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.

Biscuits and the Big Deal about Baking with Buttermilk

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Heidi makes her Next Day Grilled Blue Cheese Biscuits on the kitchen set of WCNC-TV’s Charlotte Today

I come to you today on the heels of three days in Knoxville, Tennessee. First at the Southern Food Writing Conference and then at the International Biscuit Festival.

I have biscuits on the brain.

I am a bread baker from way back, I love the smell of yeast,  the therapeutic pleasures that come from kneading and the magic of watching a mass of dough rise to the occasion.

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Heidi Makes her Next Day grilled Blue Cheese Biscuits in a demo at the International Biscuit Festival in Knoxville, Tenn. The table was taller than most – haha! – and necessity became the mother of invention. Nothing like cooking while you are standing on an apple crate!!

So when my friends at Southern Biscuit Flour, owned by Renwood Mills in Newton, North Carolina, asked me to represent them in a demo and at the judges table at the festivals biscuit baking competition I was delighted to accept the offer.

But it wasn’t as easy as all that – you see biscuits are a very different animal. As John Craig, the “Biscuit Boss” and the coordinator of Knoxville’s annual BiscuitFest was quoted as saying, “Biscuits are the easiest bread to make and the hardest.”

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After doing my research, I was ready to roll ( subtle pun, intended).  I headed to Knoxville and enjoyed a wonderful three day adventure: two days rubbing elbows, sharing stories and hobnobbing with a fabulous group of Southern food writers it was my pleasure to meet; followed by a day at the annual BiscuitFest celebration.  Here Knoxville’s Market Street becomes Biscuit Boulevard – the road is blocked off to allow for the foot traffic of thousands of visitors and booths offering biscuits of all shapes and sizes line the curbs and sidewalks.

I spent a good part of the day talking biscuits and handing out samples of Southern Biscuit Flour’s Formula L, a wonderful all-inclusive biscuit mix that only requires the addition of buttermilk. The Southern Biscuit Flour booth was located just outside the festival’s Biscuit Baking tent,  and when I wasn’t in the booth with the Renwood Mills team, I was in the tent to judge one round of the competition and then to do a demo on behalf of Southern Biscuit Flour.

As it was all such fun, I decided to recreate the recipe, using a host of ingredients from the Carolina’s for my recent appearance on WCNC’s midday shown, Charlotte Today with hosts Colleen Odegaard and Eugene Robinson.

IMG_2778As always, I try practice the mantra I preach of using local products and with this recipe it was easy. Start with any variety of Southern Biscuit Flour from Newton, NC – all purpose, self rising or their biscuit blend, Formula L will all work well – more on the nuances of working with each in just a few.

No matter which one you choose, all of the Southern Biscuit Flours are still milled with North Carolina’s own soft winter wheat all harvested from within 50 miles of the town of Newton.  If you select the all purpose flour, then proceed with the recipe exactly as it is written. If you go with the self-rising flour, you may omit any additional leavening, in this case the baking powder. If you want to really make it easy, buy Southern Biscuits Formula L. This is a delicious complete biscuit mix and only requires the addition of buttermilk ( and the cheese, of course!)

In addition to local North Carolina flour, I used local butter from Charlotte NC’s  Uno Alla Volta or Grassfed Productions Rootdown Foods, local baking powder from Caly’s Kitchen in Waxhaw, NC; salt from OuterBanks SeaSalt from the North Carolina coast, and then from our friends and farms in South Carolina I featured Hickory Hill Milk whole milk Buttermilk and Clemson Blue Cheese.

Here is a look at the video from my May 31, 2017 appearance at Charlotte Today – the details of the recipe with photos and where-to-buy info on each of the products follows.

 

 

Heidi’s Next Day Grilled Blue Cheese Biscuits

2 1/2 cups all purpose Southern Biscuit Flour ( see notes that follow the recipe for using the self-rising flour or the easy-as-pie Formula L)

1/2 tsp. OuterBanks SeaSalt

1 Tbsp. Caly’s Kitchen Baking Powder

1 Tbsp, organic sugar

6 Tbsp. COLD Uno Alla Volta or Grassfed Productions/RootDown Foods butter – keep the butter in one piece for easier grating

1 cup COLD crumbled Clemson Blue Cheese

1 cup Hickory Hill Milk Whole Milk Buttermilk

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Measure the dry ingredients into a large bowl and then use a whisk to blend them well and remove any lumps or clumps of flour. In the biscuit baking world, lumps and clumps of flour are not your friend.

IMG_2761Next, (and with thanks to my friend Chef Matthew Krenz for this biscuit baking tip) use a box grater to grate the cold butter in the bowl with the flour. Lots of biscuit recipes just say to cut the butter into small pieces and then work it into the flour until the mix resembles coarse cornmeal, but in doing this you run the risk of warming up the butter too much. One of  the reasons the biscuits rise so beautifully is from the steam released from the cold butter in the batter. In the biscuit baking world, warm butter or fat is not your friend.

Heidi's Tips and TricksImportant to note here that you may use any type of high quality fat in your biscuits – local leaf lard from your favorite pork producer or  local beef tallow from your favorite cattle rancher work equally well.  As does your favorite high quality olive oil.  I like using the rich, golden Kores Estate ultra premium extra virgin olive oil from the Olive Crate or any of the ultra Premium extra virgin olive oils at Pour Olive. Pour the olive oil into a shallow plastic container and chill until it is firm – really firm – in a solid mass. Grate into the biscuit dough as you would the butter.

Next, add the Clemson Blue Cheese. You may buy this already in crumbles or you can crumble it yourself. The key is to chill it down before you add it to the batter. In the biscuit baking world, cheese is always your friend.

Use a large fork to blend the cheese and butter into the flour slightly breaking up the little pieces. A fork is better than your hands, as a fork won’t heat the batter up and your hands – especially if you have hot hands- will. In the biscuit baking world, keep your cool – until the biscuits are baking, warmth is not your friend.

Finally add the buttermilk.  For us in Charlotte,  a lot of 268226_10151166855156134_1028399043_n South Carolina is as local as much of North Carolina; and so I thought it would be fun to incorporate Clemson Blue Cheese into this recipe. Clemson Blue cheese is made with whole milk from Hickory Hill Milk, a three-generation family-run dairy in Edgerfield, SC. owned by Clemson alum Watson Dorn and his wife Lisa.

To keep with our theme,  as I was using the Clemson Blue cheese, I thought it would be fun to use  Hickory Hill Milk’s Buttermilk in my biscuit recipe as well. This whole milk buttermilk is not homogenized, so you will want to shake it up before you pour.  measure and stir  the milk into the flour mix. Use  the fork to blend, just until the milk is combined with all the flour. The mix should be sticky.

In the biscuit baking world, too much flour is not your friend. 

Rolling out biscuits and cutting them with a cutter offers up all sorts of opportunities to over process your dough. You don’t want to add too much flour as you roll or pat out the dough – this will bake into biscuits that may resemble a hockey puck. Likewise, take care if and when you use a biscuit cutter. Don’t twist the cutter back and forth to cut a round out of the dough, just dip the cutter first into a bit of flour – just enough to coat and then cut the biscuit with one quick down and then up motion.

IMG_2764To all together avoid the problem of kneading in too much flour, I prefer making drop biscuits. and I like to bake then in a cast iron pan, although they work equally well on a baking sheet.  No real reason, to use cast iron, at first I did it because it offered good presentation value; but truth is, it does add a nice golden crust to the outside of the biscuits and I personally like that crispy crunch the crust offers. Spray the pan with a bit of cooking spray to lightly coat the pan. Remember, this isn’t cornbread, its biscuits where cold is king – so, no need to heat the pan first.

IMG_2762For perfect drop biscuits, use an ice cream scoop to scoop up balls of the batter and place them side by side in the pan. The fact that you use the scoop keeps the size uniform and the fact that you place them side by side helps them to support each other during the baking time, rising to their full potential.

Before baking, gently dab the top of the biscuits with a bit of melted butter. Bake the biscuits in a preheated 375 degree oven for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.

Eat them hot with or without butter.  For “Next Day Biscuits” slice them in half and ‘refresh’ them by placing them on a griddle in a bit of melted butter to grill the cut side to a toasty finish.

Serve them as they are, or top with your favorite local honey. I simply adore the robust sweet mountain sourwood honey from Dancing Bees Honey in Monroe, NC with these slightly salty cheese biscuits. or serve them as a blue cheesey base for a summer BLT.

In the biscuit baking world, Buttermilk is your friend and here is why…

PrintWay back in the day,  “butter milk”  was simply the whey left  after churning the cream into butter. In days before great refrigeration, this original buttermilk had a longer shelf life because the perishable fat solids had been taken out.   The natural acid left  in the rich sweet milk after the butterfats where removed helped leavening agents to work in baking and the milk was also good to drink

Today no one makes buttermilk like that anymore. In a quick conversation with Watson Dorn of Hickory Hill Milk in South Carolina, I learned the specifics of what I already knew –  all buttermilk is not equal.

Most large commercial dairy’s today use low fat or skim milk to make buttermilk; but, as Dorn says, ” the fat is where the flavor is.” Some DYI advice on the internet and home how-to’s in cookbooks suggest simply adding lemon juice or vinegar to whole or skim milk, to make your own buttermilk, but I am telling you, don’t do it! While it will still works for baking, adding the acid this way  only serves to sour the sweet milk and gives it an off or acidic taste.

True buttermilk takes time.  The milk at Dorn’s family-owned dairy is pasteurized as is required by law; but its not homogenized, so cream rises to the top, believe me, this milk is full of flavor.

To make the Hickory Hill Milk buttermilk, Dorn starts with his dairy’s cream top whole milk and adds a specific culture. The enzymes in the culture begin to slowly add acidity to the whole milk but do not compromise the rich creamy flavor.  Dorn allows the process a full 18 hours to make the buttermilk magic happen – most other dairy’s hurry it up only allowing 6-10 hours. The time and effort Dorn and his team put into the Hickory Hill MIlk buttermilk pays off in texture and in taste –  this non-homogenized whole milk buttermilk has the flavor of buttermilk from years gone by.

In fact, to digress from biscuits for a moment,  Dorn shared with me the fact that  in South Carolina, Hickory Hill Milk sells a lot of buttermilk to retirement communities. The elderly dealing with memory loss and sometimes dementia often are no longer interested in eating. Its a sad problem and it is hard for the staff to get them the proper nutrition they need.

Recently nutritionists were pleased to report to Dorn that in serving Hickory Hill Milk buttermilk to residents, the taste seemed to spark a food memory of  the biscuits, the cornbread and buttermilk from their childhoods. These patients found a comfort in the flavor they somehow where able to remember from many years gone by. Testimony to the fact that eating (and drinking) local brings with it good memories and is the healthiest and happiest way to go!

Where to Find it#TellThemHeidiSentYou (1)Like all of the products mentioned in this article, Hickory Hill Milk whole milk, buttermilk and chocolate milk are  available in Charlotte. You will find Hickory Hill Milk at Earthfare and at Whole Foods. For more info visit  them on Facebook

In Charlotte. Southern Biscuit Flours are most readily available at Harris Teeter, and often at Food Lion and Walmart.    For more info visit them at the Renwood Mills website and be sure to Save the Date on Wednesday June 7 for Newton Nc Biscuit Day! Come and join in the fun from 8 am till noon, when Southern Biscuit Flour teams up with two other iconic North Carolina brands and will be out on the square in Newton,  serving up with Neese’s Country Sausage Biscuits and pouring rounds of Cheerwine! Entertainment by the Sigmon Stringers – stop by, celebrate biscuits and enjoy!

Caly’s Kitchen baking powder and other delicious gluten free products are available on Saturday mornings at the Waxhaw Farmers’ Market,  and at Caly’s Kitchen website,

The Olive Crate’s Kores Estate Ultra Premium Extra Virgin olive oil and all of their fine organic Greek balsamic vinegars are available online ( use the code HeidiB20 and get 20% off your purchase) or on Saturday’s in the Charlotte area at the Waxhaw Farmers’ Market, the Cotswold Farmers’ Market and the farm store at Grace Roots Farm in Waxhaw on Saturdays,  and at the Selwyn Farmers’ Market on Wednesday afternoons.

Pour Olive ultra premium extra virgin olive oils and balsamic vinegars are available at Pour Olive, 1528 East Blvd. Charlotte 28203

OuterBanks SeaSalt is available in Charlotte at Fresh Market  and online at obxSeaSalt.com

Uno Alla Volta butter is available along with all of their wonderful fresh made cheeses at the Matthews Farmers’ Market and the Charlotte Regional Farmers’ Market on Yorkmont Road on Saturday mornings. During the week there are limited supplies available at both locations of Pasta & Provisions.

Grassfed Productions/RootDown Foods butters and ghee are available on Saturdays at the Noda Farmers’ Market and the Atherton Farmers’ Market and on Wednesday afternoons at the @Selwyn Farmers’ Market. They are also available during the week at the new Carolina Craft Butchery in Davidson, NC.

Clemson Blue Cheese is available in most all of the area Ingles Stores or online at the Clemson Blue Cheese  website.

#TellThemHeidiSentYou

For more local and loving it recipes, why not join in the fun at one of Heidi Billotto’s much loved cooking classes. A list of her popular On the Farm and At Home with Heidi cooking classes is posted on these blog pages. Follow the links to make a reservation!

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Proffitt Cattle Company: GotToBeNC Organic Grass Fed Beef

Agriculture is by far the largest industry in the state of North Carolina. And when I say agriculture, I’m not just talking produce, but proteins as well. I am pleased to have been asked by the NC Department of Agriculture to write this  post  in conjunction with a team of food bloggers from across the state, each writing about a different North Carolina cattle ranch with the purpose of promote the awareness and availability of all types of North Carolina raised and locally sold beef.. After you’ve read my post and recipes that follow, look for more great  beef recipes and info about several other North Carolina  cattle ranches, by clicking on the  links to all of the other participating blogs are at the end of this post.

The North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has in part sponsored this post; but the opinions, recipes and choice of  local cattle ranch to feature in the post are my own.

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There was a time when it was all but unheard  of for a consumer to think about buying any sort of meat at a farmers market, but happily those times have changed. At nearly every regional and local farmers’ market large and small, consumers can find pasture raised poultry, pork and grass-fed beef.

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Proffitt’s Shelley Eagan with the herd

I first met family rancher Shelley Eagan of Proffitt Cattle Company at the Charlotte Regional  Farmers’ Market on Yorkmont Road. She was at a table all by her lonesome with a big white cooler, representing her family farm in Kings Mountain and selling what she thought to be some of the best beef available in the area. Turns out lots of other people, including this food writer, agreed and as one thing led to another and it wasn’t before long that I started featuring the Proffitt certified organic grass fed beef in my cooking classes. Wasn’t long before other people started to discover the fine quality and wonderful taste of the Proffitt beef as well. Shelley went from one cooler, to five or six and a line waiting for her early each Saturday morning.

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Heidi Billotto in action, teaching one of her “On the Farm” series of cooking classes at Proffitt Cattle Company

The ranch sold certified organic beef at the regional market and at their farm store for several years, but today all of the Proffitt’s beef is sold exclusively in Charlotte to Whole Foods  and is available in the meat case at the chains’ SouthPark location.

A whole cow’s worth of fresh primal cuts of beef are delivered to the stores on Friday mornings and the butchers at Whole Foods, cut product as is needed. Trimmings and a nice mix of healthy fat to lean hit the grinder  very four hours to insure the very best quality of ground beef. Needless to say, The Proffitt Cattle Company beef continues to enjoy immense popularity in and around the Charlotte area – the quality and the taste, just can’t be beat.

As the years have passed more and more people who care about what they eat and what they are feeding their families, have turned to buying grass fed beef, as they do chicken, pork, rabbit and lamb from local farmers and ranchers – for the very same reason people buy locally raised produce. Its good to know the person who stands behind the food we eat and even better to know where your food came from and how it was raised. As a consumer, I try to buy as much local product as I can, not only is it the healthier choice, I consider supporting a local farmers to be the better choice for our local economy as well.

You are what you eat

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Grazing on the high grass and loving every delicious bite!

Grass Fed beef is better for all of us – people and cattle alike. To eat grass without additional supplements or additives is just the natural course of things for the herd. But it is important to point out that the terms “grass fed” and certified “organic” are not synonymous.

For me, the certified organic label on the Proffitt Cattle Company beef is the icing on the cake. Not just because, like all grass fed beef it is lean and contains a high percentage of  fats that are good for us such as those much sought after Omega 3’s; and not just because grass fed beef is also a source for tons of beneficial antioxidant vitamins and minerals.  That it is certified organic means that the herd at Proffitt Cattle Company was raised without any antibiotics or growth hormones. Everything used on the ranch is organic, GMO free and totally untreated.

Shelley explains it, “Our animals don’t get sick, so there is no need for any sort of preventative antibiotics. Cows get sick when they are stressed.  One way they get stressed is by being confined.  Our animals are never confined and they rarely get sick.  If one should become ill we remove them from the herd and treat them to keep them healthy. If that means they must receive antibiotics, we do so and they are no longer a part of our program.  They are never ever fed antibiotics like  commercial feedlot cows.”

The Grass is always Greener 

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Baling Hay at Proffitt Cattle Company

So you’ think that cattle ranching was all about cattle, but turns out it isn’t just about raising cattle, its also about growing grass. If you were to decided to go into ranching as was the case with Shelley’s dad Steve Proffitt back in the year 2000. You might think about the cattle, about horses and about how much land you would need. But you probably wouldn’t have realized that a big part of your time each season would go into  growing grass and making hay. Its a big part of the job and this year, for ranchers across the state, it has been a job that has been more difficult than ever. With devastating flooding in Eastern North Carolina and drought conditions for the fourth quarter in Mid and Western North Carolina, raising grass fed beef has had its challenges.

At Proffitt  the herd of 200 or so head of cattle is raised on a rotation at four different certified organic properties  – 2 pastures in King’s Mountain, one in Shelby and one just over the state line in Blacksburg, SC. Not only is the herd moved from pasture to pasture as they grow; but as the cattle mature, the pastures are divided into sections so the grass fed herd, only grazes one section at a time. As they eat, they also naturally fertilize that part of the pasture so that new grass will grow. When the herd has munched the current pasture down to the ground, they are gently moved onto the next section – like an never ending salad bar. Then as the grass grows, they circle back to graze the first section again. Generally when weather is good, it all goes pretty smoothly and  the farm looks to the fall and spring grass growing seasons to make hay for the winter months.

