summer veggies

Eat Your Summer Veggies

Tiz the season for a bounty of Summer veggies and a wonderful time to shop, cook and eat local.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about fennel. Now that it’s nearly July, fennel crops are waning, but look and you’ll see it is available from local farms situated north of Charlotte. Best bet is to shop on Saturdays at several stands at the Charlotte Regional Farmers’ Market. Or check out this list of local farmers’ markets and farm stores for a local farmer or producer near you! I work hard to regularly update this list, but if your favorite spot is missing be sure to let me know and I’ll be happy to add it in.

summer veggies

This photo from the fennel post was taken at the Honey Tree Farm‘s booth in building A; last I looked they still had this wonderful crunchy anise-flavored veggie available.

Shop Local for the best Summer Veggies

This week, lets talk about the harvest of zucchini and mushrooms. Cucumbers and tomatoes are all ripe for the picking as well. Several years ago, I shared this post of cucumber recipes and they are still some of my favorites. Stay tuned, for a tomato post to come and then there are peaches…. but I digress, lets get back to zucchini and ‘shrooms.

Earlier in April and May I did several virtual cooking classes on Zoom. The replays are still available for purchase if you are interested, you’ll get a copy of the class video and the recipes too!

A few of the recipes became fast summer favorites around the Billotto household this past spring and summer season and I’d like to share them with you now.

I also shared the recipe for the Zucchini Galette ( pictured at the top of this post) recently on a virtual cooking segment on Charlotte Today. You are going to love the clever ending !

Check it out here and then read below for more recipes and all the details on the galette recipe.

Lots of variations on this theme – using your choice of favorite summer veggies and fruits! Try it with a bit of sugar added to the ricotta and egg mix; fold in fresh local blueberries and/or blackberries and top with fresh sliced peaches. A perfect dessert for this season’s al fresco dining opportunities.

All Local Ricotta, Tomato & Zucchini Galette

summer veggies

All year long, and this time of year in particular, its a given that most of what I cook is with local product. I’ve listed farms and producers here so that you too can Shop Local and support local farmers and producers as much as possible. Let me know if you have questions as to availability.

2 Tbsp. butter ( you can buy local butter from Uno Alla Volta on Saturdays in Charlotte at the Matthews Community Farmers Market and the Charlotte Regional Market, too!)

2 Tbsp. Olive Crate Kores Estate EV olive oil (Visit them online and during this time, enjoy Free home delivery and shipping!)

1/4 lb. your favorite Urban Gourmet Farms Mushrooms, thick sliced (available on Saturdays in Charlotte at the Matthews Community Farmers Market and the Southend Market at Atherton.)

1-2 sprigs fresh thyme leaves

1 fresh minced bay leaf

For the local cheese filling

2-3 heirloom tomatoes, seeded, pulp chopped ( check out every local farmers market – recently I’ve been buying delicious tomatoes from Barbee Farms at the new Charlotte Uptown Farmers’ Market)

1 container Uno Alla Volta ricotta cheese (about a half cup whole milk ricotta)

These photos of local zucchini and a cute signage reminding us all to Shop Local were taken at the Matthews Community Farmers’ Market

2 local eggs ( again you will find fresh farm eggs at almost everyone Farmers’ market – I often buy eggs from Bluebird Farms at the Charlotte Regional Farmers Market; from Coddle Creek Farms at the Huntersville Farmers Market, the Southend Market at Atherton and the Charlotte Regional Farmers Market. Locations of Pasta & Provisions also carry Coddle Creek Farm Eggs. Or order eggs from Harmony Ridge Farms via Fair Share Farms online for Thursday delivery to Davidson NC.

2-3 local zucchini, thin sliced – these are abundant as well. The ones in the photos in this post came from New Town Farms at the Matthews Community Farmers’ Market.

dough for two pie crusts ( i go with Immaculate Bakers Organic refrigerated Pie crust here – or you can make your own.)

Fine shredded Parmesan cheese (Ok, busted. Obviously not local unless you live in Parma, Italy. Simply substitute your favorite local North or South Carolina cheeses as you would like – here is a list to get you started. )

Here’s the How To…

Sauté mushrooms in a blend of butter and olive oil with fresh thyme and bay leaves until nicely browned.

Remove from heat and combine in a bowl with 1 carton Uno Alla Volta ricotta cheese and the chopped tomatoes. Add in eggs and blend well. Reserve.

On a parchment paper lined work surface stack the pie crusts and roughly roll out the dough.

