for the video and cooking tips to come – stay tuned for more details, photos and video after the show, but meanwhile, here’s the recipe…

 

 

 

 

Homemade Creamed Corn and Heidi’s Snappy Jalapeño Cornbread
Recipe by Charlotte Culinary Expert, Heidi Billotto
hlnc@carolina.rr.com

For the creamed corn:
4-6 large ears corn, kernels cut from cob
2-3 Tbsp. heavy whipping cream or Coconut milk creamer

For the corn bread:
1/4 cup canola oil, shortening or your favorite Pour Olive extra virgin olive oil
2 cups organic yellow cornmeal
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. Heidi’s Hot pepper blend with Coriander from the Savory Spice Shop
3/4 cup whole organic milk
3/4 cup homemade creamed corn
1 local egg, lightly beaten
5 Tbsp. melted butter
1 whole jalapeno, seeded and minced

Make the creamed corn by placing the kernels and any liquid cut from the cob into a bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Puree until even more liquid is released from corn, about 3 minutes (mixture will still be coarse). Transfer one third of the pureed corn to strainer set over large measuring cup. Press on solids in strainer to extract as much juice as you can; discard solids. Transfer corn juice to medium saucepan. Stir over medium heat just until juice begins to thicken, Add remaining corn kernels and whipping cream to saucepan and stir just until corn is heated through, about 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove creamed corn from heat – pull out about a cup to use in this recipe; then cover the rest to keep warm and enjoy with dinner.
To make the cornbread: Heat fat in a 9-10 inch cast iron skillet and swirl to coat the sides and bottom evenly. Place skillet in a 450 degree oven to heat.
In a bowl, combine the dry ingredients: the cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and pepper and mix well.
In another small bowl combine the liquid ingredients: the milk, creamed corn, egg and melted butter along with the jalapenos.
Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir to combine.
Immediately pour the cornmeal batter into the hot skillet. Return to a preheated 450 degree oven; bake until firm and golden brown on top, 25 to 30 minutes. Let sit for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a cutting board. Cut into wedges and serve.

Annual Chef’s Best Dinner to benefit the Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina to be held Friday August 9, 2013

Win Two Tickets to the 24th Annual Chef's Best Dinner compliments of Charlotte Living Magazine

Win Two Tickets to the 24th Annual Chef’s Best Dinner compliments of Charlotte Living Magazine

A wonderful evening for a wonderful cause, Chef’s Best is an annual late summer fundraiser to benefit Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina’s Community Food Rescue Program and this Friday evening August 9 at 6 pm will mark Chef’s Best’s 24th year and you can win two tickets to attend, compliments of Charlotte Living Magazine by clicking here

Each year local celebrity chefs create a complete dinner presenting on stage cooking demonstrations to accompany each course.
With Harris Teeter as the event’s major corporate sponsor, this year the opening reception will be presented by chefs and culinary students from Charlotte’s Campus of The Art Institute.
The reception menu includes:
Smoked chicken on a black bean cake; Tomato gazpacho with shrimp; Jalapeno and chorizo deviled eggs; Bruschetta with roasted peach and bacon; and roasted pork and pickled cactus on tortilla.

A seated dinner in the Crown Ballroom in the Charlotte Convention center will follow the reception.

Chef Gene Briggs and Chef Tom Condron, both long time supporters of the Chef’s Best event will kick off the evening with presentations of the soup and salad courses, respectively.
Chef Gene, executive chef at Blue and Osso will present a seasonal Yellow Tomato Gazpacho garnished with Cecina (a Spanish air dried beef) and Chef Tom of The Liberty and the soon to be opened Lumiere will prepare a Steakhouse Style Beef Bacon and Blue Cheese Wedge Salad.

Two very talented chefs from the Harper’s Group – another front runner in the effort to eliminate hunger in the Metrolina area- will handle the main course which will center around a surf and turf presentation of
24 Hour Braised Beef Short Ribs and Roasted Diver Scallop with faro risotto, fennel confit, pickled peaches and sorghum glazed carrots from Chef Jon Fortes of Mimosa Grill and Chef Tom Dyrness of Upstream.

Dessert, a Summer Berry Cornmeal Shortcake, with Whipped Mascarpone and Basil and Mint Syrup will be presented by Chef Stephanie Nicolic, pastry chef at E2 Emerils Eatery in Uptown Charlotte.

This year’s Chef’s Best theme is “The Cow Boy”, with a beef-centric dinner menu, but vegetarian options will be offered upon request.
Wines at the reception and with each course at dinner will be paired and presented by E&J Gallo.
A lively live auction will take place during the dinner- with fabulous gifts, dinner and travel opportunities for the lucky high bidders.
Last year the 23rd annual Chef’s best raised $165,000. organizers are hoping to top that figure this year.