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Brian Eagan unrolling a bale of hay

Hay is just the pasture grass that is cut then allowed allowed to dry.  The certified organic grass  grows tall and then is cut.  Timing is critical here. If the hay is on the ground for too long, it will begin to loose its nutrients, something a grass fed cattle rancher can’t afford to have happen. At Proffitt they have the flexibility to set aside a couple of pastures  in the fall solely dedicated to hay production. When the hay is dried to just the right state, the family comes in with big balers to roll the hay into huge round bales which are reserved for feeding the herd through January and February when the grass naturally doesn’t grow as fast. The happy herd at Proffitt Cattle Company is 100% grass fed so the winter hay is an important park of the organic diet plan. This  year, due to the drought, the Proffitts will have to purchase certified organic hay to supplement what they were able to make on their own. Hopefully sunny skies and moderate rain this winter and early spring will put Mother Nature’s normal grass growing cycle back on track.

Let’s Get Cooking

Once you try the beef at Proffitt Cattle Company, I dare say you will have a tough time going back. Over the years, I have prepared lots of cuts from Proffitt’s London Broil to meatballs, from short ribs to chili. Today I share three of my favorite recipes featuring Proffitt Cattle Company certified organic beef. As the beef is organic it is important to me that the other ingredients in the recipe are too – so shop for locally raised or organic vegetables, herbs and canned product as you prepare to cook – after all your finished dish is only as good as the ingredients that go into it..

Which brings me to olive oil.  Often beef recipes call for a roast or steak to be seared. As grassfed beef is lower in fat, recipes often call for the addition of an oil or other animal fat. I have recently discovered what I consider to be one of the best olive oils on the market and I wanted to share it with you here. It is important to note that the Olive Crate in Charlotte is also a sponsor of this post, but this is a brand I believe in and use regularly, so I am happy to welcome them has a partner in this post.

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Kores Estate Bottled Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Olive Crate

This unblended single variety estate grown extra virgin Greek olive oil  is locally distributed by the Kostouris  family in Waxhaw, NC.  Their company is  Olive Crate and this wonderful organic  late harvest extra virgin, eco-sustainable Kores Olive oil comes from Greek Manaki olives grown by their family in Greece. The oil as well as a selection of vinegars can be found at the Saturday morning Waxhaw Farmers’ Market and the Atherton Farmers’ market in Charlotte as well as at the charming little farm store at Grace Roots Farm on Providence Road, less than a mile from the Waxhaw market location. The flavor of this Greek oil is superb – do check them out – just #TellThemHeidiSentYou

I used the Kores olive oil in each of the recipes below. Here is a great little tip to add flavor to any recipe where you brown beef, particularly before a braise. Instead of using butter, bacon fat or canola oil to sear your beef or saute the veggies; use the Kores oil along with several sprigs of fresh rosemary at the start of the dish. Gently warm the oil and the rosemary together and you’ll be adding a ton of flavor and keeping it  healthy with all the fabulous polyphenols  only a current harvest estate olive oil can offer.

#TellThemHeidiSentYou

Want to try this wonderful Kores estate bottled extra virgin olive oil for yourself? Make your first purchase online using the code HEIDIB20 at the Olive Crate website and you will save 20%!

GotToBeNC Proffitt Family Farms Grass Fed  Organic Beef Pot Roast

img_81241 ( 2-3 lb) GotToBeNC Proffitt Family Farms grass-fed, organic chuck roast

Coarse grain sea salt and Heidi’s Hot Pepper Blend to taste – a ground mix of black lampong, pink reunion and  black malabar peppercorns ( available at the Savory Spice Shop)

2 Tbsp. Kores Estate Greek Extra Virgin Olive Oil by Olive Crate in Waxhaw

2 springs fresh rosemary

3 organic onions, peeled and thin sliced

2 stalks organic celery with the leaves, chopped

1 (10-ounce) can organic whole or diced tomatoes

½ cup tomato chutney or chili sauce

2 cups full bodied red wine

¼ cup Cocoa Nibs ( My secret ingredient here – available in Charlotte at the Savory Spice Shop or the new Vin Master Wine Shop ( formally Queen City Pantry)

2-3 bay leaf

2-3 sprigs fresh thyme

1 sprig rosemary

1/4 cup chopped parsley

2-3 organic yellow potatoes, cut into wedges

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Sprinkle the sea salt and Heidi’s hot pepper blend to taste over the Proffitt Family Farms Chuck Roast. Heat the Olive Crate’s Kores Estate Greek extra virgin olive oil with 1-2 sprigs of fresh rosemary over low heat in the bottom of an oven to table casserole. There is no need to brown the roast first, but for added flavor,  add the sliced onions and celery in the warm Kores olive oil and toss until well coated..

Remove the pan from the heat. Add the seasoned roast over the onions and celery. Top roast with the tomatoes, red wine, tomato chutney or chili sauce, cocoa nibs, celery, bay leaf, thyme, rosemary and parsley.

Cover and bake in the oven for about 3 hours, basting often with the pan juices; and turning the roast over in the pan of juices and vegetables about half way during the cooking time.

Add the potatoes ( and carrots if your would like) and bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes more, or until the potatoes are cooked.

Remove the roast from the pan of veggies and pan juices. Slice the meat against the grain ( that is the muscle line of the roast) and cut into slices. Place the slices back into the casserole dish, basting with the pan juices and keep warm until ready to serve.

img_8128Braised Proffitt Cattle Company Short Ribs

2-3 Tbsp. Kores Estate Greek Extra Virgin Olive Oil by Olive Crate in Waxhaw

3 lbs. boneless or bone in Proffitt Cattle Company Short Ribs

Sea Salt & Heidi’s Hot Pepper blend to taste

Flour

2 organic onion, minced

2-3 whole organic carrot, minced

1-2 Parsnips. Minced

2-3 stalks of organic celery, minced

3 cloves Garlic, crushed

2 cans whole organic tomatoes, crushed

2 Tbsp. Savory Spice Shop Tomato Powder or organic Tomato Paste

8 oz Dark Beer or Red wine

2-3 cups Beef Stock

3-4 sprigs mixed oregano, thyme and bay leaf

Heat the Kores estate olive oil in a deep cast iron skillet over medium high heat.

Season the short ribs with the salt & pepper and dust with the flour.   Sear the ribs on all sides in the heated oil, then remove them from the pan.

In the same pan, saute the onion, carrot, parsnips, celery and garlic.    Add the tomatoes and tomato paste and stir to blend. Cook until heated and then add the beer or wine.

Return the beef to the pan, adding enough stock to nearly cover. Bring to a boil; Cover the pan and allow over a medium heat for about an hour or so.

OR,  Place in the preheated oven covered and cook for two hours.

To serve: Place the ribs on a deep platter.   Using an immersion blender, puree the sauce and serve over mashed potatoes or grits

Now we’ve talked a  lot about healthy in this blog post, but I’m not going to lie to you here – this next recipe is a bit higher in fat. Don’t compromise. Treat yourself,  and for the best flavor and texture here, use the heavy cream. Go for an organic brand, or a local product if you can find it. I like using Homeland Dairy’s heavy cream available for sale at the new Vin Master wine Shop at Atherton Mill in Charlotte’s Southend neighborhood. Serve a wedge of the tart with a crispy green salad dressed with the Olive Crate’s Kores Estate Extra Virgin Olive Oil and any one of their flavorful  balsamic vinegars.

img_8165PARMESAN, CARMELIZED ONION and PROFFITT CATTLE COMPANY GROUND BEEF TART

refrigerated dough for one pie crusts – I like the organic  Immaculate Baking brand

For filling:

1 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

1 cup heavy cream

1 1/2 Tbsp.Kores Estate Greek Extra Virgin Olive Oil by Olive Crate in Waxhaw

1-2 cups caramelized onions

½ lb. local Proffitt Farms ground beef, browned

1 local  or pasture raised organic egg

1 local or pasture raised organic egg yolk

img_8148Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to a circle just an inch or two larger than a 9-12 inch French tart pan. Fit dough and pan and trim as shown in class. Press dough into pan. Chill until firm, about 30 minutes.

For the filling:

Warm cream over medium heat and stir in grated cheese, stirring until smooth.

In another bowl, whisk together whole egg, yolk, and salt and pepper in a bowl until combined. Add cream mix; whisk until smooth.

Scatter caramelized onions and ground beef evenly in tart shell and pour custard over. Bake in a 350 preheated oven until custard is just set and golden in patches, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool tart in pan on rack at least 20 minutes. Freeze if you would like. Cut into wedges to serve.

video graphic

Like what you’ve read? I was pleased to prepare the pot roast recipe in this post on the morning Jan 20 at 9 am on Charlotte’s own WBTV’s Morning Break with hosts Kristen Miranda, Chris Larson and Coach LeMonte Odums. In Case You Missed it – LeMonte is a big beef lover and he absolutely fell in love with the Proffitt Cattle Company Pot Roast recipe. Just click on the pink television on the left to see the segment!

Meanwhile, do check out the NC Beef posts from a number of other bloggers across the state. Its GotToBeNC Grass fed beef for sure and you’ll love reading about these wonderful NC cattle ranches and trying out these scrumptious recipes.

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Part of the happy grass fed certified organic herd at Proffitt Cattle Company in Kings Mountain NC

Got To Be NC Beef Farm Tours

And What To Make with Your NC Beef

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I am delighted to partner with the North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services in Raleigh and the Olive Crate in Waxhaw NC to make this blog post possible. Thanks to to Steve and Diane Proffitt and Shelley and Brian Eagan of Proffitt Cattle Company for all of their help in making this post possible.   #BrandsIBelieveIn    #DelightedToShareTheStory

On Your Charlotte Restaurant Radar: 5 Asian Restaurants you must not miss!

img_7778

Plating and setting up the line up of Asian Flavors featured in my December Restaurant Round up for Charlotte Today

After all the holiday trimmings, visions of sugarplums, Hanukkah candles and potato latkes have come and gone this holiday season, lets take a break and head out to enjoy some of Charlotte’s delicious Asian cuisine.

There was a time, not so many years ago when all the Charlotte  Asian offerings were Chinese-American options, but times have changed and as our community has grown, our Asian food alternatives have as well.  No matter the country of origin, Asian food is all about flavor and with so many excellent choices, I thought I’d take the opportunity to share  five of our favorites. It gives me even greater pleasure to say that these spots are all family owned, local business. All but one are family friendly  and all provide dine in and take out options, too.

In my December Restaurant Roundup segment on the WCNC Charlotte Today program I shared all five of these restaurants as well and talked about three different dishes from each of them. In case you missed it, here is the video segment with show hosts Colleen Odegaard and Eugene Robinson. Take a look, then scroll down for more photos and all the delicious details.

Thai Orchid Restaurant

In classic Thai recipes the flavors of sweet, sour, salty and hot are featured in each dish. The team at Thai Orchid has been serving up delicious plates of classic Thai Cuisine for years, in fact, in 2005 this restaurant was on my Top Ten List.  It has recently come back on my restaurant radar and I am delighted to report that things are better than ever! Open for lunch and dinner.  Pictured below – from right, Classic Pad Thai; The Mee Krob, a Thai lettuce wrap, to start; and finally my new Thai Orchid Favorite: Pad See Ew – each finished with a beautiful edible purple orchid!

Thai Orchid, 4223 Providence Road, In the Strawberry Hills Shopping Center, 704-364-1144. Eat In, take and out and delivery, too! Holiday hours:Closed for Christmas weekend Dec 24-26 – open again regular hours Dec 27.

Doan’s Vietnamese

What I love about Vietnamese food is the light fresh  flavors. Some hot and spicy, some sweet or sour -all of it delicious. Hands down my favorite Vietnamese dish is Pho, the big bowl of noodle soup with fresh herbs, veggies and often beef or tofu. Time for true confessions here. The television segment that paired with this post, aired on Wednesday, and so usually I drive around the night before picking up all the food I will showcase. With all the holiday hubbub, I forgot that Doan’s Restaurant, one of my favorite Vietnamese places is closed on Tuesdays, so for the show for these photos we have my interpretation of the Make-your-own Spring Roll Plate at Doan’s. Fresh cilantro, mint and basil with rice noodles, lettuce, sprouts and your choice of protein ( we love it with tofu). Dip the crisp Vietnamese rice papers in water and they take on the texture of a soft noodle,  so you can wrap all the fresh flavors up inside. Other not to be missed dishes at Doan’s – the Vietnamese Pancake, the hot pots and the fried crispy quail. For more, do check out the article I wrote about Bone Broths and the fabulous Pho at Doan’s in the spring 2016 issue of Charlotte Living Magazine 

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All the makings for the spring rolls at Doan’s come to your table on a large platter and then you have the fun of rolling your own!

Doan’s Restaurant,5937 South Blvd near the corner at Archdale, 704-733-9077. Eat in and take out

88 China Bistro

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88 China Bistro’s Kim Lam poses with the first article I wrote about this wonderful spot for Chinese Cuisine back in 2005. I am proud to be framed and on the wall!

I first wrote about  88 China Bistro in 2005 when I had the great pleasure to meet owners Kim and Chung Lam. Prior to opening their own place, Chung was the chef at Baoding in Charlotte’s SouthPark neighborhood and Kim worked the front of the house at Wan Fu just off of Hwy 51 near Pineville. Both restaurants were then owned by Robert Lee, a front runner in Charlotte’s restaurant community. In 2005 the Lam’s opened their own place on 4th street near uptown and have been going strong since. Look for the classics here with the traditional  slightly thicker Chinese sauces than you will find in most Asian cuisines

For the television segment we showcased three of 88 China Bistro’s most popular offerings: Pineapple Chicken, beautifully presented in a carved half pineapple; Salt and Pepper shrimp with stir fried veggies and Singapore Noodles with shrimp and chicken. The Singapore noodles are a thin vermicelli seasoned but essentially served unsauced – all three delicious ways to enjoy what 88 China Bistro has to offer.

China 88 Bistro, 1620 E 4th Street ,704-335-0288. Open regular hours through the holiday weekend. Eat in and take out. Private dining room as well!

Baku Restaurant

Used to be, when I wrote for a weekly publication, I published a Top Ten list of restaurants I had enjoyed over the year during the week between Christmas and New Year. Now, I find there are just too many great restaurants in Charlotte and surrounds to narrow it down to a list of ten. That said, if I was going to pick a restaurant of the year this year, it just might have to be the next spot on the list for this roundup:  Baku.

Interestingly I might not have said that two months ago. Recently Baku was purchased by Birdie and Janine Yang, also owners of Yama in the Southpark area and Yama Izakaya in PlazaMidwood.  Birdie talks the talk and walks the walk and has, seemingly overnight, taken Baku up a huge notch.

img_7682Now, with much more of a focus on traditional  high end Japanese cuisine, the food at Baku is as beautiful to look at as it is to eat. Look for Waygu Beef, specially ordered seafood offerings, as well as a host of excellent sushi. There are Robata bar specialties grilled over imported Japanese wood charcoal and without a doubt the best and most inclusive list of high-end Japanese  Sake in town, maybe in the state.

If there is something you want, Birdie Yang is determined to make it happen! Plan to enjoy tasting dinners, wine and sake specials and more. The bar is still upstairs and with the new year, there is still a focus on spectacular sushi, but Birdie is transforming the sushi bar downstairs to serve sushi and Omakase, a chef’s choice of traditional small plates as well.

For the televised segment and this blog post, just a taste of all that is happening at Baku – classic Kamameshi pots -sweet Japanese rice cooked to order and topped with a variety of proteins – here we have a rosette of salmon and Ikura or salmon roe; two fabulous sushi rolls, one a spicy tuna with yuzu cream and tobiko; and the other King salmon, bruleed with a torch just before serving; and a starter of Alaskan King crab, charred over the coals at the Robata bar then cracked, bathed in butter, sprinkled with black sesame seeds and served. My oh my!

Baku , 4515 Sharon Road, 704- 817-7173. Open for dinner only;  you’ll see me for sure at the Tuesday night sake flights – $10 gets you an unstructured tasting of three incredible sakes and a special pricing should you wish to by a bottle of your favorite

The Korean Restaurant

Finally our Asian restaurant travels across the city of Charlotte takes us to Korea. Charlotte is  still building a series of good traditional Korea restaurants in the city, but with time they will come. Meanwhile you should check out The Korean Restaurant in the Super G Mart in Independence Blvd. The Korean Restaurant is the anchor tenant is a food court of sorts in the back corner of Super G. Korean flavors center in tastes that are hot, salty and fermented and dishes are rustic, and I say that in the very best home-style cooking, sense of the word.

I am relatively new to Korean Cuisine and so I just keep going back and tasting different dishes and am sharing two of my favorites here: the classic Bibimbap ( as much fun to say as it is to eat!) Served with or without meat, in a platter to go, or in a hot pot on site. This is  rice, served with sautéed and seasoned veggies, chili pepper and fermented soy bean paste all topped with a fried egg. Stir it up before you eat to get a taste of all the flavors in one bite.

I also enjoyed the simply but delicious Galbi ( pronounced Ka-bee) that is short ribs seasoned, seared and served over rice. To round out each plate, enjoy any version of The Korean Restaurant’s Kim Chi a spice fermented vegetable served as a condiment with almost every dish – here I showed the fermented baby bok choy – hot, spicy and delish!

The Korean Restaurant in the Super G Mart , 7323 E. Independence Blvd.  Open Christmas Eve till 6 pm, Closed Christmas Day and Dec 26. for the New Year Holiday The Korean Restaurant is Closed at 6 on New Years’ Eve and closed Jan 1 and 2. 

heidi-billotto-2017-headshot#IllHaveWhatHeidisHaving   If you love hearing about all the Charlotte restaurant scene in general and other great spots across the Carolinas that really should be on your dining out radar, stay tuned, because there is a lot more to come in 2017. Three day weekend jaunts, recipes, great ways to Eat Local and more, all on the docket as well.

Why not subscribe to this blog and  be among the first to be in the know as each and every post comes straight to your in-box just as soon as I finish writing it. Subscribing is easy, just follow the prompts on the home page. Then you can join with all the food-centric folk who can say, #TellThemHeidiSentYou

Easy to Eat Local: Open a Package, Jar, Bottle or Box

you-cant-buy-happiness-but-you-can-eat-local-and-thats-kind-of-the-same-thingIf you follow me on social media, this blog or have watched me cooking on television or have come to any of my cooking classes, then you know I am a big supporter or eating and shopping local. “Local” can mean many things, from supporting local farmers, ranchers, and fisherman at area markets to buying from local independently owned shops. Today I’m tossing a whole new spin in on things.