Place the ricotta filling in the center. Randomly fold the edges of the dough up and over the edge of the filling – leaving the center exposed. Thinly slice the zucchini and arrange on top of the tomato/cheese mix in the center of the dough. Coat the edges of the pie crust with milk or beaten eggs or whole milk yogurt and top with a fine shred of Parmesan cheese.

Transfer the dough and parchment paper to a bake sheet or large pizza pan. Bake for 30 minutes in a preheated 4oo oven.

Cool slightly  before serving, top each serving with a drizzling of balsamic vinegar.

Cooking with Local Mushrooms

summer veggies

Like the Galette recipe, this one started as a way to feature local Urban Gourmet Mushrooms in a recipe for one of my virtual cooking classes. First I posted it step by step in an Instagram story, and then because it got so much attention, I made it in my Cooking with Mushrooms virtual class. Now I share a version of the same recipe with you.

But First – Plant Based Fried “Chicken” with Mushroom Gravy

This beautiful cluster of yellow oyster mushrooms is the start to a myriad of crispy fried mushroom dishes you and your family are going to love.

Use the same technique for breading and frying the “petals” of the Oyster Mushroom cluster to make a vegetarian version of “Fried Chicken” with the following recipe for mushroom sauce featuring Vegetable Kingdom’s Halfway 2 Homemade Mushroom Medley soup ( a wonderful way to eat Local from Asheville, NC). Enjoy the fried mushrooms and mushroom sauce with buttery mashed potatoes for dinner; or a pile these crispy slices on a biscuit with cheese for a great way to start the day! The variations on the theme are only limited by your imagination!

Quick and Easy Mushroom Sauce

Summer veggies
Shown here over grilled steak, this quick and easy mushroom sauce starts with a jar of a fabulous local product from Asheville NC- Vegetable Kingdom, Halfway 2 Homemade Mushroom Soup. Use it as a base in this recipe for Mushroom sauce to top your vegetarian “Fried Chicken” mushroom petals.

It really is this easy! Melt 2 Tablespoons of butter in a saucepan. Add in 2 Tablespoons of flour and stir cook with a flat pan whisk until the mixture is smooth and lightly browned.

Stir in 1/2 jar of Halfway2Homemade mushroom soup; and incorporate the liquid into the butter and flour roux. Then, scoop out a spoon or two of additional mushrooms from the jar.

Stir to combine and season to taste with salt and pepper. Add in a tablespoon of your favorite tomato paste or 1-2 Tablespoons of tomato powder from the Savory Spice Shop. Stir to blend and you’re done!

You’ll find a variety of Vegetable Kingdom soups, sauces and condiments in the local sections of Harris Teeter, Publix, Lowes Foods and Ingles stores. Or order from them online.

Easy Mushroom Parmesan

summer veggies

1 cluster of Urban Gourmet Farms oyster mushrooms, broken into “petals”

Olive Crate Kores Estate EVOO

Salt and pepper to taste

For the béchamel:

2 Tbsp. Butter

2-3 Tbsp. Flour

2 cups whole milk

1 cup chopped mozzarella ( or try this recipe with any of your favorite local cheeses – we love it with Chapel Hill Creamery’s Carolina Moon ( a brie-like cheese) or Uno Alla Volta ricotta cheese)

1 recipe Heidi’s Marinara Sauce

Shaved Parmigiana Reggiano cheese


Toss the mushroom pieces first in flour, then in beaten egg, then in the breadcrumbs. Gfree substitutions work beautifully! ( Note: if you’re doing these mushrooms for a plant based version of fried chicken, then add in some minced dried thyme, marjoram and perhaps a little garlic salt or onion salt to the breadcrumbs.)

Now here is the real secret to the success of this recipe: Let the coated pieces rest on a wire cake rack for about five minutes, before you fry them in the hot oil. Once in the oil, quickly brown them – about a minute or two on each side.

Return them to the rack to drain.

For the béchamel

Heat the butter in a pan and as it starts to melt, add the flour. Stir cook until all of the flour is incorporated into the butter and cook for a minute or two. Add the milk all at one time and continue to cook over medium high heat stirring constantly (use a figure 8 motion) until the milk begins to thicken into a sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Add the chopped mozzarella (or brie or ricotta) to the bechamel and stir until melted. (Now you could really call your sauce  an Italian Mornay!)

Layer the coated mushrooms in a casserole dish with the marinara, mushrooms, and béchamel. When tomatoes are perfectly ripe I also like to add in a layer of sliced tomatoes and fresh basil leaves.

Bake in a preheated oven for about 40 minutes. Serve portions in shallow bowls and top each with a sprinkling of grated parmesan.

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