homemade ravioli with a root vegetable mushroom sauce topped with fresh parsley

Shopping Local and Cooking with Mushrooms & More

It’s the first Saturday morning in December 2022; and in just a bit I will be headed to a trio of area farmers’ markets to stock up for the week ahead. How are you shopping local this week? On my list of go-tos are the season’s assortment of root veggies and a slew of local mushrooms. Keep reading for all of my local sources – many available to order online; and for two fabulous recipes ( the Jump link will take you to the first one – but keep scrolling down for more) using all that is currently in season.

Most Charlotte area farmers’ markets are morphing into winter season schedules starting this first Saturday in December, which generally means shorter Saturday morning hours. Before you head out check individual farmers’ market websites to be sure.

Shopping Local? Here’s What’s in Season in Charlotte NC

This time of year, fresh carrots, watermelon radishes, hakurei turnips and leafy greens like, kale, collards and spinach are all in season.

Wild cultivated mushrooms are always in season and my go-to in the Charlotte area in Urban Gourmet Farms.

You will find owner Hiram Ramirez at the Matthews Community Farmers Market every Saturday and you’ll find his mushrooms at the Southend Farmers Market, as well. You can read more about Hiram and his fabulous container farm in this piece I wrote for the Piedmont Culinary Guildback in 2020.

At the Uptown Farmers Market, look for wild cultivated mushrooms at Deep Roots Farm ‘s table ( Check out a fun Collard Green recipe from Deep Roots Farm, at the end of this peanut post .) Find even more mushrooms at the Charlotte Regional Farmers’ Market. You’ll regularly find wild mushrooms (and quail eggs, I might add) at the Brigham Mushroom table at the end of Building A .

Here’s a handy tip: Before you head to the Charlotte Regional Farmers Market on Yorkmont Road , use this handy interactive map to help locate your favorite vendors, and see who is there, week to week. During the month of December, this market is also open on Sundays, with great finds in Buildings B & C and in the Greenery Shed; but know that most of the local farmers in Building A are only there on Saturday mornings.

Order Online and Make Shopping Local Simple

Even if you are not in or around the Charlotte area, I am sure there are fabulous farmers markets in your area. And, you can still shop local with me, by ordering online as I share some of my favorite GotToBeNC ingredients in the recipes in this post. Be sure to #TellThemHeidiSentYou

My Secret Sauce

Here are some of the basics – my go-tos for the secret sauce in both of the recipes you’ll find in this post.

Ever since I tasted the wonderful “Box Uh Yok” chicken and noodle dish on the menu at Jimmy Pearls in the Market at 7th Street in Uptown Charlotte, I have been intrigued by the umami flavor created when we combine tomato and soy.

I simply LOVE Healthy Boy Brand Mushroom Soy Sauce. Available at Super G in Charlotte and in Asian supermarkets just about everywhere, it’s a staple ingredient in our pantry and i often purchase 2-3 bottles at a time.

When in comes to adding a tomato-y flavor and its past fresh local tomato time, my go-to is the Tomato Powder at the Savory Spice Shop. ( BTW, as if this Dec 3, 2022 writing, Tega Hills Farm continues to have delicious greenhouse tomatoes both at the Matthews Farmers Market on Saturdays and at their farm store during the week.)

Spice it Up

When I am in need of dried spices, I regularly visit the Savory Spice Shop in Southend ( the Saturday Southend Farmers Market sets up adjacent to this location); but if you are not close, you can also order from them online.

Or, order dried spices, herbs and teas online from another great NC company, Spicewalla in Asheville NC. You can purchase Spicewalla spices at Chai Pani restaurant in Asheville and at Botiwalla Restaurant in Optimist Hall in Charlotte; or you’ll find a greater selection online here.

Heidi Billotto at the Spicewalla store in Asheville NC

When I was at the Mountain State Fair this past September, I stumbled across the Spicewalla store on Page Avenue in the Arcade Building and I was in heaven!! It is a must stop when next you go to visit the Asheville area.