Did you know you can shop local at many North Carolina big box grocery stores as well as the smaller independent chains? I recently went on a search for local product available at some of the larger area chains and you will be amazed at the North Carolina goodness I found. I shared my resources with viewers of the Charlotte NBS midday show “Charlotte Today” a couple of weeks ago, so today I share  the recap and details of that video and LOTS of recipes.

In case you missed it, here is the video segment with Charlotte Today, original air date Dec 5, 2016.

 

And here are all the where-to-find  details plus photos and below the listings,  recipes of what do to with each of these fabulous North Carolina made products after you open the package, jar, bottle or box.

Parla Pasta

Drake’s Fresh Pasta Co.
High Point, NC 27262

img_7234Simone and Rick Drake, owners of Drake’s Pasta in High Point, North Carolina and their team of pasta makers have been making fresh pasta for 30 years and Parla is their relatively new retail line. Boxed and frozen, you may select from an assortment of ravioli, manicotti and tortellini direct from your grocer’s freezer case to your table.  Rick and Simone started this local business with a small hand-cranked pasta machine. Now they have big automated pasta machines that churn out thousands of stuffed pastas in just minutes. The pasta is flash frozen, boxed and delivered to your local grocer. This delicious stuffed pasta is made from extremely high quality ingredients from the dough to the filling, just like you would make it from scratch at home, but now, thanks to the pasta makers at Parla, you don’t have to. When you open a box of Parla, in the time the pasta boils to perfection, you can create  a quick sauce or pesto ( or buy a jar of a local sauce) to toss with the stuffed noodles and enjoy in just minutes. We love the cheese tortellini in Pasta e Fagioli – a great cold weather soup to keep on the stove and enjoy for lunch or dinner.  Parla Pastas are available in the freezer case at area Harris Teeters, Lowes, Publix and Fresh Markets. For more info visit ParlaPasta.com

Renwood Mills

Locally sourced flour and cornmeal since 1935

img_7071While the name Renwood Mills, may not ring a bell, the names of Renwood’s popular brands will. These are the makers of Southern Biscuit Flour, Tenda Bake Pancake mixes and Tenda Bake cornmeal mixes all coming to you from Newton, North Carolina. One of the wonderful things about this local mill is that they source local North Carolina wheat to mill for their products just as they have done since the company’s beginnings! You can read more about the Tenda-Bake Pancake mixes here in a blog post I did several months ago. I make it a point to keep a package or two on hand in my pantry. My new Renwood love now though, is Renwood Mills/Southern Biscuit Flour  “Formula L”.  This is biscuit mix blend perfect for making easy high rising biscuits, sausage cheese biscuit balls and more – just add milk and let this local mix do the rest. Keep a supply in stock for all of your baking needs – Southern Biscuit Flour comes in all purpose and self-rising varieties. For more information visit RenwoodMills.com

Carolina Farmhouse Dairy

Organic Cream Top Yogurt and Kefir

Bahama, NC

img_7130North Carolina is a big dairy state and I am thrilled to introduce you, my readers to Cindy Hamrick and her family, owners of Carolina Farmhouse Dairy – the first Yogurt Dairy of its kind. Located just outside of Durham North Carolina, they are doing it right – its just like cream top milk, but this is cream top yogurt as yogurt was meant to be. Its all organic and I am in love with the yogurt and kefir this dairy produces. The yogurt comes in plain and vanilla and a variety of fruity flavors like coconut, strawberry and blueberry.  The Kefir, a yogurt based drink, also comes in flavors from their Golden Milk variety packed full of good-for-you-and-your-joints ingredients such as organic turmeric, cinnamon, ginger and coconut milk as well as fruit flavors like Blueberry and Strawberry kefir and plain kefir – perfect as an healthier option as an ingredient in cream based salad dressings like the Green Goddess dressing below.  Enjoy the yogurt and kefir as they are or use them to up your mornings smoothie game by blending them you’re your favorite frozen organic fruit or veggies. The plain and vanilla varieties are wonderful to cook with in recipes like the coffee cake I have shared in this post. Carolina Farmhouse Dairy Yogurts and Kefir are available in Charlotte at the Queen City Pantry at the Atherton Mill and Market on South Blvd.. For more info visit CarolinaFarmhouseDairy.com

Cloister Honey

Artisan Honey, Charlotte NC

img_7216Cloister Honey in Charlotte North Carolina is owned and operated by my friends Joanne de la Rionda  and Randall Young. Randall keeps the bees and Joanne works on the flavors of the infused honeys and honey spreads – its a talented team for sure. This product starts with the work of the bees and the rest is handcrafted from jar to jar without the addition of any artificial ingredients. I’ve seen this  artisan business develop since the beginning  and I’m thrilled to see Cloister Honey taking the nation by storm!!! In  2016 Cloister Honey was nationally recognized as the winner of Southern Living’s national food awards – getting top honors in the jams and spreads category and also received a Sofi award by the Southern Specialty Food Association ! Cloister Honey comes in a variety of guises – traditional honeys, whipped honeys and my favorites, the infused honeys and the honey spreads.  The newest member of the Cloister family the Power Seeded Honey  was the one I talked about in this segment – wonderful on yogurt or a peanut butter sandwich or used as a finishing sauce simply spread on skewers of Chicken Sate, you’ll find the recipe for the sate later on  in this post. And if you’re looking for a quick and easy appetizer recipe, just grab a jar of Cloister Honey Salted Honey and you are on your way , more details below, sa-weet! For more info visit CloisterHoney.com – if you stay on the site for anytime at all, a little customer service icon will pop up for a  chat and you will see Randall’s head pop up in the window – #TellHimHeidiSentYou

Goodnight Brothers Country Ham

Dry Cured Country Ham  Boone North Carolina

img_7229The Goodnight Brothers company, based in Boone NC has been  in the business of curing, aging, de-boning, slicing and packaging country ham since the company’s beginnings in 1948. My favorite Goodnight Brothers product is in the company’s All Natural Country Ham line sold in Charlotte at Whole Foods and Earthfare stores. Some chefs call it North Carolina prosciutto, I just call it delicious! This paper thin sliced ham is cured without any artificial nitrates, only those occurring naturally in sea salt and celery; and it is beautifully packaged with a thin sheet of butcher’s paper between the thin slices of ham so that they are easy to pull apart.  I’ll love this ham in something as simple as a charcuterie platter or a ham biscuit with spicy mustard – its also great to wrap around shrimp asparagus or scallops for a flavorful first course or appetizer. More recipes below. For more info visit GoodnightBrothers.com

OuterBanks SeaSalt 

img_7220In this world of automation and face paced technology it is hard to believe that much food production is done by hand any more, but it is. I am delighted to introduce my friend Amy Gaw  at OuterBanks SeaSalt, who leads the charge in harvesting and packaging 100% all natural sea salt in small batches using artisan and heritage practices. No preservatives, no anti-caking agents just all natural sea salt from the Atlantic Ocean. Use the OuterBanks sea salt as a culinary finishing salt,  or in any of your favorite recipes. Today I share two sweet and salty recipes  – one for candied sea salt ginger. Beside the recipe, you’ll see the salt and the candied ginger displayed in beautiful handcrafted salt cellars made by OuterBanks artist Antoinette Mattingly of Kinnakeet Clay. The final recipe for this post is for a sea salt ginger caramel sauce, repurposing the syrup from the candied ginger. In addition to their well know culinary salts, Amy also makes OuterBanks  Sooo Salty bath products, Check it all out at their new Etsy store: OuterBanksSeaSalt . For more info visit their Facebook page @OuterBanksSeaSalt

….The Start with a Package, Jar, Bottle or Box Recipes….

Parla Pasta e Fagioli

1 can organic cannellini  beans, drained

1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1 leek, chopped

1 tsp. fresh minced rosemary

1 tsp. fresh minced thyme leaves

1 (28-ounce) can organic fire roasted tomatoes and liquid

water, if needed

Pinch of sugar

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 Tbsp, tomato paste (or tomato powder from the Savory Spice Shop)

dried red pepper flakes to taste

1 or 2 rinds of real Parmesan cheese

1 bay leaf

1 box Parla Pasta Cheese Tortellini, cooking according to package directions

chopped fresh parsley to garnish

Grated Parmesan cheese, for sprinkling

img_7074Heat oil over medium heat in a large, heavy casserole or Dutch oven and add chopped leek. Cook until just tender, about 5 minutes. Add rosemary and thyme and stir together until fragrant. Stir in tomatoes, drained beans, salt and pepper, and cook, stirring often, until tomatoes have cooked down and the mixture is very fragrant, 10 to 15 minutes.

Add beans, tomato paste, hot pepper, Parmesan rinds, and salt to taste and bring to a boil. Add water or broth if the liquid is too thick. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 30 minutes. Season with a pinch of sugar if you would like.

10 to 15 minutes before serving, stir in the cooked Parla Pasta. When it is heated through, serve in shallow bowls garnished with chopped parsley and Parmesan.

Parla Pasta  with Black Olive and Artichoke Pesto

1 box of your favorite Parla Pasta – choose from ravioli, tortellini or manicotti

FOR THE PESTO:
2 cups whole pitted black olives, drained
1 cup pine nuts
1 ½ cups Parmesan or Romano cheese
1 cloves garlic, minced ( optional)
1 cup marinated artichoke hearts

img_72601 cup sun dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained
2-3 Tbsp. fresh basil leaves
dash of dried red pepper flakes
¼ -1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook your favorite Parla Pasta according to package directions. In the 6-8 minutes it takes the pasta to cook, you can make this wonderful winter pesto.

Make the pesto by combining all of the ingredients except the olive oil in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to chop fine. Drizzle olive oil through the feed tube with the machine running until the mixture has formed a smooth paste. Taste for seasoning. Toss with your favorite hot Parla Pasta and serve. Its just that each

 

Renwood Mills/Southern Biscuit Flour Formula L From-the-Farm Sausage and Cheese Biscuits

3 cups Southern Biscuit Flour Formula L

1 lb. your favorite local cheese, shredded

img_72111 lb  of your favorite local mild or hot bulk pork sausage

1 stalks local or organic celery, sautéed with 2 Tbsp. fine chopped onion and 1 tsp. sage leaves

1 cup whole milk or buttermilk

Mix Southern Biscuit Flour’s Formula L, with shredded cheese, bulk sausage, milk and sautéed celery onion and sage in a large bowl. Blend well. Pat the dough out into a large thick round and cut small biscuits. Place the sausage and cheese biscuits side by side, but not touching on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Bake in a preheated 300 degree 20-25 minutes. Enjoy hot or cold.

Keep Southern Biscuit Flour in the pantry for all of your baking needs. I used the Southern Biscuit Self Rising Flour in the Carolina Farmhouse Dairy Coffee Cake that follows.

Carolina Farmhouse Dairy Vanilla Yogurt Coffee Cake

1/4 lb butter

1 cup organic sugar

2 organic or local eggs

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup Carolina Farmhouse Dairy Vanilla Yogurt

2 cups Southern Biscuit Flour self rising flour

for the topping:

img_72361/2 cup organic sugar

2 Tbsp. cinnamon ( I like the Saigon cinnamon from the Savory Spice Shop)

1/ cup of your favorite chopped nuts, optional

Cream together butter and sugar with a hand or stand mixer/ add the eggs and vanilla. Blend well. In another bowl, sift together dry ingredients and add alternately to the butter and sugar mixture with the yogurt. Spoon half of the batter into a buttered angel food cake pan and sprinkle with half of the topping mix. Add the rest of the batter and sprinkle with the rest of the topping mix . Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 35-40 minutes. cool, unmold and enjoy topped with an additional dollop of Carolina Farmhouse Yogurt drizzled with your favorite Cloister Honey.

img_6948Use Carolina Farmhouse Dairy Yogurt makes a great start to the day when combined with organic oats, your favorite local jam and a dash or two of  Crude orange bitters – yes bitters for breakfast!

Carolina Farmhouse Dairy Kefir

Green Goddess Dressing

2 anchovy fillets, rinsed, patted dry, and coarsely chopped

1 medium clove organic or local garlic, peeled and smashed

1/2 cup organic mayonnaise

1 cup Carolina Farmhouse Dairy Plain or Lemon Kefir

1/2 cup loosely packed fresh Italian parsley leaves

1/4 cup loosely packed fresh tarragon leaves

2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh chives

2 Tbsp, freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/2 tsp. sea salt, plus more as needed

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Place all of the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth, scraping down the sides of the blender with a rubber spatula as needed. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper as needed. Refrigerate in a container with a tight-fitting lid for up to 1 week.

 

Cloister Honey Power Seeded Honey Chicken Sate

2 Boneless organic or local chicken breasts and 4 boneless chicken thighs

img_7217For the marinade:


1 clove organic or local garlic

2 Tbsp. Sorghum Syrup Molasses


2 Tbsp. organic sugar

¼ cup lime juice

1 Tbsp. fish sauce


2 Tbsp. Tamarind sauce

1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil


For the peanut sauce:


3 cups dry roasted peanuts or cashews ( or mix them half and half)

4 Tbsp, orange infused olive oil

2 Tbsp, tamarind sauce

1 Tbsp. red chili flakes


1 (1/4 inch thick slice) local or organic ginger

¼ cup fish sauce (Nam Pla)

½ cup mushroom flavored soy sauce ( I love Healthy Boy Brand)

1 can organic Asian coconut milk


¼ cup minced cilantro or 2 Tbsp. dried cilantro leaves

lemon or lime juice to taste

1 jar Cloister Honey Power Seeded Honey

img_7238Cut raw chicken into bit sized pieces and toss with all the marinade ingredients. Allow to marinate in the refrigerator for 6-8 hours of overnight.

Remove chicken pieces from marinade and pat dry, Skewer the chicken on fat smooth wooden skewers. Grill the chicken skewers in a grill pan on top of the stove for 2=3 minutes on each side. Remove from heat. This part may be done ahead so you can now hold the grilled skewers in the fridge for a day or two or proceed with the recipe.

Prepare the peanut sauce by combining peanuts and olive oil in a food processor and grind until you have peanut butter. Place the fresh ground orange scented peanut butter in a saucepan and add tamarind sauce, chili flakes, ginger, fish sauce, mushroom soy sauce, and cilantro. Add enough coconut milk to give the sauce the right consistency for a dipping sauce. Cook until thick and smooth ( except for the small pieces of peanut)

Dip the grilled chicken skewers in the peanut sauce or spread the sauce across the chicken and place the coated chicken skewers on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes or until the peanut sauce glaze has browned slightly. Spread the shot skewers with Cloister Honey Power Seeded Honey and baked 2 minutes more. Serve hot or at room temp.

Cloister Honey Salted Honey Blue Cheese Toasts

img_6875Cloister Honey Salted Honey

Creamy blue cheese

Toasted slices of French Bread

pistachios

Orange Zest

Spread the toasted slices of French Bread with the creamy blue cheese. Drizzle with the Cloister Honey Salted Honey and top with chopped Pistachios and orange zest. Doesn’t get much easier than that!

 

Goodnight Brothers Country Ham and Bechamel Biscuits

For the Béchamel:

¼ cup unsalted butter

¼ cup  all purpose Southern Biscuit Flour 

1½ cups whole organic milk

2 Tbsp. whole grain mustard

½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

For the Biscuits:

Make 8 biscuits with whole milk or buttermilk according to the package directions on the Southern Biscuit Flour “Formula L” Package

2 packages Goodnight Brothers Thin Sliced Dry Cured Country Ham

1 -1 ½ cups shredded Gruyère, cheese

1 tsp dried Herbes de Provence

For the Bechamel: Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. When butter is hot and all melted, add flour and stir cook, until  all the raw flour has been absorbed in the butter and the mix is a golden brown about 3 minutes. Add the whole milk and whisk continually to thicken over medium high heat. Season with the nutmeg and mustard. Remove from heat and reserve.

img_4993Place the slices of bread on a baking sheet, cut side up and toast lightly in a preheated 375 degree oven for 3-4 minutes. Remove toasts from the oven and turn up the heat to a broil. Meanwhile assemble sammies by placing the toasts on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Top each toast with a a slice of  Goodnight Brothers Thin Sliced Country Ham and then a generous sprinkling of the gruyere. Top each with a spoonful of the béchamel and a little bit of the herbes de provence. Run sammies under the broiler until golden brown. Serve hot with a little side salad of lettuce, eggs, Goodnight Brothers Thin Sliced Country Ham and ripe pears and you’ve got the perfect brunch.

Sweet and Spicy Goodnight Brothers Country Ham Wrapped Shrimp

img_761124 large local shrimp, shells removed, tail intact

1 package Goodnight Brothers Thin Sliced Country Ham, cut into thin strips

3 Tbsp. chili powder

2 Tbsp. ground cumin seed or powder

3/4 cup brown sugar

Peel shrimp, then rinse and pat dry. Carefully wrap the body of each shrimp with a strip of the Goodnight Brothers Thin Sliced Country Ham. Place the wrapped shrimp on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Sprinkle first with the chili powder and cumin and then with a generous amount of the brown sugar. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 15 minutes or so until the sugar has caramelized and shrimp have turned pink. Best served hot or warm.

OuterBanks SeaSalt Sweet and Salty Candied Ginger

img_72501 hand of local or organic ginger root -you can peel it or not, totally up to you

2 1/2 cups organic sugar

2 cups water

1 Tbsp. OuterBanks SeaSalt

Slice into rounds about 1/8 inch thick.  Mix sugar and water in a large sauce pan and bring to boil. When sugar is dissolved, add ginger slices and boil for 45 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove the ginger slices to a cake rack and let dry for 20-30 minutes. To keep the syrup that drips from the ginger slices contained, place the cake rack over a baking sheet with sides. Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar over the ginger slices. The sprinkle them with the OuterBanks SeaSalt. Let the coated ginger dry overnight.  Keep the leftover syrup in a covered container in the refrigerator and use it to make the next recipe for a goat cheese salted caramel sauce. 

OuterBanks SeaSalt Goat Cheese Salted Caramel Sauce

img_72241 cup of the syrup left over from making the candied ginger ( recipe above)

6oz. your favorite local goat cheese or Chevre

OuterBanks SeaSalt to Taste

Place the ginger syrup in a saucepan and allow to boil down until the mix has reached one half its original volume. Stir in the goat cheese or chevre. Stir until the goat cheese has melted and the mixture is smooth. Take off the heat and allow to cool, or serve the sauce warm over ice cream, pound cake or over a slice of the Carolina Farmhouse Dairy Yogurt Coffee Cake recipe in this post.