Tickets are $100 per person and are on sale now at the Second Harvest website under the events tab.
Or you can enter to win two tickets at the Charlotte Living table – simply enter here

GRILLED SALMON WITH SUMMER SUCCOTASH AND CREAMED CORN by Charlotte Culinary Expert Heidi Billotto

cropped-heidi-cooks-logo.jpgSomething about Summer – Just love the flavors of local corn, tomatoes and fresh shelled limas? We in the Carolinas are lucky enough to find ourselves smack in the season for succotash, creamed corn and a plethora of ways to eat, cook and serve up local tomatoes! Inspired by a Facebook post from my friend Susan Dosier, lover of local food herself; I decided to share this, one of my favorite recipes for superb summer supper all served atop a bed of local succotash.

Of course, the wild salmon I call for in this recipe is not local to Charlotte, NC; but it is in season and readily available at fish mongers around town, so take the opportunity to enjoy.
All the vegetables in the succotash and creamed corn may be sourced locally this time of year – with the crazy weather we have been having, it may still be a bit early for the limas, so if you can’t find them at any one of Charlotte’s many local farmers’ markets, then opt for frozen baby limas – I prefer organic.
Local corn is spot on right now – I found beautiful ears of a fresh corn variety called ‘Incredible” ( and it is!) at the Atherton Farmers’ Market in SouthEnd last Saturday ( August 3, 2013)  from Paul Brewington of Brewington Farms.

In fact, I will be making the creamed corn recipe here to use in a tasty jalapeno cornbread I am making for a cooking segment on WCNC’s Charlotte Today on Thursday August 8. Be sure to tune in (Channel 36, 11am – noon) or look on these pages for a post of the video and the afore mentioned cornbread recipe the end of this week. Paul tells me he has Collards coming up for the fall season, so look for more on local greens in the months ahead; but I digress….

As far as the condiments for today’s recipe go – for top notch extra virgin olive oil the Queen City I turn to my friends Sophie and Doug at Pour Olive, a gourmet olive oil and artisan vinegar shop On East Blvd. in Charlotte’s Dilworth neighborhood. Pour Olive features current harvest olive oils from around the world and so the selection of these golden elixirs changes from season to season. Right now I am loving the Picual from the well-known Oro Bailen Estate in Spain and the Koroneiki from Greece – both would work well in the recipe, its just a matter of your personal taste. Do stop by Pour Olive to visit and taste and make your own selections or use my choices as a guide. Pour Olive is truly a gem in Charlotte’s culinary landscape.

And here’s yet another – For spices, dried herbs, my favorite sea salt and the ingredients that make up the Heidi’s Hot Pepper Blend noted in the recipe, take a culinary field trip to the Savory Spice Shop in SouthEnd. My friends and fellow foodies Amy and Scott McCabe and their knowledgeable staff will help guide you in your selection of dried spice and herbs and will measure out whatever you need. The beauty of shopping at the Savory Spice Shop is that you can buy a pinch or a pound of any of the high quality, often organic, dried herbs and spices to use at the peak of flavor.

I love the pink Himalayan sea salt and use the coarse grind most of the time. It works particularly well on proteins ( like the wild salmon listed in this recipe) Season the fish before cooking, as the coarse ground salt adds flavor but doesn’t pull out too much moisture.
As for the pepper – I have come up with two mixes that my husband, Tom Billotto and I love to spice things up with – I’ve given one the moniker Heidi’s Hot Pepper Blend; and the other, simply, Heidi’s Hot Pepper Blend with Coriander.

The original Heidi’s Hot Pepper Blend came to be because I loved a product called Hot Shot available at most grocery stores in the spice department.
However as my philosophy of trying to eat and cook with local and organic products has developed, I have opted not to purchase commercially packaged products that rely so heavily on preservative and chemicals to maintain freshness.
When I found the Savory Spice Shop in Charlotte’s SouthEnd neighborhood I was in heaven and totally redid  my spice drawers. Tossing out the old and enjoying the selection of the new and interesting.
My new pepper blend is a combination of Tellicherry, Lampong and Pink Reunion Peppercorns  – equal parts of each –  and I grind up new batches as needed in my coffee grinder. For summer I have started adding in an equal amount of coriander seed to the mix – it adds a nice spicy and  citrusy touch – perfect with the grilled fish here and on chicken and veggies, too.
I suggest you wander in the Savory Spice Shop SouthEnd when you get a chance and be prepared to taste you way through the flavorful selection of dried herbs and spices before you buy. Tell them you want Heidi’s Hot Pepper Blend and they’ll know just what to measure out for you – with or without the coriander.

Now that you have all the particulars – lets get on with the recipe… all the parts stand up deliciously on their own or together they make for the perfect summer supper – Enjoy!