This EVOO and these Balsamic vinegars all have a local footprint

I’ve written many times about the wonderful Greek Balsamic Vinegars and the Kores Estate EVOO from The Olive Crate. This is a family farm in Greece with a Charlotte NC footprint. The family here imports the single estate, ultra premium, extra virgin olive oil produced on their family farm in Greece; and they import the delicious balsamic vinegars produced by neighboring Greek vineyards as well.

You’ll find the Olive Crate Products at several shops and farm stores around town, including the Coddle Creek Farm Store in Mooresville, NC. You’ll also find Olive Crate this month at the seasonal OMB Holiday Market ( held weekends in December); and regularly in Building B at the Charlotte Regional Farmers Market. Or, you can order online from Olive Crate, for home delivery, here.

How to Spice it Up as you Keep Shopping Local

Finally, one of my very favorite spices of the year comes from the Turmeric Zone in Morrisville, NC, just outside of Raleigh. I’ve written about the Turmeric Zone’s delicious award-winning honey here; but now there is even more deliciousness to be had in the guise of three wonderful seasoning ingredients.

  • Turmeric Zone Golden Drops – An amazing product perfect for making Golden Milk or use these little bouillion-like cubes as I do, all the time, when you are making soups, stocks and sauces.
  • Turmeric Zone’s Ground Turmeric with Ginger + Black Pepper and Ground Turmeric + Ashwagandha – Both of these spice blends add tremendous flavor and a pleasing golden color to whatever they are added. And the mix is good for your hair, your joints and your overall well-being.
  • You may order all of these products and more from Turmeric Zone online here; or go and visit their little Morrisville NC storefront and meet owners Samir and Elizabeth in person, next time you are in or near the Raleigh area.

Done Shopping Local? Now it’s time to Cook with All of Your Local Ingredients

A main course winter salad is always a palate pleaser. Simple combine the fresh lettuces, herbs and leafy greens you find at the market with a mix of the chopped root veggies like carrots, beets and radishes. Serve the veggies warm or cold. I always love topping my finished salads with microgreens – in the pic below is one of our faves – microgreen cilantro from Tega Hills Farm.

Then, drizzle them with my winter vinaigrette which features several of the products I’ve just mentioned; and a few more (see the links with each individual listing.) I promise resulting rave reviews – let me know what you think in the comment section after the post.

Use this Spinach Salad recipe as a guide, feeling free to substitute any other leafy green for the spinach and any other grilled or broiled protein ( think chicken, seafood, pork, beef, tofu, tempeh or locally produced hempeh) for the eggs.

Seasonal Spinach Salad with Heidi’s Winter Vinaigrette

Ingredients

  • Fresh local spinach stems trimmed
  • 4-5 watermelon radishes sliced thin and cut into julienne strips 
  • 2 cups sauteed wild mushrooms
  • Coarse sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste
  • 4 local eggs (1 per person) fried sunny side up in a bit of butter

Homemade Winter Vinaigrette:

  • 1/2 cup Your favorite red wine vinegar -My go to is the pomegranate, blackberry or strawberry balsamic vinegar from Olive Crate
  • 5 Tbsp. Your favorite local honey
  • 1 tsp. Turmeric Zone Turmeric + Ashwagandha or Turmeric + Ginger and Black Pepper
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce I suggest Healthy Boy Brand Mushroom Soy) or, if you are gluten free, use your favorite tamari sauce, instead
  • 2 Tbsp. Savory Spice Tomato Powder
  • 1 tsp. whole coriander seeds toasted and then ground
  • 2 tsp. (more to taste) Herbs de Provence dried spice blend available at Savory Spice Shop in Charlotte or at Spicewalla in Asheville
  • 1/4-1/3 cup Your favorite Extra Virgin Olive Oil Again, here I turn to the Olive Crate and their Kores Estate Ultra Premium EVOO
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh chopped parsley

Instructions

  1. Toss sliced radishes with the spinach leaves, season with salt and pepper and massage greens to blend well. Add cooled mushrooms and toss to combine.

  2. Mix the dressing by combining everything but the olive oil the emulsify the olive oil in the mix with a whisk or blender. Add the minced parsley at the end.