#TellThemHeidiSentYou

 

For more recipes to help you eat local by opening a package, jar, bottle or box featuring all of these wonderful North Carolina products and more visit each company’s individual website for recipes, to order product and to see all the retail locations for each company in Charlotte and across the state.

 

 

 

 

Greensboro, NC Getaway Plan A 3Day Weekend this Fall

 

heidi head shot 1 -In Need of a little getaway this fall season? Might I suggest that you look no further than North Carolina’s Triad region connecting three major cities all within a half hour drive of each other and about a hour and half in travel time from Charlotte, making a trip to any of the Triad cities –  High Point, Winston-Salem and Greensboro – worthy of a three day weekend status.

Fun to do my October 3 day weekend segment for WCNC’s Charlotte tOday on the city of Greensboro, NC. The details are all here in the post, but if you want to watch the video, scroll to the end and simply click on the link.

Greensboro, home to the sit in protests of the 1960s, Harlem Globetrotter “Curly” Neal and the place where Vick’s VaporRub was invented, is also know as the Gate City due to the heavy flow of railroad traffic that went in and out of the city in the late 1800s. Today Greensboro is still a major Amtrack  hub with trains arriving and leaving from The Greensboro Southern Railway Depot, now known as The Depot, originally built in 1899.

gro_stationinteriorHow to get to Greensboro, Nc

While Greensboro is an easy car ride from Charlotte, a fun nod to our state’s history would be to take the train for your three day weekend visit, and then uber or bike around the city as needed. Amtrack tickets from Charlotte start at just $19 one way and you can book a reservation for your bike as well. While the original Greensboro Depot is now the home to all sorts of transportation, a portion of the original train station still remains and makes for a fun and historic way to kick off your trip.

What to do in Greensboro

imagesOnce you get off the train at The Depot in downtown Greensboro, you are a quick walk or bike ride from the Greensboro Children’s Museum, a great place to spend some time with the kids.

One of the most fascinating exhibits for kids and adults alike is Greensboro’s Edible SchoolYard Garden, the only sanctioned Edible Schoolyard garden to be a major exhibit in a museum.

This working hands-on garden is used to teach kids about growing and planting, raising crops taking care of farm animals – the garden includes its own family of laying hens for fresh eggs, as well as taking care of and feeding the hungry in the community.

The garden is used as a major source of product for adult and children’s cooking classes taught year round int he museum kitchen. And chefs around town also teach at teh museum and use produce from the garden in their seasonal menus. For more information about regular events at the museum as well as the schedule of cooking classes, here’s where to find  the details.

Agriculture is king in North Carolina and there are lots of farms in around the Greensboro area with lots of fun events coming up this fall season – any one of them would be a great anchor around which to plan your three day weekend Greensboro getaway.

images-4Among them High Rock Farm, in Gibsonville, NC. The farm house on High Rock Road was originally used as a stage coach stay in the 1800s and has also been a tavern and a post office. Now it is home to High Rock Farm owner Richard Teague, who planted the first chestnut tree on the property in 1991. High Rock Farm is now the largest working and producing chestnut orchard in the mid-Atlantic Region. The farm celebrates it harvest each year with an annual Chestnut Roasting Festival, this year on Nov 6, from noon – t5 pm. Admission is just $8 per person. The fun includes hay rides through the orchard, music, food trucks, tours of the historic home and more. Kids under 10 are free. For more info HighRockFarm.com 

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Goat Lady Dairy in Julian, NC, a stones throw away from Greensboro is home to a large goat cheese making operation and the dairy offers monthly cheese-centric 5 course Dinners at the Dairy as well as farm and dairy tours. The remaining dinner dates for this year are Nov 11 and 12 and December 2 and 3, so make your reservations now. For more information visit GoatLadyDairy.com

If you, like me love to shop for housewares and china, old and new and find the fun is int he hunt for that can’t live without piece; then you simply cannot miss a trip to Greensboro’s own Replacement’s.

Located at 1089 Knox Rd. in McLeansville, NC, just outside of Greensboro, Replacement’s is  the world’s largest supplier of old and new china, crystal, silver, and collectibles.

great-wall-of-china-in-replacementsThe 500,000-square-foot facilities (the size of 8 football fields) house an  inventory of 12 million pieces in more than 425,000 patterns, some more than 100 years old. You can order from Replacements online, look for a missing piece to your grandmothers good china or browse through the inventory online, but there there is nothing quite like being there and to my mind this one of kind shopping extravanganza is worth the 3 day weekend jaunt in and of itself. For more info, or to buy or sell your favorite china pieces visit the website here

unknown-2Where to stay for the trip?

Lots of choices from the historic, charming  and said to be haunted 1903 era boutique Biltmore Hotel in the downtown area  – an easy walk from the Amtrack station. Visit the website for more info or reservations

unknown-1To The O’Henry,  an elegant hotel located a short and easy 4-minute walk from the Shops At Friendly Center.  Beautiful guest rooms have tall ceilings, unique furnishings, plush beds and en suite bathrooms with soaking tubs and separate dressing rooms. Your reservation includes a free Southern-style breakfast is served in the pavilion or the garden, while afternoon tea and pre-dinner cocktails are available in the lovely Craftsman-style lobby. For reservations and more info visit the website here

proximity-hotel-photos-exterior-hotel-informationThe Proximity , the sister property to the O’Henry, may be one of my favorite hotels in the area. Its the first green LEED hotels in the country with strict sustainable practices designed to save energy and help the environment while still offering a luxurious place to stay. 100 sun panels on the hotel roof, heat the water in the hotel and the energy the elevators create going down, allow them to go up as well. Bicycles are available for guests to ride on the nearby five-mile greenway that extends to over 75 miles of trails and routes throughout the Greensboro area. For reservations and more info visit the website here

Where to eat in Greensboro

Once you have your hotel reservations and have honed in on what you want to see and do in the area, you’ll need to decide what and where to eat. The restaurants at both The Proximity Hotel – Print Works Bistro , fresh local ingredients used to create fabulous comfort food;  and at the O’Henry Hotel – Green Valley Grill – informally elegant interiors serving seasonal favorites in a Mediterranean style-  are both excellent choices.

4213690For burgers, beef, vegetarian and otherwise, Hops Burger Bar  with two locations in Greensboro, is a popular local favorite you won’t want to miss. Parking is tight and there is often a wait, but its worth  each and every juicy bite-o-burger! If Mexican is more your style, go eat where nearly every chef in the Greensboro area sent me – El Camino Real – an understated Mexican joint in a strip center  at 4131 E. Spring Garden Street.

undercurrent-outside-gsoFinally for more white table cloth dining, check out Undercurrent Restaurant in downtown Greensboro, Listed as one of the “Top Ten Restaurants in Greensboro” by USA Today, the focus at Undercurrent is farm to fork. Sourcing all sorts of local ingredients from farms large and small, Chef de Cuisine, Michael Harken­reader  and the Undertcurrent’s team will wow you for sure. Open for lunch dinner and brunch, Don’t miss the opportunity to eat at Undercurrent soon!

Here is the link the to segment I did on Charlotte Today with hosts Colleen Odegaard and Eugene Robinson sharing a couple of reasons why you need to think about visiting Greensboro this fall. Enjoy!

#TellThemHeidiSentYou

 

For more info on all that is happening in Greensboro, North Carolina, visit the Convention and Visitors Bureau   #TellThemHeidiSentYou

 

October Restaurant RoundUp: 6 Restaurants That Should Be on Your Radar

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Charlotte Culinary Expert Heidi Billotto in the WCNC Charlotte Today studios with all the dishes featured in her October Restaurant Roundup lined up and ready to roll.

Updated Blog post to go along with my October Restaurant Round Up segment on WCNC’s Charlotte Today originally airing this morning (Wed., Oct 19) at 11:47.

A link to the video from the show appears at the end of this post and I’ve updated each restaurant’s section with photos of the featured food and several shots from the show. Always great fun to share my thoughts on chefs, restaurants and food that really should be on your radar.

In addition to the photos posted here, I’ll also post them all on all of my social media with links back to the blog and to the video.

To be the first to see them, Friend me at Heidi Billotto or like my page at Heidi Billotto Cooks on Facebook; follow me on Twitter at @HeidiCooks and Follow me on Instagram @HeidiBillotto.

The segment on Charlotte Today  featured five restaurants that, if they aren’t already, really should be on your radar. The sixth, included in this post relates to a dinner I attended last night.

Check those social media feeds now and you’ll see photos from a fabulous dinner I attended last night at The Asbury in the Dunhill Hotel in Charlotte.

The Asbury at The Dunhill Hotel

img_5423It was the last Collaborative chefs dinner of the 2016 series and it was an extraordinary evening. A pairing of the culinary talents of The Asbury‘s culinary team led by executive chef Matthew Krenz and guest chef John May from Piedmont Restaurant in Durham. This dynamic duo turned out 9 plates of fabulous fall flavor, each course paired with a wine especially selected for the evening by Josh Villapando of The Assorted Table Wine Shop also located in uptown Charlotte in Seventh Street Station.

If you haven’t eaten at The Asbury yet, don’t wait a second longer to make reservations. With a focus on all that is local and seasonal, and a nod to our Southern roots, Chef Matthew Krenz is really doing something special and the new fall menu is now up and running. And when next you visit Durham, be sure that a dinner at Peidmont Restaurant, home to chef John May, is a part of your plans!

There were nine courses at the dinner last night so can’t picture them all here – and its hard to pick a favorite, but if pressed I would have to say it would be John May’s salad with a poached egg and Matt Krenz’ roast lamb with stewed white beans and bitter greens. Both truly outstanding. My favorite wine of the evening  – this is another hard pick, but I think I’d have to say the rose paired with May’s salad. After nine plates and nine wines, the name escapes me so just call Josh at The Assorted Table Wine Shop and ask – he’ll be glad to tell you all about it!

Look for more on Krenz,  The Asbury and the fall menu in my culinary section of the new issue of Charlotte Living Magazine out soon – Subscribe to this blog and you’ll be among the first to know when the fourth quarter issue hits Charlotte newsstands!   Now on to the five restaurants featured on air this morning.

Dunkin’ Donuts in Concord, NC  30 Raiford Drive

concordstoreoutsideThis newest Dunkin’ Donuts celebrates its Grand Opening on Friday Oct 21 and has the distinction of being the 50th Dunkin’ Donuts to open in our area. The fun at the Grand Opening begins bright and early at 6:30 am. Free coffee to each guest from 7-9 am, and one lucky customer will be picked at random and will win free coffee for a year!

img_5430All the other Dunkin’ Donuts locations will also be celebrating with 50 cent cups of coffee and 50 cent donuts all day long on Friday Oct 21 – For more details on all the events planned at the Grand Opening and for a several fun recipes with Dunkin’ Donuts products as ingredients check out one of my blog posts from earlier this week here.

Fern, Flavors of the Earth at 1419 East Blvd. in Charlotte’s Dilworth neighborhood 

img_5304After four year in the Plaza Midwood neighborhood, Fern, Flavors of the Earth, takes up new digs in Dilworth. Now with an open kitchen, seated at the bar, inside and outside on a beautiful patio, there is more room to sit and enjoy the great vegan and vegetarian dishes chef Matthew Martin and his team are turning out.

On the show today I featured Fern’s,  Buffalo Cauliflower appetizer and well as two entrees: the raw noodle pasta dish and the Seitan Steak. After the show, My husband Tom and I stopped by to drop off some containers and stayrd for lunch which led us to discover two more favorite Fern Fall Flavors – the black bean burger and the Buddah Bowl, a mix of black Forbidden Rice, sauteed tofu and mixed seasonal vegetables – can’t wait to go back for more!

Clean Juice with three locations in Charlotte, at Birkdale Village, Sonecrest at Piper Glenn and in CrossFit Vitality in Concord

img_5366This is a great new juice and smoothie bar with a clean fresh and all organic approach to eating on the run.  I love the smoothies and the bowls, but don’t miss the little bites like the pumpkin, avocado or almond toast offerings. And if you are interested in juicing or a juice cleanse – the folks at Clean Juice can set you up and get you headed in the right direction.

As I said on air, the thing I love about this place is that this chain of juice bars are USDA Certified Organic, which makes their healthy offerings all the better. On air I showed the chia puddings, the carrot, pineapple and orange juice, spiced up with a big of good – for you turmeric; a wheat grass shot, the blue Panther Fan smoothie and my favorite of Clean Juice’s seasonal bites, the Pumpkin butter toast, made with homemade pumpkin butter, bits of cocoa nibs, cinnamon honey and sliced apple.

The last two restaurants featured today are  old favorites. Solid members of the Charlotte culinary skyline, both are located uptown.

Aria Tuscan Grill located at 100 N Tryon Street on the lower level of Founders Hall

img_5368With modern contemporary interiors that include  a dining room with a picture perfect view of whats going on in the kitchen, a private chefs table dining room open to the kitchen, a large and comfortable bar area and private dining rooms for larger groups, the fall menu at Aria features many seasonal old world Italian favorites as well as several new delicious spins on classic recipes.

Featured today – chicken cacciatore served atop homemade pasta with mushrooms and olives; Aria’s signature caramelized gnocchi in a truffled cream sauce, with thin sliced prosciutto and grated pear; and a melt-in-your-mouth polenta topped with Taleggio cheese and sauteed mushrooms. Funny enough I stumbled over the pronunciation of the word Taleggio – just for future reference for us all, its “Tall-Agee-O”. No matter which way you say it , its smooth and creamy, pungent in aroma but rich in flavor and a perfect foil for the umami of the mushrooms and the base of creamy polenta.

City Smoke at 100 N Tryon with an entrance off of the bottom floor of Founders Hall at the foot of the escalators.

img_5367If you are thinking barbecue, well, you are right, but City Smoke is so much more. Much of the fall menu comes from the rotisserie and its all about the smoke.  Classic Oysters Rockefeller, shucked ot order and topped with a spinach cream and then served on a bed of course salt, pepper and bay make for a fine start. My favorite recipe of the season at City Smoke might be the  smoked and grilled octopus salad – sliced grilled octopus served with roasted fingerling potatoes and roasted red bell pepper all atop a bed of lightly dressed arugula. Finally we have the Lamb roast done on the roitisserie and served with a rich brown sauce topped with a pine nut gremolata along side a bowl of roasted beets and blue cheese – This one had my name all over it!

Here is the link to the video segment in its entirety. I hope you enjoy it
Then make breakfast, lunch or dinner plans ( as it applies) to each of these great places soon. and remember to tell them Heidi sent you! Cheers!

#TellThemHeidiSentYou

If you enjoyed this post, I suggest you sign up to follow HeidiBillottoFood.com  where prompted on the home page.

That way each and every post, restaurant suggestion and recipe will come straight to your in box as soon as is goes up online.

Eat Your Dunkin’ Donuts coffee & doughnuts and cook with them too!

img_5272Did you know that this perfect paring of coffee and donuts isn’t just for breakfast, your next coffee break or a great midday or late night snack any more.  That’s right, now you can drink and eat your seasonal pumpkin Dunkin’ Donuts latte and  donuts and cook with them too!

Today’s recipes are thanks to the chefs in the Dunkin’ Donuts test kitchens at the company’s home base in Canton, Mass.  But once you see how their culinary minds work the application is easy and you, too, can start to shortcut a recipe – for example, substituting ground donuts for graham cracker crumbs, butter and sugar in a pie crust and using Dunkin’s seasonal pumpkin latte in place of the milk, sugar, and flavoring for your own fun pumpkin pancakes.

tl-horizontal_mainSame goes for the  Dunkin’ Halloween Reese’s Peanut Butter Donuts – chocolate covered doughnuts with a rich peanut butter buttercream in the middle just as is the candy of the same name. Enjoy this sweet treat as you celebrate the season of ghosts, ghouls and goblins. Simply place 1-2 0f these donuts in a food processor to grind them up; shape the mix into small bite-sized balls – about the same size as a Dunkin’ Munchkin – freeze, dip in melted chocolate or refrigerate and roll in Dark cocoa or chocolate shots and there you have it – quick and easy chocolate peanut butter truffles.

The Dunkin’ Donuts concept began in 1948 with a donut and coffee restaurant in Quincy, Massachusetts called “Open Kettle”, then the name changed to Dunkin’ Donuts in 1950. I can almost guarantee that founder William Rosenberg had no idea that his dream to serve guests donuts and coffee to kick off their morning, would one day be over 12,000 donuts shops in 44 countries strong; and I  feel certain he never entertained the idea that customers would buy his famous donuts as an ingredient in their seasonal recipes!

img_5276I grew up eating Dunkin’ Donuts in my hometown of Jacksonville, Fla – coffee and a DD French cruller became my go-to morning break snack when I was in high school. (It was a time when seniors could leave campus between classes. With really no where to go, we all camped out at the DD in the neighborhood, till it was time for class again.) While my personal Dunkin’ Donuts fave is and always has been the light and airy, melt-in-your-mouth French cruller; this time of the year the Apple Croissant Doughnut is a great seasonal stand in. The taste is that of an apple turnover wrapped in a light a fluffy cruller style doughnut. In addition to the Apple Croissant doughnut, another seasonal selection you won’t want to miss is Dunkin’ Donuts pumpkin glazed doughnut. Also available in Munchkin sized bites, this seasonal crowd pleaser is also great for dunking and as you will see, does double duty as an ingredient in your favorite seasonal recipes  as well!

Save the Date | Friday Oct 21, 2016 – Dunkin Donut’s 50th Charlotte area store Grand Opening in Concord NC 

concordstoreoutsideThe first Dunkin’ Donuts in the Charlotte metro area opened in 2004.  This week in Charlotte, Dunkin’ Donuts coffee and doughnut fans across the city will be celebrating as the 50th store in our Metrolina area opens for business. The newest member of the Dunkin’ Donuts family  is in Concord NC, at 30 Raiford Drive. The grand opening is on Friday Oct 21 and the festivities start at 6:30 am. Regular hours at the Concord location are 5am – 10 pm.

On Oct. 21, from 7-9 am the new Concord Dunkin’ Donuts will be giving away free cups of coffee. Mayor Scott Padget will be on hand to help serve guests and will help present one randomly selected guests as the lucky winner of free coffee for one year!

At 7-7:30 am, don’t miss the fun as Dunkin’ recognizes several local heros at the new store opening with a Kickin’ Cancer with Coffee Dance-off event. Charlotte’s own Braylon Beam,  the six year old who captured the nation’s hearts a year ago with his Ellen DeGeneres Show appearance and dancing-as-therapy videos promoting his #JustKeepDancing campaign and Charlotte’s hearts as the Panthers’ honorary coach, will lead teams of Concord Fire Fighters and teams of Concord Police in a fun and friendly dance-off.