Here is what you’ll need:
For the succotash:
1 1/2 pounds local baby lima beans, shelled,
2 large ears local corn, kernels cut from the cob (about 2 cups)
1 large local tomato, seeded, diced
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh local or organic Italian parsley
2 Tbsp. of your favorite Pour Olive extra-virgin olive oil

For the creamed corn:
7 large ears local corn, kernels cut from cob (about 7 cups)
¼ cup heavy cream or half and half ( or the new coconut milk creamers work well, too)

For the vinaigrette:
1 lb. local tomatoes, chopped – no need to seed or peel
2/3 cup your favorite Pour Olive extra-virgin olive oil
1 clove local or organic garlic, minced
4 Tbsp. Pour Olive Blueberry Ginger infused balsamic vinegar
Sea salt and Heidi’s Hot Pepper Blend from the Savory Spice Shop

For the fish:
Your Favorite Pour Olive extra virgin Olive oil
4 ( 6 oz) portions of wild salmon

Here’s what to do:
For the succotash: Cook beans in large saucepan of boiling salted water until just tender, about 5 minutes. Using slotted spoon or strainer, transfer beans to colander; reserve cooking water. Rinse beans with cold water. Add corn kernels to reserved cooking water and cook until just tender, about 1 minute. Drain. Return beans and corn to same saucepan. Mix in tomato, Italian parsley and extra-virgin olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (Can be prepared 2 hours ahead. Let stand covered at room temperature. Rewarm over low heat before serving.)

For the creamed corn: Place corn kernels in processor. Puree until liquid is released from corn, about 3 minutes (mixture will still be coarse). Transfer one third of the pureed corn to strainer set over large measuring cup. Press on solids in strainer to extract as much juice as you can; discard solids. Transfer corn juice to medium saucepan. Stir over medium heat just until juice begins to thicken, Add remaining corn kernels and whipping cream to saucepan and stir just until corn is heated through, about 2 minutes. Season to taste
with salt and pepper. Remove creamed corn from heat; cover to keep warm.

For the vinaigrette:
Season tomatoes with coarse sea salt and Heidi’s Hot Pepper Blend.  Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and saute garlic and tomatoes 4- 5 minutes till the tomatoes begin to soften. Remove from heat, add balsamic vinegar and remaining olive oil. Toss well to blend.

Chad Parks masters the technique for grilling wild salmon!

Chad Parks masters the technique for grilling wild salmon

For the fish:
Sprinkle fillets with coarse salt and  Heidi’s Hot Pepper Blend with Coriander.  heat grill, place fillets on the grill skin side up . Cook fish for 10 minutes per inch of thickness – measure them at the thickest part and then turn them over using a pair of tongs and a spatula, halfway during the grilled time. After fish has grilled the skin will easily peel off should you wish to remove it, although some people love crispy salmon skin.

To serve:

Divide creamed corn and succotash equally among 4 plates. Top each serving with a grilled fillet. Spoon tomato vinaigrette atop each fillet and serve.

Five Favorites for August – On the set photos and video

Chatting about five fabulous new restaurants in the Queen City

Chatting about five fabulous new restaurants in the Queen City

Monday August 5 – A quick evening post for those of you who missed the live edition of Charlotte Today on WCNC  channel 36 this morning.

Here is a link to the video interview/segment  with my friends and show hosts Colleen Odegaard and Ramona Holloway. Our topic: my five favorite new restaurants for August . My husband Tom Billotto was there, too, behind the scenes taking photos as fast as he could – hard to catch all the action, but Tom did a terrific job !

For details on each of the restaurants read the previous post  here – Five Favorites for August and  and enjoy!

As always the show was great fun and time went by fast for this one;  but the response has been overwhelming – so glad everyone like the concept – well do it again sometime in September – stay tuned and I’ll be sure to keep you posted on details.

Meanwhile, as luck would have it , my friend Chef Jill Aker Ray was also on today’s show doing  the cooking segment . Jill is private chef in Charlotte and always comes up with something fun. Here is the link to her spot on the show – a great recipe for a seasonal salsa used three ways – delish!jill and Ramona toocharlotte Today Aug 5. 2013 001

After the  show Tom and I joined Jill and another friend for lunch at American Café. Tom enjoyed the crispy batter dipped fish and chips with a heaping helping of hand cut fries while Jill and I decide to split two different sandwiches – the steak sandwich and Luca’s meatball sandwich, I have had the meatball sub before and was already a convert – but the steak sandwich – Oh my! Off the hook, marinated then seared rare skirt steak thin sliced and snuggled into the soft bun alongside  caramelized onion and a thin layer of cheese – au jus for dipping made it even better – put this one on your must try list for sure.steak sandwich from American cafe