  3. Drizzle dressing over the salad to serve. Top each serving with a just fried local sunnyside up egg – guests may cut the egg up and toss into their own salads., The whites become a part of the salad and the yolks enrich the dressing

Now, On To Entrees

Next, we’ll take the same basic ingredients and morph them into an entree by way of this wonderful ( if I do say so myself) wild mushroom sauce. Here the mushrooms from Urban Gourmet Mushrooms play a leading roll, so buy a variety for more flavor.

This sauce is not only delicious on pasta, but makes a fine finish to a steak or chop on the grill. Or thin it a bit with water (or more broth) add a chopped wheel of Chapel Hill Creamery’ s Carolina Moon or a square of BoxCarr Cheese ‘s Cottonseed, Cottonbell or any of their Robiolas ( or any of your favorite brie or camembert cheeses, to make a version of my friend Pat Walkers cheese and mushroom soup, found here !

I made the sauce at Thanksgiving and served it as our vegetarian option for gravy and then took the leftover sauce and tossed it with an assortment of seasonal root veggies ( just like I used in the salad) and served it to sauce some homemade cheese ravioli.

If you are not up to making your own homemade ravioli – we’ll save that tutorial for another day – you can shop local for some great stuffed pastas at all three locations of Pasta & Provisions in Charlotte, celebrating 30 years this month! And you can also find homemade ravioli from cheese maker Zack Gadberry of Uno Alla Volta at the Matthews Farmers Market and at Mano Bella Artisan Foods at the Market at 7th Street in Uptown Charlotte and on Saturdays at the Uptown Farmers Market; the Charlotte Regional Farmers Market in Building C; the Southend Farmers Market.

Now, let’s get sauced….

Wild Mushroom Sauce

Perfect as a sauce for steak or seafood or as a finishing touch to your favorite bowl of pasta

Ingredients

  • 3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small white or yellow onion, minced
  • 1-2 LBS local fresh mushrooms chopped coarsely
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour If you are gluten free ( or even if you are not) try Tidewater Grain Company's Carolina Gold Rice Flour
  • 2 Tbsp. Savory Spice Shop Herbs de Duxelle aka: mushroom powder
  • 1 cup Your favorite red wine
  • 3 cups homemade veggie broth See my pro tip"how to" below
  • 4 Tbsp. fresh minced herbs I suggest using Thyme, Rosemary, Bay and Parsley
  • sea salt and pepper to taste Try using my "Heidi's Homemade Pepper Blend" for delicious results

Instructions

  1. Heat the olive oil over medium in a large sauce pan and add minced onions.

  2. Cook, stirring often, until tender, 3 to 5 minutes.

  3. Then, add the fresh mushrooms. Cook until the mushrooms begin to release their liquids, then add a generous pinch of salt and Heidi’s homemade pepper blend. Stir for about 5 minutes over medium-high heat as the mushrooms continue to soften.

  4. Cook until the mushrooms are well browned. Add the flour and mushroom powder. Continue to cook the mushrooms, stirring, until the flour is not visible, about 1 minute.

  5. Add the wine, cook over medium heat. Cook, stirring, until the liquid glazes the mushrooms, about 2 minutes.

  6. Stir in the broth, bring to a simmer, add rosemary, thyme and parsley and bay leaves. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until the surrounding broth is thick, about 10 minutes.

  7. Remove from the heat; taste and adjust salt and pepper as needed. Keep warm until ready to serve.

Recipe Notes

To make your own version of my “Heidi’s Hot Pepper Blend”, simply combine equal parts of  Lampong, Tellicherry, Pink Reunion peppercorns with whole coriander seeds all available at the Savory Spice Shop Southend in Charlotte, NC. Grind fine or coarse to your taste in a spice or coffee grinder. 

Heidi’s Pro Tip How-To:

Make your own delicious and nutritious Veggie Broth with water plus 3 Turmeric Zone Golden Drops, 2-3 Tbsp. of Savory Spice Shop Tomato Powder, 1-2 Tbsp. Savory Spice Shop Herbs de Duxelle (aka Mushroom Powder), seasoned with a bit of mushroom soy sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Heidi Billotto

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