Also from 7-9 am look for on air personalities from Fox 46 to be on hand, serving free medium-sized coffee and doing love broadcasts, as well ,as a part of the station’s monthly “Free Coffee Friday” promo.

img_5275Across the city every Dunkin’ Donuts will be celebrating the 50th shop opening with 50 cent cups of coffee and 50 cent doughnuts throughout the day on Friday. 

In Concord, the new shop is looking to sell 500 cups of coffee after the free pours Friday morning have come and gone. If the goal is met, as a part of the Kickin’ Cancer with Coffee event, Dunkin Donuts will donate $5 for each cup sold for a total contribution of up to $2500 to the Bring it 4 Braylon Foundation.

 

Before Friday’s celebrations begin, you can stop by your closest Dunkin’ Donuts to pick up Hot Pumpkin Lattes and Pumpkin donuts or Pumpkin Munchkins and The new Reese’s Halloween Donut for more that just a morning or midday treat. Use them as ingredients in your next homemade recipe as well…

Drink your latte and eat it too – Pumpkin Latte Pancakes (See this recipe on Video from Fox 46 Charlotte here)

img_5347Recipe courtesy of the chefs in the Dunkin’ Donuts test kitchens in Canton, Mass.

1 ½ Cups of all-purpose flour

3 ½ Tsp of baking powder

1 Tsp of salt

1 Small ( 10 oz) hot Pumpkin Latte, chilled ( in this recipe the latte takes the place of the milk, sugar and pumpkin flavoring you might otherwise add to your own pancakes)

1 Egg

3 Tbsp. of butter, melted

img_5342Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl and whisk them together.

Then, add the remaining ingredients and stir until they are evenly mixed.

Heat a pan over medium/high heat and spray it with cooking spray.

Once hot, spoon the pancake batter into the pan, then flip to make your pancakes. 

I added my own “Keep in Local, Charlotte” touch here by finishing the stack-o-pancakes  with toasted pumpkin seeds and a drizzling of local sourwood honey.

Pumpkin Donut-Crusted No Bake Pumpkin Pie

Recipe courtesy of the chefs in the Dunkin’ Donuts test kitchens in Canton, Mass.

img_53463 Dunkin’ Donuts Pumpkin Cake Donuts, crumbled

1 Package of cream cheese at room temperature

1/2 Cup of pureed pumpkin

1 Cup of powdered sugar

1 Tsp of cinnamon

1/4 Tsp of nutmeg

1/4 Tsp of cloves

2 Cups of heavy whipping cream

1/4 Cup of ground Dunkin’ Donuts Dark Roast coffee

img_5338Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and press the crumbled donuts firmly into a pie pan.  Bake the crust for 15 minutes, then cool thoroughly, just as you would a graham cracker curst.   

For the filling,  combine the cream cheese, pureed pumpkin, powdered sugar, and spices until smooth.  

img_5339In a separate bowl, whip 1 cup of the heavy cream to soft peaks and fold into the pumpkin mixture.   Pour the pumpkin cream mixture into the donut crust and smooth out with a spatula.   Refrigerate overnight.

 

 Just before serving, make the coffee flavored whipped cream to top your pie.  In a microwave safe bowl, combine ground Dunkin’ Donuts Dark Roast with 1/4 cup of heavy cream and heat it for 30 seconds in the microwave.  Strain the Dark Roast out of the cream using a coffee filter and set aside.  Whip the remaining heavy cream in a bowl and once it reaches soft peaks, add in the Dark Roast cream.   Pipe the cream onto the top of the pie and enjoy!

For another variation on the theme, instead of the using the roasted coffee beans to flavor the coffee, try what I did on the Oct 20 broadcast of WBTV’s Morning Break Charlotte. Video Here

img_5488Dunkin’ Donuts Pumpkin Latte Pie Topping – Combine 1 (8 oz) block of cream cheese, 1/4 cup of Dunkin’ Donuts  pumpkin latte, chilled and  1/4 cup of powdered sugar with about 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Blend until light but smooth. Pipe on the pie as your would whipped cream and decorate with chocolate covered coffee beans. Enjoy!

 

#TellThemHeidiSentYouThe 50th Dunkin’ Donuts shop in our Metrolina area is open for business in Concord NC, at 30 Raiford Drive. The grand opening is on Friday Oct 21 and the festivities start at 6:30 am. Regular hours at the Concord location are 5am – 10 pm. #TellThemHeidiSentYou

About the Bring It 4 Braylon Foundation: The mission of the Bring It 4 Braylon Foundation is to help alleviate the burden associated with pediatric cancer by providing comprehensive support to families and individuals who are fighting the disease. Founded on Braylon’s philosophy,  wise beyond his years, calling on us to “Be Brave. Be Positive. Have the Heart,” in the hope that together we can help to face and alleviate the challenges pediatric cancers patients and their families face everyday. For more info on how you can help make a difference visit, http://www.bringit4braylon.com/

Stuffed Squash Blossoms: A New Take on Ham and Cheese

img_5252I’ve been doing a lot of cooking this month on television and for catering jobs and cooking classes. As my regular readers know, I am all about local and cooking in the season, so this month, in particular, I have celebrated the end of the squash season with  several recipes for stuffed squash blossoms. Recently I made a delicious (if I do say so myself) ham and cheese stuffed version of my baked stuffed squash blossoms, originally for a brunch I catered for the Charlotte Food Bloggers.

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Earlier this week, I shared the recipe on WBTV’s new program, Morning Break, in the television kitchen with my friend Kristen Miranda  and you’ll find the video of this recipe prep is at the end of this post, as well as a special bonus recipe from the Charlotte Food Bloggers’ Brunch.

My friends from Goodnight Brothers Country Ham were good enough to help sponsor the brunch I prepared for the Charlotte Food Bloggers and so as a way of saying thanks I wanted to come up with several new and interesting ways to serve Goodnights thin sliced dry cured country ham. You might consider it North Carolina’s answer to Italian prosciutto. This thin sliced ham is locally available in Charlotte at Earthfare and Whole Foods.

dsc_0734What I love about the ham is first is all its a local North Carolina product all the way around. Goodnight Brothers, based in Boone, NC,  doesn’t raise the pigs – they just cure the meat, but they are selective in the meat they use.  The Goodnight products are produced from pigs pasture-raised on North Carolina family farms. These animals were raised in an antibiotic-free environment and when the meat was cured it was done so without the use of added nitrates or nitrites except for those naturally occurring in sea salt and celery. The ham comes thin sliced in 4 oz packages and slices are separated with parchment paper to make using the ham even easier.

 

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Heidi’s Ham and Cheese salad with Goodnight Brothers Thin sliced ham, grilled Bosc Pears, boiled quail eggs, Tega Hill Farm Lettuce and Uno Alla Volta cottage cheese, dressed with Blackberry Ginger Balsamic from Pour Olive in Charlotte

I’ve seen chefs across the state use this tasty ham in multitudes of recipes as Goodnight Brothers products have been featured in many of the GotToBeNc Competition Dining  series battles I have worked; and inspired, I have used it myself to make ham-wrapped everything from shrimp to pretzels, in salads, on biscuits and in combination with another local favorite of mine, Uno Alla Volta feta cheese to stuff local squash blossoms, available from Tega Hill Farms.

As I write this, it is the middle of October, and by the end of the month, squash season will be over in the Tega Hill Farm greenhouses and the vines of beautiful yellow blossoms will make way for pea tendrils and other seasonal greens. But don’t you fret, this wonderful ham and cheese stuffing can still be made and used in many ways – here are just a few suggestions before we get to the squash blossom recipe.

img_4985Cut jalapenos or small sweet peppers in half, scrape out the seeds, fill the pepper halves with the ham and cheese filling, top with a sprinkling of panko crumbs and grated Parmesan and bake at 375 for about 20 minutes or until brown for a great spicy or not ham and cheese popper.

The stuffing can also be piped onto toasts or into small savory pastry shells and baked as you would the peppers, or mix the stuffing recipe here in its entirety with 2 ( 8oz) blocks of cream cheese and then baked in small well greased muffin tins at 375 for about 30 mins to make bite-sized ham and cheese cheesecakes!

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You can also use the ham all by itself to make a mean mini ham biscuit – I particularly like these dressed with a new mustard I just discovered. Its Korean Mustard, produced by a South Carolina based company called Burnt and Salty and is available in Charlotte at the Savory Spice Shop in Southend. The sweet salty taste of the dry cured ham and the sweet spicy taste of the mustard are a match made in heaven and perfect on a one or two bite fresh baked biscuit!

 

 

So many variations -hope you have fun trying them all, but first back to the matters at hand. The Squash Blossoms and the master recipe for my local Ham and Cheese  stuffing.

Heidi’s Ham and Cheese Stuffed Squash Blossoms with Honey and Bechamel 

img_5267For the Squash Blossoms:

1 cup Uno Alla Volta feta cheese

3 local eggs, divided

1/2 cup chopped local parsley or spinach

½ cup shredded Goodnight Brothers Thin Sliced Dry Cured Country Ham

orange zest

12 squash blossoms from Tega Hill Farm

Flour

¾ cup breadcrumbs

For the béchamel

¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter

¼ cup all-purpose flour

img_52571½ cups whole local milk ( I used Hickory Hill Milk produced just outside of Greenville SC and available in Charlotte at Earthfare – its a wonderful cream top milk and – fun fact – is the milk from which Clemson Blue Cheese is made!)

2 tablespoons whole grain mustard ( or you can use the Burnt and Salty Korean Mustard for a nice kick!

½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

salt and pepper to taste

Directions for the blossoms:

Mix together feta, 1 lightly beaten egg, shredded ham and  parsley or spinach and orange zest. Season to taste.

Put the remaining 2 eggs in a bowl and whisk. Put the breadcrumbs in another bowl.

Carefully remove the stamen of each blossom and then pipe the  filling into each squash blossom and twist loosely at the end to close.

img_4991Dust the stuffed blossoms lightly with flour. And then dip each stuffed squash blossom in egg, then breadcrumbs, and transfer to a wire cake rack. This is the secret – allow the breading and egg to rest for about 5 minutes before placing the breaded blossoms on a parchment paper or silpat lined baking sheet.

Bake for 10 minutes, in a preheated 400 degree oven until the blossoms are lightly browned.

Remove from the oven. Allow to cool for a few minutes before serving.

For a savory dish, top the blossoms with the béchamel. For a sweeter note, drizzle them with local honey from Dancing Bees Honey before serving.

Directions for the béchamel:

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat until foamy. Add flour and stir cook, until mixture is pale and foamy, about 3 minutes.

Gradually add milk, stirring until mixture is smooth.

Cook, stirring, until sauce is thick and coats the back of a wooden spoon.

Remove the bechamel from heat and whisk in mustard and nutmeg; season to taste with salt.

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And now click here to link to the video from my WBTV Morning Break cooking segment earlier this week. As I mentioned on air, the cheese from Uno Alla Volta and the squash blossoms from Tega Hill Farm and the honey from Dancing Bees Honey will all be available at the Matthews Community Farmers Market on Saturdays. The blossoms will only be available through the end of October, so get cooking and enjoy this special taste of the season.

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Chef Wolfgang Puck and Charlotte Based food & restaurant writer Heidi Billotto

Just as a reference, you will hear Kristen and me talking about chef Wolfgang Puck. The evening before my cooking segment, WP Kitchen & Bar restaurant in Charlotte had an event to raise funds and awareness for the Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina. The restaurant used the occasion to kick off the new fall menu and Wolfgang Puck and his brother Klaus were in town to help celebrate. This was the second time I had the pleasure of meeting Puck – he’s a great guy with tons of contagious energy and enthusiasm and is a huge supporter of the Food Bank. “If all of us just do a little,”,he said.” It makes a huge difference.”

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Bonus Recipe… In addition to make the ham and cheese salad and the stuffed squash Blossoms for the Charlotte Food Bloggers brunch, I also made homemade fresh baked Cheese Danish and Sticky Cinnamon Rolls. I promised the recipe and so here tis – enjoy!

Heidi’s Homemade Danish or Cinnamon Rolls

1 cup sour cream

½ cup organic sugar

1 tsp. salt

½ cup melted butter

½ cup warm water

2 Tbsp. yeast

2 local eggs

4 cups organic unbleached flour

For the cinnamon roll filling:

melted butter
, cinnamon, sugar, brown sugar

For the Danish filling:
 1 (6 oz) block cream cheese
, ¼ cup sugar
, 1 egg
 Your favorite jam or fruit spread

For the dough: Dissolve yeast in warm water with one teaspoon of the sugar. Stir and when a foam forms on the surface it is ready. If no foam appears within five minutes, then either your water was too hat or your yeast was old. Start again with cooler water and another package of yeast. 
Once the yeast starts to foam or proof, combine it with the other dough ingredients to form a soft but sticky dough.
Let rise 1 hour. Turn out onto a floured worksurface. Knead until smooth then roll dough out into a large rectangle about ¼ inch thick.

For cinnamon rolls: generously spread the dough with melted butter. Sprinkle with sugars and cinnamon. Roll up like a jelly roll. Cut the log of dough into 1 ½ inch thick slices. Place the slices in a buttered pan, cut side up. Drizzle with additional melted butter
Cover with a dish towel and let rise an additional 20 minutes. Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 23-30 minutes.

For the Danish: combine cream cheese, egg and ugar and beat until smooth. Spread the filling down the center of the dough rectangle. Top with your favorite jam or fruit spread. Cut small slits along either side of the dough so that the dough on either side of the filling will resemble fringe. Starting from one end, fold the “fringe” pieces up and over the filling to encase the cream cheese and jam.
Place the finished Danish on a parchment lined baking sheet. Cover with a dish towel and let rise an additional 20 minutes. Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 23-30 minutes.

 

 

 

Seasonally Speaking: It’s Time for Local Organic Baby Ginger

img_4511To every time (and to every fruit, flower, herb and vegetable) there is a season.

Back in 2011, it was my pleasure to join a small but excited group at  Windcrest Farm in Monroe, NC for the first harvest of a new crop of  organic baby ginger! Mary  and Ray Roberts-Tarlton, owners and farmers at Windcrest, a certified organic farm, grow all kinds of cool and unusual herbs and veggies, but this first crop of baby ginger was something special. Fast forward these past five years and the annual every growing ginger crop at Windcrest has become an occasion to celebrate!

Roberts and her team start the ginger from organic seed from brought in from Hawaii early in the year and then transferred the tender young plants to their home in the ground in one of Windcrest’s many greenhouses. As the tubers grow beneath the ground, the stalks and leaves shoot up to heights from 4-6 feet tall. The joy here is that the whole plant can be used from stem to stern. The leaves can be dried and crumbled for tea, to add to various dried spice, salt or pepper mixes and the roots can be candied, pickled, stewed, sautéed, simmered – the list goes on and on.

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Heidi Billotto on the cooking set of Charlotte Today with show hosts Coleen Odegaard & Eugene Robinson

 

Each year around this time, I feature the Windcrest organic baby ginger in one of my television cooking segments. This week I was on WCNC’s Charlotte Today and ginger was the star of the show as I used it to prepare one of my favorite recipes for quick and easy local BBQ baby back ribs.

The glaze on these ribs was inspired by one of my favorite cocktails made with bourbon, a ginger-honey simple syrup, orange and ginger ale, and believe me, its a keeper! What I love about it is that its not too thick, so while the gingery glaze adds a fabulous sticky sweet and spice flavor, it doesn’t overwhelm and one can still taste the meat.

img_5026I recommend using local pork – lots of choices at any one of Charlotte’s several Farmers’ Markets, and if you can’t find pork ribs, use chops instead. The key to make the recipe move along faster cut the rack of ribs into double chops. The recipe also works well on chicken, seafood and tempeh ( although cooking times will vary slightly) – see my variation notes at the end of the recipe.

Several recipes to share hereCandied Ginger and as a result a Ginger Simple Syrup to use in cocktails  or to make your own ginger ale. The recipe for the ribs I cooking on television this week and a fun recipe for the Japanese Ginger Salad Dressing we all love each time we eat at a Japanese steakhouse.  You’ll find the video from the Charlotte Today segment at the end of this post  – just look for the pink television screen with my logo!

cropped-heidi-cooks-logo.jpgOctober 2017 On The Farm Cooking Class For more ginger how-tos and to see it for yourself, I’d love to have you join me and Mary Roberts for a ginger-centric On The Farm cooking class at Windcrest on Saturday Oct 7, from 3-6 pm. The class includes a farm tour where we see the farm up close and personal and will hear from Mary about sustainability, why it is important to her to grow organically and all about raising crops year round in a greenhouse environment. Plus we’ll cook and enjoy 4-5 new recipes for 4-5 delicious courses of local fare all with a ginger-centric theme. In addition to the tour and the food, the class also includes wine pairings from Assorted Table Wine Shop with each course, a recipe packet for each participant, and gift bag with sample sized local goodies and coupons. Cost is $85 per person. To make your reservations, simply email me directly at Heidi@HeidiCooks.com. 

The lovely thing about cooking with baby ginger  is that when it is harvested it comes without the hard, heavy skin grocery store ginger always has – the ginger develops that skin as it ages – and has a light and delicate flavor plus tons of health benefits as well.

Hope you’ll  attend our On the Farm cooking class later this month – reservations are a must, please, and visit Mary at the market this week and next to get a taste of the 2016 local ginger harvest and enjoy  the pleasures of cooking with the baby ginger while it is here and available, fresh and in season – its really something special!

Classic Japanese Steak House Ginger Salad Dressing

3 Tbsp. minced onion

3 Tbsp. canola oil

2 Tbsp. raspberry vinegar

3 Tbsp. finely minced baby ginger

2 Tbsp. organic ketchup

1 Tbsp. Mushroom-flavored soy sauce

1/2 clove minced garlic

Sea salt and cracked pepper to taste

Combine onion, oil, vinegar, ginger, ketchup, soy sauce, garlic, salt and pepper in a blender and process until combined.Spoon over a plate of your favorite mixed greens.

Homemade Candied Baby Ginger

1 pound fresh baby ginger, thin sliced

4 cups organic granulated sugar

4 cups water, plus more for the initial cooking

pinch of salt

Put the thin baby ginger slices in a large stainless steel pot, add enough water to cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer for ten minutes. If you are making this recipe with older store-bought ginger you will want to repeat this precooking process one more time.

Mix the sugar and 4 cups of water in the pot, along with a pinch of salt and the ginger slices, and cook until the temperature reaches 225F measured on a candy thermometer

Remove from heat and let the ginger stand in the syrup for at least an hour while the mixture cools.

Remove the ginger from the syrup, reserving the syrup, and place the sliced ginger on a cake rack fitted over a baking sheet with sides. Drain the ginger and then sprinkle with additional sugar to coat both sides of the ginger. As the ginger cools more sprinkling sugar may be necessary.

For your own Ginger Ale

Combine:

1 to 2 Tbsp. of ginger syrup left over from making the candied ginger

sparkling water

Juice of one lime

Fill a tall glass filled with ice, add ginger syrup and the juice of a half of a lime and top with soda water. Adjust flavor adding more ginger syrup or lime as needed. Stir to blend and garnish with lime wedge or a sprig of fresh mint

And finally for the Ginger and Honey glazed baby back rib recipe that Charlotte Today co-hosts Eugene Robinson and Coleen Odegaard raved about on air –

Heidi’s Local Honey and Organic Baby Ginger Baby Back Ribs

img_5032One of my favorite honey-centric cocktails is with bourbon or aged rum, honey, orange and ginger ale – take the same flavors mix them with the baby ginger and apply then to a glaze or marinade and viola…

For a fuller orange flavor in this recipe, I used the Blood Orange infused EVOO from Pour Olive, my go-to artisan olive oil shop on East Blvd. in Charlotte

What make the ribs tender enough to saute is parboiling them first. Bit be sure that the Parboiling Liquid has plenty of flavor – for the parboil, combine

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Make your parboiling liquid flavorful!

2 Tbsp. Pour Olive Blood Orange EVOO

4 thick  slices of Windcrest Farms Organic baby ginger, minced

1 cup toasted  baby ginger leaves – simply crisp them up in a 200 degree over for 10-15 minutes to concentrate their delicate flavor

¼ cup fresh Italian leaf parsley

1 bottle of pale amber beer

2 cups mushroom broth

1 rack local Baby Back Ribs, cut into double ribs

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Glazing the ribs with the basting liquid sears the flavor on the meat

 

Basting sauce:

2/3 cup teriyaki, ponzu or hoisin sauce

¼ cup dark sesame oil

¼ cup minced fresh Windcrest Farms Organic Baby Ginger

1 cup aged whiskey or aged Rum ( I love to use NC’s own  organic TOPO aged whiskey here)

Juice and zest of two oranges or 2 Tbsp. Blood Orange EVOO from Pour Olive

Dash or two of  Crude Bitters orange & Fig bitters ( available at the Savory Spice Shop in Southend Charlotte

1 cup Spicy Hot Blenheims Ginger Ale – made in Blenheims, SC!

½ cup Dancing Bees Farm Honey – your favorite variety ( I love the sourwood honey here and its available on Saturdays at the Matthews Community Farmers’ Market and the Charlotte Regional Market on Yorkmont Road.

 Condiments to serve – Texas Pete (if you’d like to spice it up a bit!)

img_5038Combine parboiling ingredients in a stock pot. Bring to a boil, add the whole racks of ribs. Allow to come back to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer of 30-40 mins or so.

While ribs are simmering, prepare basting sauce by combining all of the ingredients, except the honey and ginger in a medium sized saucepan. Bring to a boil and allow to reduce by one third. Remove from heat and stir in honey and ginger.

Remove ribs from the simmering liquid. Bathe the ribs in the glaze and place the ribs on a saute pan or grill pan, basting with the glaze until it just starts to brown on the meat, or  place in a roasting pan under the boiler for 2-3 mins on each side.

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Use chicken, seafood or your favorite vegan or vegetarian tempeh with the same delicious ginger glaze

 

To make a vegetarian version of the same – use tempeh or tempeh style “chicken” patties ( available at Earthfare in Charlotte) No parboiling needed – just saute the patties in the Blood Orange oil until nicely browned, then bathe in the glaze and cook down until the glaze has thickened slightly. Same method will work well for your favorite seafood.

For chicken –  no parboiling needed – simply season  bone-in ( this adds more flavor) pieces with salt and pepper and bake  in a preheated 400 degree oven in a covered roasting pan for 30-40 minutes. Remove the lid of the pan and add the basting  liquid. continue to bake for another 5 minutes  or broil the chicken for 2-3 minutes until the glaze starts to brown.

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Watch the video from my October 2016 cooking segment on WCNC’s Charlotte Today here.

For more ginger how-tos and to see it for yourself, I’d love to have you join me and Mary Roberts for a ginger-centric On The Farm cooking class at Windcrest on Saturday Oct 7, from 3-6 pm. The class includes a farm tour where we see the farm up close and personal and will hear from Mary about sustainability, why it is important to her to grow organically and all about raising crops year round in a greenhouse environment. Plus we’ll cook and enjoy 4-5 new recipes for 4-5 delicious courses of local fare all with a ginger-centric theme. In addition to the tour and the food, the class also includes wine pairings from Assorted Table Wine Shop with each course, a recipe packet for each participant, and gift bag with sample sized local goodies and coupons. Cost is $85 per person. To make your reservations, simply email me directly at Heidi@HeidiCooks.comand I’ll send you all the info you need to complete your reservation. Looking forward to seeing you there!

Tenda-Bake Pancake & Waffle Mix isn’t Just for Breakfast Any More

UPDATED - NCDAThose of you who follow this blog in particular and my cooking classes and television appearances in general already know that I am a lover of all things local.

In the state of North Carolina, agriculture is our biggest industry and so, to take a quote from the North Carolina Department of Agriculture’s marketing campaign,  I am always on the lookout for great things Grown, Raised, Caught or Made in North Carolina.

With lots of grains grown in our state, it only stands to reason that we would have lots of mills. Think back to the story of The Little Red Hen – she planted the seed, tended the crop, reaped the wheat, took it to the mill and then baked it into bread. As the folk tale explains, the process is a lot of work for one little hen… the truth and the bigger story is that taking grains to grits, meals and flours  takes a team.

logoFamers grow the grains, take them to the mill to be ground into flours and meals, send them to our local grocers shelves, where we make the purchase and take them home to feed our families. Recently I met the fine folks at Renwood Mills based  in Newton, NC, loved their 80 year old history, their all-local story and their products and wanted to share it with you.

I constantly try to share the local love of farmers and producers large and small, through this blog, through other articles I write, my television and personal appearances and cooking classes. While companies often give me sample product to promote, for me, it is about backing  brands I believe in and I am here to say that Renwood Mills produces products that should be on your radar.

Renwood Mill sources grains from some 500 local North Carolina farmers in and around the Newton-Conover region of North Carolina.

Just as they did years ago, these farmers still  deliver local grains each week to be ground into corn meal and flour. In 1935, Renwood Mills started as the Maiden Flour Mill where owners sourced local grain to grind to flour and cornmeal. While the company has grown that “support local farmers” philosophy has stayed true and that’s one of the things I love about this company and these products.

s-02Renwood Mills flours are packaged for commercial use under the name of Southern Biscuit  where they package an all purpose flour and a self rising flour and a Just-Add-Buttermilk biscuit mix called Southern Biscuit Formula L . Renwood Mill cornmeal and flour products are also packaged under the Tenda-Bake brand and include not only cornmeal and cornmeal mixes but pancake & waffle mixes as well.

tenda-logo

In developing recipes used with the trio of Tenda-Bake Pancake mixes as a shortcut ingredient, I started with basic recipes calling for a mix of flour and baking soda or baking powder;  or recipes that called for a coating or batter of some sort. To that end I wound up today’s recipes for Not-Just-For-Breakfast recipes featuring the Tenda-Bake products: a quick and easy cobbler made with the MapleBurst Pancake Mix; a tasty chicken and dinner waffles make with the 7 Grain Tenda-Bake Mix.

img_3569I featured the cobbler on a recent edition of WBTVs Bounce Tv with hosts Delano Little and Brigida Mack and as you will see when you view the clip at the end of this post, its a winning recipe for sure. The maple chips in the MapleBurst Tenda-Bake melt down into the butter and gives it a slightly caramelized finish to the cobbler that’s lip smackin’ good – just ask Delano!

 

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Heidi’s Tenda-Bake Peach and Blueberry cobbler assembled and ready to bake

Tenda-Bake MapleBurst Pancake Mix Peach & Blueberry Cobbler

Recipe developed for Renwood Mills, makers of Tenda-Bake By Charlotte Culinary Expert Heidi Billotto

8 Tbsp melted butter

2 cups Tenda-Bake Maple Burst Pancake and Waffle Mix

1 cup whole organic or local milk

4 cups peeled and sliced peaches

2 cups blueberries

½ cup granulated organic sugar

Pour melted butter into the bottom of a square 9 inch oven to table 9-Inch baking dish. Mix together the pancake mix and the milk; stirring in milk just until combined. Pour over the melted butter in the pan. Do Not Stir.

Spoon the sliced peaches and blueberries over the top of the pancake mix/butter layers, but again, do not mix. Sprinkle the sugar over all. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 35- 40 minutes or until the cobbler is nicely browned.

Serve warm or cold with whipped cream or your favorite  ice cream

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Time for Heidi’s Tenda-Bake Chicken  &  Dinner Waffles

Tenda-Bake 7 Grain Pancake & Waffle Mix Chicken & Dinner Waffles

Recipe developed for Renwood Mills, makers of Tenda-Bake By Charlotte Culinary Expert Heidi Billotto

For the Dinner Waffles:

2 cups Tenda-Bake 7 Grain Pancake & Waffle Mix

1/4 cup chia seeds ( optional, but  this adds a healthy kick of a bit more protein)

1 cup local or organic whole milk

2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

For the Chicken:

2 cups Tenda-Bake 7 Grain Pancake & Waffle Mix

salt and pepper to taste

1 Tbsp. dried Thyme leaves

4-6 local or organic chicken thighs, skinned, bone in or boneless, as you please

2 local or organic eggs, beaten

 

Make the waffles first by combining 2 cups of the pancake mix with 1/4 cup of chia sees, 1 cup of whole milk and 2 Tbsp, of extra virgin olive oil. Pour the mix onto a not lightly greased waffle maker and cook until the steaming stops. Waffles for this dish may be made ahead of time and then reheated in the oven.

For the chicken, Combine 2 cups of Tenda-Bake 7 Grain Pancake & Waffle Mix with a bit of salt and pepper to taste and 1 Tbsp. dried thyme leaves.

Cut the boneless thighs into strips  or prepare them whole. Pat the chicken dry them dust them in the seasoned pancake mix mixture. Once dusted. Drop the chicken into the beaten egg wash and then once again into the seasoned pancake mix mixture to coat. Now, here is the trick, place the breaded chicken on a wire cake rack for 2-3 minutes to allow the egg and pancake mixture to form a coating.

Meanwhile, heat about an inch of canola oil in a 10-12 inch skillet. Place a wooden spoon in the oil and when little bubbles start to form around the wooden spoon, he oil is hot enough for frying. ( otherwise, your chicken will absorb the oil and will taste greasy)

Redust the rested coated chicken in the seasoned pancake mix and then drop into the hot oil. Cook until lightly browned, then carefully  turn to brown the other side. Once the chicken has browned, remove from the pan and place on a rack fitted over a baking sheet in a 375 degree oven for 5-8 minutes.This will allow the whole chicken thought to cook through, but won’t over brown the coating.

Serve the chicken and waffles with syrup or local honey or make your own honey mustard as a condiment if you would like.

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Here is the Video from WBTV’s Bounce TV with Heidi Billotto and Delano Little putting together the cobbler recipe you have here – check it out to see how easy it really is!

 

#TellThemHeidiSentYouFor more information on Renwood Mills, the products they produce and where you can purchase them, visit their website.

Want more great recipes, links to videos and stories on all your favorite chefs, restaurants, 3 Day weekends and lots of food-centric events? Simply subscribe to this blog and you’ll be the first to see each and every post!

Don’t forget to follow me on all the social media – HeidiBillotto on Instagram and Facebook; Heidi Billotto Cooks on Facebook and @HeidiCooks on Twitter #TellThemHeidiSentYou #IllHaveWhatHeidisHaving #BackingBrandsIBelieveIn

 

 

 

Delicious Ways to Eat your Fruits and Veggies

Heidi BillottoWith Chef Mark AllisonDirector of Culinary NutritionDole Food Company (1)Always great fun working with my friend Chef Mark Allison and Monday morning of this week was no different.

The occasion: a food styling gig for Dole ‘s Get Up And Grow‬ tour.

This is annual event for the California- based company, touring all over the United States challenging old and young alike to beef up (pardon the expression) our intake of fruits, salads and vegetables and  in the process  teaching us all how easy and delicious it is to cook and eat healthier.

My job this week was to prepare four recipes Dole is promoting on the tour and to arrange and “style” everything on the set so that Mark could concentrate on the message of the segment and share the details of the tour. Honored to be entrusted to prep and style Mark’s recipes, I am delighted to tell you that these are four keepers and while I don’t always make a point to share recipes I work with on gigs like this – these are definitely four I will make again and wanted to share them with you as well.

For those of you who know Mark, have seen him on television or were perhaps one of his students at Johnson & Wales, you may be interested to know what he is up to now.

The North Carolina Research CampusThe Dole Institute Kannapolis NCHis job now covers all recipe development for the Dole food company, he also write recipes and develop menus for  Dole owner Mr. Murdock,  and is  currently writing a  book on nutrition together with the Dole Nutrition Institute. Basing out of Kannapolis NC, he travels nationally and internationally on behalf of Dole giving presentations on healthy food and nutrition.

In Kannapolis, Mark’s office is located at  one of the top research centers in the world, Dole’s North Carolina Research Campus, dedicated to the advancement of nutrition, agriculture and human health.  Working along scientists from universities, industry, government and non-profit organizations who are finding new ways to promote healthy lifestyles and to prevent, treat and cure the most prevalent diseases of our times like cancer, diabetes, obesity, Alzheimer’s and other diet and lifestyle-related disorders.

Catch the tour, pick up fun giveaways and enter to win a dinner cooked in your homeThe Get Up and Grow Tour is Dole’s  fun and flavorful campaign to spread the good word about  good eating, one city at a time and this week they are in the Charlotte area August 18-20, 2016 check the Get Up and Grow website for specific tour dates, times and locations. Aug 18-20.

Stop by to pick up one of the tour’s bright signature blue t-shirts and other gifts reminding you to eat your fruits and veggies; and if you sign the Get up and Grow pledge, your name will be entered in a drawing to win the chance to have Chef Mark Allison come to your home and prepare a healthy and delicious dinner for 8, compliments of the fine folks at Dole.

Meanwhile, its easy to prepare the same dishes we did for the television broadcast. Here are all the recipes with my notes and a few Make-it-even-more-local suggestions. Enjoy!

Salad SippersDole’s Salad Sipper – an easy and delicious way to eat you greens!

3 cups unsweetened almond milk
4 cups DOLE® Power Up Greens Baby Kale or DOLE Baby Spinach
1 large or 2 small DOLE Bananas, peeled and sliced
1 cup fresh DOLE Tropical Gold® Pineapple, peeled and chopped
1 cup local or organic Blueberries
2 Tbsp, local honey, optional

Combine almond milk, baby kale, banana, pineapple, blueberries, and honey into blender.  Cover; blend until smooth.  Divide mixture between four glasses. Cheers!

Cafe Banana FrappeDole’s Cafe Banana Frappe – try this one as a great start to the morning or instead of a mid to late afternoon snack

3 shots espresso or 2 tablespoons instant espresso with ½ cup boiling water, cooled
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 DOLE® Banana, peeled and sliced
2 Tbsp. local honey, optional
1 cup ice

Combine espresso, almond milk, banana, honey, and ice in blender.  Cover; blend until smooth.  Divide mixture between two glasses.

Brussels Sprouts & Grilled Pineapple SaladBrussels Sprouts and Grilled Dole Pineapple Salad

1 cup fresh DOLE® Tropical Gold® Pineapple wedges
12 oz. DOLE Brussels Sprouts, trimmed and thinly sliced (about 3 cups)
3/4 cup local or organic Blueberries
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 Tbsp. grated lemon peel
2 Tbsp. local honey
2 Tbsp. your favorite Extra Virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 Tbsp. smoked almonds, chopped
2 oz. manchego cheese, shaved or, instead, use my new cheesy favorite -Local Water Buffalo aged cheeses from Fading D Farm in Salisbury !

Try Fading D’s Sapore or Roco in this salad for a great burst of local flavor! Check out all of the other Fading D Farms cheeses on their website or on Saturdays in at the Cotswold Farmers’ market in Charlotte, NC, The Davidson Farmers’ market in Davidson NC or the Salisbury Farmers’ Market in Salisbury NC.

Here are the directions for the salad: Grill pineapple wedges. Remove from heat and dice into 1/2-inch pieces. Combine Brussels sprouts, pineapple and blueberries in a large bowl. Set aside. Combine lemon juice, grated lemon peel, honey and olive oil in a small bowl. Whisk until blended.  Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour dressing over s Toss gently to coat evenly. Divide salad evenly between six serving plates and top each with smoked almonds and cheese.

For those of you who follow me on Facebook or who have read other recent blog posts here, this next recipe could also be called How-I-Used-My-Uno-Alla-Volta-Cottage-Cheese-This-Week.

On Dole’s Get Up and Grow website, the name of this recipe is  simply Strawberry Toast, but on air on Monday Mark called them Strawberry Toasties which I love so much more, so strawberry toasties it is! For a fun colorful and nutritious twist blend an avocado in the ricotta or cottage cheese mixture for a slight different spin on the original recipe

Strawberry ToastiesDole’s Strawberry Toasties

2/3 cup part-skim ricotta cheese ( instead I used 2/3 cup of Charlotte’s own Uno Alla Volta locally made Cottage Cheese with amazingly scrumptuious results!)
1 DOLE® Banana, peeled
1-1/2 tsp. grated lemon peel
1/2 tsp. local honey
8 toasted whole grain baguette slices
1-1/4 cups sliced DOLE Strawberries
1 cup DOLE Spring Mix
1-1/2 tablespoons Honey Balsamic Dressing (see below)
1 Tbsp. sliced almonds

Combine together ricotta cheese and banana. Stir in grated lemon peel and honey.  Spread ricotta mixture over toasted baguette slices and shingle sliced strawberries on top.  Tuck several spring mix greens under strawberry slices, securing them on the toast.  Drizzle with honey balsamic dressing and sprinkle with sliced almonds.

Honey Balsamic Dressing: Whisk together 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, 1 teaspoon honey and 1 tsp. chopped Green Onion. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Finally, you may have noticed that the drink recipes all call for almond milk. Lots of good brands on the market, but even more fun to make you own and here is my recipe for how to do it. For Chef Mark Allison’s Salad Sipper and Cafe Banana Frappe Recipes just use your almond milk unsweetened, but for regular drinking or in other recipes fro baking or smoothies you might want to sweeten or flavor it slightly with vanilla or local honey.

Make Your Own Almond MilkMake It Yourself Almond Milk

1 cup raw organic almonds

2 cups filtered water

Soak the almonds in water overnight at room temperature or for up to 2 days in the refrigerator. The longer they soak, the creamier your final product will be. Drain and rinse the soaked almonds and place them in a blender. Add 2 cups of filtered water to cover. Blend on high speed for 2-3 minutes. Strain the mixture through a cheesecloth lined fine strainer. Sweeten to taste – or not. Fresh made almond milk will keep int he refrigerator for up to 2 days.

Keep the leftover almonds by drying them in a dehydrator  ( as per the instructions that come with your unit) or in low over for several hours and then using them in any recipe as almond meal or grind the dried almond meal for your own almond flour.

 

 

 

Tomato Time

Tomato TimeFresh off the VineFor years – honestly,  more summer seasons than I would like to admit –  I have  tried to grow my own produce. Nothing big, mind you, just some patio tomatoes, a few cucumbers and maybe a melon or two. A couple of seasons ago I finally decided to admit defeat.

I still do plant in my raised bed garden and patio pots each season, but now its really more for the fun of it than the anticipation of any great harvest. Tomatoes, in particular have seemed to be my nemesis.

After buying the plants, the potting soil, the lime so the soil will be well balanced, the food, the stakes, the natural bug spray so I wouldn’t get bitten while I was out planting, and all of the stuff to keep the squirrels and other  critters away, I figured that any tomatoes I might be lucky enough to harvest without the dreaded circle of black bottom rot that seems to appear overnight would wind up costing about $50 a piece, to say nothing of what the maintenance and upkeep of the cucumber and melon plants might run me. While I guess I could say that the process does prove therapeutic; I just finally  decided it’s just easier, cheaper and frankly much more fun to make a regular trip’s to any one of our areas fine local farmer’s markets  and buy from growers who know what they are doing.

To that end, my purple thumb and I have retired from the vegetable garden business and have spent this summer season resigned to the kitchen where we seem to know what we are doing. These mid to late-summer months find us at the height of the season for an abundance locally grown tomatoes, cucumbers, corn, melons, squash, zucchini, eggplant and berries and I am having a ball with the abundant harvest. Today we’ll leave the other veggies for another post and concentrate on my love of local tomatoes..

I think I could eat fresh picked ripe and ready tomatoes everyday till the season has passed and still not tire of the flavor. So many ways to prepare them it’s uncanny; but then you could can (or freeze) and have that fresh off the vine flavor for cooking all year round.

You Say Tomat-ah, I say Tomato Sandwich and Tomato Pie

tomato sandwichToday I share my favorite recipe for Tomato Pie, as recently seen on the WCNC broadcast of Charlotte Today.  But before you slice and bake, though, don’t miss one of summers greatest pleasures – the unadulterated old fashioned ‘mater sandwich – a classic for sure.

Don’t even think of adding sliced turkey, roast beef or a leaf of lettuce to this one. The classic recipe calls only for two slices of soft white bread dressed with a little mayo ( Your choice of brands, but I’m a Duke’s gal). Sandwich thick slices of firm but ripe tomato seasoned with a little salt and pepper in between and have at it. If you have really gotten it right, you’ll have to lean over the kitchen sink to eat it as the tomatoes will be so ripe and juicy, that has you take each bite the juices will run from your mouth and hands down to your elbows – consider it a rite of passage of eating your first  (or your 100th) tomato sammy of the season..

For a little more elaborate sandwich, use whole grain bread, spread with homemade  pesto and layered with thick slices of ripe tomato and locally made Uno Alla Volta mozzarella cheese in between. To turn this sandwich into a summer comfort food, wrap it in foil and warm it in a 300 degree oven for about 15 minutes or so.

tomatoes and uno alla volta cheeseMarinate tomatoes for full-flavored summer salads. Use your favorite vinegar based dressing or  make your own by combining a half cup or so each of red and balsamic vinegars seasoned with a couple of tablespoons of local honey,  one quarter cup of fresh minced basil leaves and a small minced shallot. Layer the tomatoes in a shallow glass or plastic dish,  top with the vinaigrette, season to taste with salt and pepper, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for three to four hours. Serve over a bed of crisp greens or toss with fresh sliced Kirby cucumbers and enjoy.

This summer has proved to be a season to indulge, as my friends Zack and Victoria Gadberry have added a new hand crafted cheese to their line up of  already fabulous locally made artisan mozzarella, ricotta, buratta and feta cheeses – behold, local Uno Alla Volta Cheese Cottage Cheese. I swooned at first taste. We all know the joyful burst of flavor to be found in the combination of mozzarella and tomatoes – but just try a ripe and ready-to-slice local love apple with Uno Alla Volta Cottage cheese – my oh my!

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Cottage Cheese Pie By Chef Matthew Krenz The Asbury at the Dunhill Hotel in Charlotte, NC

Must give credit where credit is do – Chef Matthew Krenz at The Asbury at the Dunhill in Charlotte, NC is the first to ask Zack to make cottage cheese and even provided him with the recipe. Zack has made it his own and Matthew often features this new cheese  of the summer season on The Asbury’s menu – go to The Asbury and look for Krenz’s cottage cheese pie on the menu this summer season – its a keeper for sure! When you go to The Asbury , be sure to tell them Heidi sent you!

Aside from pairing them with cheeses of all sorts, tomatoes go great on the grill as well – use firm but still ripe tomatoes and a grill grid, so nothing will fall through the cracks. Slice the tomatoes thick and grill for a minute or two on each side or until the surface starts to char a bit. No need to add any olive oil prior to grilling, save any dressings for after the tomatoes are cooked. Serve the grilled tomatoes, just as they are, chopped and stirred into your favorite gazpacho recipe, topped with grated parmesan, tossed in salads or in the Tomato Pie recipe below for a slightly richer taste.  Grilled charred tomatoes also do well chopped and combined with grilled onions, jalapenos, grilled corn, grilled red bell peppers, salt, pepper and lime juice for a terrific grilled summer salsa – ole!

But on to matters at hand, my recipe for tomato pie. You’ll find a link to the video at the end of this post, so you may want to watch before you cook, but the recipe is an easy one…and technique is little more than layering. Use any variety of local and just harvested tomato that you would like, slice or chop. I love the  vodka pie crust recipe I have included below, but if you want a store bought one to make things easier, I recommend the Immaculate Baking Company’s organic refrigerated crust. Love that it is organic – always nice, and important, to know what is in the food we eat.

Heidi Billotto's Tomato Pie

 

Heidi’s Taste of Summer Tomato Pie

Recipe by Charlotte Culinary Expert Heidi Billotto

Pie crust recipe for a 1 crust pie ( see below)

3-4 firm but ripe local tomatoes cut into thick slices, or use small chopped tomatoes, or a combo of both 

fresh locally grown basil

Fine grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Panko Crumbs

1 local egg ( I used Rowlands Row Family Farm eggs here, available from The Queens Pantry at the Atherton Farmers’ Market)

1 local egg yolk

1 cup local whole milk or heavy cream ( Homeland Dairy Milk again from the Queen City Pantry at the Atherton Farmers’ Market)

Roll the pie crust out to 1/4 inch thickness and fit into a 9-inch French false-bottomed tart pan. Layer tomatoes basil, grated Parmesan and Panko crumbs in the crust until you come to the top – finish with a layer of Tomatoes. Combine the eggs and milk, Pour the custard into the filled pie shell. Top with shredded basil, Panko crumbs and cheese. Carefully place the pan on a baking sheet and bake the pie in a preheated 350 degree oven for 35-40 mins.

Cool slightly, remove from the pan and cut into wedges. Make your pie ala mode topped with a scoop of Uno Alla Volta cottage cheese ( available on Saturdays at the Matthews Community Farmers’ Market or the Yorkmont Road Charlotte Regional Market, directly from Zack or Victory themselves.  Drizzle with balsamic vinegar before serving. 

If you want to do a Gluten Free version of the same – skip the crust and use finely ground local grits ( you can fine ground stone ground grits in a coffee mill ) and then use them as you would the panko)

Gadberry's Uno Alla Volta Cottage Cheese Tomato PieI’ve used Parmigiano-Reggiano in the recipe here – not a local cheese, of course, unless you are from Parma Italy; but obviously one of the best. Feel free to substitute any kind of local cheese -If you are in the Carolinas, Uno Alla Volta regular or smoked mozzarella, Ashe County cheddars, Clemons Blue cheese, and Bosky Acres Feta cheese all work well – as does the Uno Alla Volta cottage cheese and I am proud to say my television spot even inspired the cheese makes to get creative with there own cottage cheese tomato pie – just take a look at these photos I received by text from Zack Gadberry last night – yum!

Easy Vodka Pie Crust

– Its the Vodka that keeps it light and flaky – who knew??

2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour

1 tsp  salt

1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch slices

1/2 cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into 4 pieces

1/4 cup cold vodka

1/4 cup cold water
Use a food processor fitted with the metal blade to pulse together  flour and salt. Add butter and shortening and process until blended just the dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, but there is no trace of the flour.

Add the cold vodka and cold water over mixture. Pulse again with the processor just until the dough forms a ball. Remove from the bowl. Divide dough into two even balls and flatten each into 4-inch disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days, the roll out to 1/4 inch thickness and use in your favorite pie recipe.

video graphicHere is the link to the video Always so much fun cooking on Charlotte Today. Thanks to guest host Ramona Holloway and host Eugene Robinson for making this segment so much fun. And as a bonus – here is the link to a related blog post from this site with a recipe for Fried Green Tomatoes so much fun to cook with all of this seasons bountiful harvest!

 

Summertime and the Grilling is Easy

HEIDI BILLOTTO FOODWith Fourth of July weekend on the horizon, I know many of you will be grilling for the holiday celebration. Wanted to take this post to share one of my favorite grilled recipes: Bistecca Fiorentina.  Also called Bistecca alla Fiorentina or Bistecca Florentine, it is the signature charcoal-grilled steak of Italy’s Tuscan region. I consider myself fortunate to have tasted “the real thing” in perhaps the most perfect of settings in a small Tuscan walled city while on a tour of Tuscany with my friend Nada Vergili of Nada’s Italy several years ago.

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The view of the moon rising over the horizon in Tuscany as we enjoyed our 2011 true Italian “steak night” and my first taste of Bistecca Fiorentina

As food memories go, this one is a favorite – we dined at sunset, on the restaurant’s outdoor patio, a roof of tiny white lights the only thing separating us from the soon-to-be starlit sky. The view was perfect, the company divine and the food, oh the food. The precursor to the steak was a pasta course of blue cheese, pear and walnut ravioli and I can still taste it melting in my mouth, but that recipe I will save for another day – on to the grilling.

For authentic Bistecca one must grill over hot charcoals and must use a cut of beef from Italian cattle called Chianina, perhaps one of the oldest breeds of cattle originally raised in the  Chiana region of Tuscany.  In addition to being one of the oldest breeds in the world, it is also one of the largest, so it follows that steaks cut from the Chanina cows are also quite large. The cut used for authentic bistecca is  the porterhouse , a large, thick cut of a t-bone that separates a full tenderloin round from the top sirloin steak we call a New York Strip. In Italy these large porterhouses are massive and will feed a crowd.

IMG_2194Short of being in Italy with access to the breed of Chianina beef, this recipe is worth seeking out a porterhouse of high quality, trimmed beef – the steak I have pictured here came from The Peach Stand in Ft Mill SC, where they have a specialty butcher shop full of a wonderful selection of Certified Angus Beef Brand and local grass fed beef. In determining how much steak you will need for your Get-Your -Grill-On Crowd, know that, generally speaking, a porterhouse is plenty for 2 ,maybe 3, to share.

As with most cooking in Italy, this classic recipe is written as it should be, to simply bring the flavor to the beef to the forefront. To that end, ingredients here are few and of very high quality. Excellent olive oil, high quality salt and pepper and fresh cut rosemary are all it takes. If you have a charcoal grill ( set to burn with real chemical-free charcoal – no lighter fluid, please) you’ll get the addition of the fabulous flavor the charcoal adds to your crusty sear, as they do in Italy; but if you are without charcoal, don’t dismay,  this recipe is also delicious done over a gas flame or in a pinch in a grill pan on your cooktop.

IMG_2196Prepare the steak ahead of time, giving the flavors of the olive oil, salt, pepper and rosemary enough time to blend and penetrate the beef. I like to rub the steaks with a salt and pepper blend of coarse pink Himalayan salt and a pepper blend I grind myself and aptly have dubbed Heidi’s Hot Pepper Blend. I purchase the pink Himalayan salt and a trio or peppercorns: Lampong, Tellicherry and Reunion Pink Peppercorns from my go-to spice source, the Savory Spice Shop in SouthEnd Charlotte. If you can’t remember the names of the peppercorns I  use for my blend, no worries, Just go in and ask for the pepper Heidi uses and Amy, Scott or any of their very knowledgeable staff will get you just what you need. I grind the peppercorns ( equal parts of each variety) until they are a course mix in my coffee grinder with no worries about spicy coffee the next day.

To clean the grinder, simply follow the peppercorns with a tablespoon of coffee beans.  Here is all you have to do: once you have ground the pepper, take it out of the grinder,  and set it aside for your recipe or future use – I usually grind about a third of a cup at a time. Once all of the ground pepper is out of the grinder, add in a tablespoon of any whole bean or ground coffee. Let the grinder run for a minute or so and then discard that batch of ground coffee. Here is how it works, the coffee acts like a filter and will clean the taste and aroma of the peppercorns – or any other whole spice – from the grinder. No need for a separate spice grinder at all!

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As for the olive oil, select a fruity flavorful variety. I frequently pull my favorites from the current harvest selection at Pour Olive on East Blvd, but have also recently discovered another great Greek variety of oil locally bottled by a family in Waxhaw, NC.   Olive Crate’s wonderful organic  late harvest extra virgin, eco-sustainable Kores Olive oil comes from Greek Manaki olives grown by their family in Greece. The oil as well as a selection of vinegars can be found at the Saturday morning Waxhaw Farmers’ Market as well as at the charming little farm store at Grace Roots Farm on Providence Road, less than a mile from the Waxhaw market location. The flavor of this Greek oil is superb – do check them out!

Time to Get your Grill On…

IMG_2202Now that you’ve got everything you need, lets get back to the prep and the grilling. Its easy-peasy from here and you’ll never grill a steak any other way. For those who don’t eat beef, I’ve also had excellent results using the same technique with salmon. In fact in anticipation of writing this post and my coordinating segment on Charlotte Today, my husband Tom and I enjoyed my version of Salmon Fiorentina just last night with a side of local Tom Thumb potatoes from New Town Farms, beens from Tega Hill Farm and first of the summer tomatoes from A Way of Life Farm all tossed with a bit of the Kores Olive oil and my homemade pesto.

IMG_2198Marinate the salmon, the same way as the beef – chop the rosemary together with the salt and pepper to make a rub and rub it into the top side of the fish fillet, or onto both sides of the porterhouse.  Add the olive oil  and rub over the fish or beef as well. Allow to sit for at least an hour for the fish – best overnight in the fridge for the beef, or if you forget to do it the night before, at least of couple of  hours unrefrigerated;  and then simply put the steak or fish on the grill. Cooking times and temperatures follow.

Heidi’s Bistecca or Salmon Fiorentina

4 long sprigs of fresh rosemary, stripped and minced

5-6 sprigs of fresh Thyme leaves, stripped and minced ( optional, not a part of the traditional recipe, but a flavorful addition)

1 ( 2 1/2 lb.) porterhouse steak or wild salmon filet

1/4 ( or less) cup your favorite extra virgin olive oil

coarse pink sea salt and Heidi’s pepper blend to taste

2 lemons cut into wedges

Rub the steak or salmon with a mix of the fresh herbs and drizzle with a bit of olive oil. Allow to marinate a room temperature for at least 1 hour. Season steak ofr salmon to taste with salt and pepper.

Grill -preferable over charcoal 5-10 mins per side for the steak depending on your desired degree of doneness, or use the “10-minute” rule for the fish – 10 minutes over a hot flame for each inch of thickness.

Dress both steak and fish with a quick squirt of lemon and serve garnished with fresh rosemary…enjoy! It really is that easy!

video graphic

 

To go along with this post you can watch the television version of the recipe in my monthly cooking segment on WCNC’s Charlotte Today, originally filmed the morning of June 30, 2016 at 11:29 am. In case you missed the original air time, here is the link to the video of the Bistecca Fiorentina Cooking segment, enjoy!

Superbowl 50: The Party of the Year!

Heidi's football shotAsk anyone who knows me well and they’ll tell you  – even though I can dress the part – as evidenced in the photo here, I really don’t know much about the game of football. That said  I do know how to throw  party and I love a theme! This year with the Carolina Panthers in the Superbowl its time for the party of the year!

If you live in or around Charlotte, the Carolina’s Panther themed stuff is not a hard find, particularly this week. Jerseys, blankets, flags and all sort of ways Panther fans can strut their stuff and express their pride in the home team is to be found on nearly every street corner in town. For even more of a selections local fans can check out the team store at the stadium; and those out of town can place orders online.

What to serve to your arm chair quarterbacks is always a dilemma, but it shouldn’t be – the formula here is easy: keep it simple, filling and good. Wings, BBQ, a sandwich platter or always good-tos, but today I think I’ve got something even better…

The classic recipe for Chicken pot pie is a crowd pleaser and one that transforms beautifully into stunning Superbowl fare ( particularly when its served with the “out of the pie pan and into the helmet” approach I shared on the video that will accompany this  post.

On Feb 3 at 11 am I’ll prepare the recipe below from start to presentation on WCNC’s Charlotte Today, but thought those of you who subscribe to my blog might want the recipe ahead of my broadcast.  You can make it your own by creating a pork, beef, seafood or veggie version of the same.

video graphic

 

Later today I’ll update this post with photos and links to the video, and then will post it out to the public via social media – so you’ll want to check back for the rest of the story, but for now – here’s what I’ll be cooking on WCNC’s Charlotte Today this morning, Tune it at 11 am!

 

 

Perfect Chicken (pork, beef, seafood or veggie) Pot Pie

-a classic recipe you can put your own spin on and have crowd pleasing results every time…

4 tablespoons butter

5 tablespoons organic flour

2 1/2 cups rich chicken beef or vegetable broth (make the broth rich by taking 5 cups of broth + 2 carrots, a bay leaf and a small onion and reducing it with a slow simmer to one half the volume)

2 tablespoons fresh minced thyme leaves

Sea salt and Heidi’s pepper blend

1/2 cup organic or local heavy cream or half-and-half or whole milk

6 cups cooked chicken, beef, pork or seafood, sliced or shredded

1/2 pound sliced fresh mushrooms, sautéed

2 cups  artichoke hearts from a can or jar, drained ( you may use marinated or unmarinated as you would like)

6 local or organic carrots, sliced

1 recipe for Vodka Pie Crust or 2 rounds of your favorite organic refrigerated pie crust (see below)

Melt the butter and whisk in the flour in a medium sized saucepan. Cook the “roux” until well blended. Gradually whisk in the rich broth, then season to taste with salt and pepper. Add cream. Stir to blend well.

Add the chicken, mushrooms artichokes and carrots. Pour the filling into a buttered 13 x 9″ pan.   For the crust use strips of pie crust over the top of the casserole shaped into in a basket weave pattern. Bake for 35 minutes in the preheated 400° oven.

Vodka Pie Crust

Makes enough for one 9-inch double-crust pie

2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp.  sugar
12 Tbsp. (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/2 cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into small bits
1/4 cup cold vodka
1/4 cup cold water

Process 1 1/2 cups flour, salt, and sugar in food processor until combined, about 2 one-second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 15 seconds .

Scrape bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade. Add remaining cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into medium bowl.

Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together. Divide dough into two even balls and flatten each into 4-inch disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.

 

 

 

 

5 Cool Places to Put on Your Dining Out Radar

HEIDI BILLOTTO FOODTiz the time of the year for lists  and count downs. Today, I offer you my dear readers, a quick catch up on a blog post that never posted – originally presented as “Where to Eat Once the Thanksgiving Leftovers Are Gone” it is now  ” 5 Cool Places to Put On Your Dining Out Radar” this week, this weekend and into the new year.

I originally presented this list on my November  “Five Faves” Restaurant segment on Charlotte’s WCNC’s Charlotte Today  the day before Thanksgiving – but just in case you missed it; or in case you were elbow deep in apple pie fixin’s and couldn’t write anything down; or if perhaps you have just been waiting for me to get it all down  in writing…here are all the details.

On the list for this post … Two fine, fun and family friendly new spots to check out in Pizzeria Omaggio and Tamarind Fine Cuisine of India; and tasty Take and Bake suggestion in The Scone Shop; an old favorite in Fork Restaurant in Cornelius and a taste of Japanese food and drink from Yama Izakaya.

First in the line up for this segment is a new Indian restaurant in town, Tamarind Fine Cuisine of India.

Located in  Matthews Festival Shopping Center  at 10416 E Independence Blvd. in Matthews NC   Tamarind is open for lunch and dinner 6 days a week. Closed on Mondays.  You can call for take out or make reservations at 704.841.8979.

tamarind indianTamarind is a dream come true for chef and owner Bhim Thapa. My husband Tom and I first met Bhim when he was a waiter at Blue Taj in Ballantyne. Then we followed Bhim to Persis Indian also in the Ballantyne area; here Bhim was a manager and helped to get Persis off to a great start.   I consider Blue Taj and Persis both excellent Indian restaurants, worthy of your dining out consideration when you are in the SouthCharlotte/Ballantyne area; but I digress…

All along, through the years that we have known Bhim, we knew it was his dream to open his own restaurant. The native of Nepal is quite versed in cooking in general and int he  cuisine of India in particular. At Tamarind, he finally has a venue to share his talent, his knowledge and his passion.

He plays with flavors and technique, presenting Southern Indian spices and flavors cooked in the manner of Northern Indian Cuisine and visa versa. The results are really quite spectacular. One of our favorite dishes is the cauliflower entree I shared on the show – a dish created by Bhim – he says its one of his most popular.  Pair that with a sensational  whole wheat flatbread stuffed with spinach and  fenugreek leaf and you have a truly spectacular meal.

A host of new found favorites will await you at Tamarind Fine Cuisine of India located in Matthews NC

A host of new found favorites will await you at Tamarind Fine Cuisine of India located in Matthews NC

I joked during the segment, that while most chefs I feature on these monthly restaurant segments give me drawings and details of how the food should look on the plate, Bhim gave me a dictionary and a lesson in the culinary language of India.

Once you understand, you’ll get the info on what is in every dish. No worries though, you don’t need a dictionary to enjoy. Between dishes Bhim steps out of the kitchen as he can, to meet and greet customers, explain his philosophy and educate consumers on the cuisine of his homeland.   Go to Tamarind soon, and in addition to the mix of Indian flavors,  look for more Nepalese specials on the menu as we roll into 2016.

In the meantime, here is what I suggest for your first time out… as seen on the show – Gobi (Cauliflower) Matar (Chickpeas) Paneer (Cheese) Keema (Minced) a delicious blend of spice roasted minced cauliflower with chickpeas and cheese served over basmati rice – truly outstanding; and Palak (Spinach) Methi (Fenugreek) Paratha (whole wheat flout)  – some of the best tandoor baked bread ever! For more info follow Tamarind on Instagram and Facebook and visit TamarindMatthews.comTamarind Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

iphone Nov 30 2015 1459Next, a new Pizzeria in midtown at the Metropolitan, Pizzeria Omaggio  – a great find for a quick, well done lunch or dinner. 1055 Metropolitan Ave is the address, but this great little place is actually located streetside directly across from Target. Call 704.370.0777  for to go orders and catering questions.

I must admit I found this little place first on some other writer’s list, but then, ever in search of a good pie, I had to go in and see it for myself. These are individual sized pizzas made the way they do them in Italy. Great dough and high quality ingredients make for a crispy oven baked crust with a line up of toppings that range from the traditional to a bit more unusual –

compdining battle of champions 1074 My three favorites (so far) include the blue cheese and pear – ask for a bit of arugula to top it off and its heaven on a plate!  The Reggina Margherita is a delightful no meat offering perfect when you are craving the classic combo of tomato and basil; and for the meat lover, might I suggest the Abruzzo, made with delicious homemade meatballs, fresh mushrooms and pecorino Romano cheese. Ah yes!

Salads here are fresh and delicious and made with love, as are the soups and varieties of Panini. In particular, I loved the eggplant tower appetizer and the Sicilia Italian sandwich on ciabatta, stuffed with balsamic marinated eggplant, melted mozzarella, roasted red peppers, fresh arugula and a red pepper aioli. Served with Rosemary potato chips is the bomb.Pizzeria Omaggio Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Dine in or take out – you’re gonna love it! Prego, Prego! For more info and to see the entire menu, visit PizzeriaOmaggio.com or follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter

For A taste of Japanese and the very best selection of sake in town, turn to Yama Izakaya, located in Plaza Midwood at  1324 Central Ave  704.910.6387

yama izakaya storefrontIzakaya is the sister restaurant to Yama Asian Fusion, located at 720 Governor Morrison  across from the SouthPark area EarthFare.  704.295.0905. While Yama is more a standard Japanese restaurant and sushi bar, Izakaya  are Japanese taverns of a sort. A place to go after work for a beer or sake and some snacks.

In Charlotte, Yama Izakaya serves Japanese bar food, but make know mistake, these are not your mommas chicken wings – instead everything at Yama Izakaya, as at Yama, is done to the nines –  its a wonderful place to dine and fill up on all the little plates of ramen (noodles) served in a housemade slow cooked broth,  Yakatori (grilled skewers), sushi, sashimi and more.

iphone Nov 30 2015 1462Both restaurants are owned by Birdie Yang. Birdie and his dad Larry, originally brought the Yama concept to Charlotte in 2007. Larry  a trained sushi chef and Birdie, who knows sake like few people in the world  – in fact he holds a the highest degree in sake there is:  the Advanced Sake Professional certification issued  by Japan’s Sake Education Council.  Yang is one of fewer than 100 ASPs in the world and he is happy to share his knowledge and the incredible assortment of delicious sake at both of the Yama restaurants. We order a different bottle each time we go for sushi  and Birdie has never steered us wrong.Yama Izakaya Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

For more information, follow Yama and Yama Izakaya on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter or visit YamaIzakaya.com 

forkNext a little place in Cornelius, you’ve heard me talk about a lot lately, Fork!  located at 20517 N Main St in a restored old house in Cornelius, NC, just north of Charlotte proper.  Call 704.655.7465 for reservations and do check out their New Year’s Eve dinner menu as well

Chef Tim Groody takes his cuisine from Farm to Fork, quite literally, sourcing from dozens of local farms throughout the year. You can read all about Tim, his philosophy of cooking and sourcing from local farms in the winter issue of Charlotte Living magazine, on newstands soon. In the meantime follow this link, to the online flip book (you’ll find the Fork! story in my culinary section on the flipbook’s page 59).

Fork! is perfect for dinner, but as I mentioned in this televised segment, don’t pass up the wonderful Sunday brunch. A great way to celebrate the joys of loving local at the beginning of each and every week.  Follow Tim Groody and Fork! on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter or visit ForkDining.comFork! Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Finally this post, a take and bake Charlotte offering you simply must keep on hand. If you follow me on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, you know I love to promote local product; so, here you go –  from-scratch scones from Charlotte’s own The Scone Shop.

iphone Nov 30 2015 1467These fresh made and frozen scones are the brainchild of Charlottean Feilding Williams, who sells her tasty creations in 14 locations across the Carolinas including Whole Foods in Charlotte at SouthPark and in Lake Norman; and the Central Avenue location of Healthy Home Market.

The dough is frozen and scored into 8 sweet wedges or 12 savory wedges. No defrosting necessary, baking them is as easy as cutting them up, placing them on a baking sheet and popping them in the oven. 10-15 minutes later – viola! The Scone Shop scones come in 4 sweet varities and two savory flavors including  Cinnamon Chip, Chocolate Cinnachip, Cranberry Orange, and spinach feta. it is enough to simply say I am addicted and there are two packages in my freezer ready  for New Year’s Day guests, even as I write this!

You can read more about The Scone Shop is the winter issue of Charlotte Living magazine, sorry it’s another shameless plug, I know – but the flip book for the winter issue is up online and you’ll find an adorable photo of Feilding and  The Scone Shop story on page 64 in the flipbook   read it all by clicking here once you finish up with this post.

Meanwhile I suggest you try the Bacon Cheddar Scone  found exclusively at the ebar Internet Cafe at ebar at Nordstrom Southpark.  ebar offers freshly baked Cranberry Orange Scone Shop Scones as well – both sweet and savory varieties are fresh baked each morning, ready to eat with your favorite ebar beverage. You can also find The Scone Shop scones, fresh baked and ready to enjoy offered at the cafeteria at Carolina’s Medical Center Main at 1000 Blythe Blvd. in Charlotte.

To find out more about The Scone Shop and to put your information on Feilding’s direct email mailing list, visit TheSconeShop.com

On set talking restaurants with Charlotte Today's Colleen Odegaard and guest co host Ramona Holloway

On set talking restaurants with Charlotte Today’s Colleen Odegaard and guest co host Ramona Holloway

Now that you are done reading – watch it all up close and personal. Here is the link to the video from the Charlotte Today segment – have fun – we did – and then come back to the blog to reference the details….

Charlotte Today FIVE FAVE November Restaurant Segment

After the show 

kids bestAs I do each of these restaurant segments on WCNC’s Charlotte Today, I always think it would be fun to film what happens after the show airs. We gather up all the food I’ve featured and everyone in the studio gathers round for a taste of this and that. Here two young viewers, the sons of one of this day’s guests, asked to hang around after their dad’s interview was over so they could taste the pizza – always my pleasure to share!

Cheers! and stay tuned for my first Restaurant Roundup of 2016 on Charlotte Today with hosts, and my buds, Colleen Odegaard and Eugene Robinson on January 8, 2016 at 11 am  – see you then when I’ll have 5 more cool spots that simply must be on your dining radar! Don’t Miss It!

 

Holiday 2015 Wine and Dine

HEIDI BILLOTTO FOOD

Just in the St. Nick of time, I’m here with a recap of my December restaurant segment on Charlotte’s WCNC’s Charlotte Today… read on for details and then watch the video of the December 19 spot using the link  at the end of this post – Thanks to Colleen Odegaard, Eugene Robinson, Natalie Ridley, Arve Byrd, Kim Thomas, Matt Hammond and Mary Alvarez and the team at Charlotte Today for making these monthly restaurant recommendation segments so much fun! And a special thanks to my wonderful husband, Tom Billotto who is always there on set – helping me set up the shots, and who keeps the food moving during the actual taped segment.   Cant wait to plan more for 2016, but first, lets talk about the next two week….

Lots of food and cooking going on this week and next –  here are five places I think can help you ease through the rest of the 2015  holiday season.

Lets start with a breakfast option – good for the holidays or anytime of the year…

Storefront of Brookyn Water Bagels at Ballantyne Commons East

Storefront of Brookyn Water Bagels at Ballantyne Commons East

Brooklyn Water Bagels  – Located at 15105 John J Delaney Blvd in the Ballantyne Commons East shopping Center; Open  6am – 3 pm   – New York’s borough of Brooklyn is the hot new food place to be; but fortunate for us in Charlotte, we don’t need to take a trip to the Big Apple to get the same wonderful bagels.  You see, when it comes to making bagels (traditionally prepared by boiling the round loops of dough first and then baking them) its all about the water.  They say that NY City water is some of the finest in the country – that’s because it comes from the Catskill Mountains.

bagels BWB

Nothing beats a perfectly made bagel – baked fresh each morning

So to make bagels like the ones you’ll get in Brooklyn, you need to have water like they have in Brooklyn and the fine folks at Brooklyn Water Bagels have figured out how to make it happen. These bagels are the real deal – made with specially filtered water that not only goes into the bagel preparation, but into the coffee and all the beverages as well.

At Brooklyn Water Bagel, Coffee Ice Cubes make a regular Iced Coffee a "Cubsta"

At Brooklyn Water Bagel, Coffee Ice Cubes make a regular Iced Coffee a “Cubsta”

Not to miss – the coffee ice cubes that come when you order a “Cubsta” iced coffee and the chocolate egg creams made with Fox’s U-Bet seltzer. Both are exceptional and the latter may be  my new favorite carbonated beverage.

In addition to the house blended cream cheese, and bagel sandwiches for breakfast or lunch,  try the Bagel Bites, as a great way to have a taste of it all the BWB varieties.  Holiday entertaining note: these bagel bites also make for exceptionally cute appetizers at your holiday party served with smoked salmon or smoked trout of your choice or BWB white fish salad.

If you don’t trust my opinion on the quality of these fabulous bagels, know that BWB now makes all the bagels served at Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge –delivered fresh baked each morning. To pass the mustard of the likes of Chefs David Moore, Ben Kallenbach and Michael Rayfield, you know I’m not pulling your chain.

Like the bagels and the U-Bet seltzer Egg Creams, the Black and White cookies at Brooklyn Water Bagels are the real deal!

Like the bagels and the U-Bet seltzer Egg Creams, the Black and White cookies at Brooklyn Water Bagels are the real deal!

After the  bagel and the beverages,  authentic cake like, perfectly iced Black and White cookies are a must. Plenty of room to dine in or you can take out, of course; but if you stay and sit a while, you can enjoy another taste of old time Brooklyn culture by enjoy the reruns of Jackie Gleason’s classic – The Honeymooners while you eat. If I had one suggestion for Brooklyn Water Bagels, it would be to turn down the music and turn up the sound on the video – nothing like the fun and laughter these old reruns bring to the table.

 

Next up you’ll surely want to be wining and dining this week and next, or want to give a gift of a great bottle or two. Time to make a toast to the year that has gone by, the year that is to be, and the holiday season in between.  No where better to cover your bases on all angles than at the new location of

Foxcroft wine co barFoxcrefot wine co logoFoxcroft Wine Company  now in  Dilworth at  Kenilworth Commons Shopping as well as in their original SouthPark location at  7824 Fairview Rd.  The new location is taking the Dilworth Neighborhood by storm. The retail operation and wine bar Open 10 am to 11 pm; the kitchen opens at 5

This is the perfect place to celebrate with 40 something wines by the glass, hundreds by the bottle;  and while there is a fair share of beef, chicken and fish on the menu, I love and appreciate the fact that there are also great vegetarian and vegan entrees and well.

Turffled french fries and some of the best Brussels Sprouts in town are both a great way to start the evening at Foxcroft Wine Co.

Truffled french fries and some of the best Brussels Sprouts in town are both a great way to start the evening at Foxcroft Wine Co.

The flat breads are a divine way to start, and whatever you order by sure to add on  the French Fries and Brussels Sprouts as sides. My oh my – perfect fried potatoes with a dusting of Parmesan, a drizzle of truffle oil and a truffle aioli on the side for dipping. The sprouts are poached then sautéed with a mix of butternut squash, caramelized onions and a Asian glaze – possibly the best Brussels in the city right now and those may be fighting words…

In season, enjoy the  patio dining… and

Exciting news – and you heard it here first – Foxcroft Wine Co. is upping the bar as one of the two 2015 Competition Dining Charlotte Champs – Chef Brent Martin is joining the culinary team, so along side the talent of Chef Justin Solomon, Shawn Harrison and the rest of this talented culinary team – look for dynamic things to come with the new year.

 

The Speedway Club logoLooking for a fun family holiday tradition to start? Turn to Charlotte Motor Speedway, 5555 Concord Parkway S, Concord, NC, for the biggest light show in town and while you are there enjoy dinner at  The Speedway Club, open during the month of December to the public.  For the majority of the year, this is a members only club; but for the whole month of December the club is open to the public by reservations made by calling 704-455-3216.

The dining rooms at Charlotte Motor Speedway's The Speedway Club - over look the track and this time of year, give diners a birds eye view of the holiday light display.

The dining rooms at Charlotte Motor Speedway’s The Speedway Club – over look the track and this time of year, give diners a birds eye view of the holiday light display.

The cuisine is old country club style dining and I say that in the very best light –  a throw back to classic continental cuisine –excellent crab and lobster cakes with big chunks of lobster, perfectly done steak and a delicious take on fish and grits with a citrusy twist, and a beautiful assortment of desserts – its a back-to-basics old school approach to food in a one-of-a-kind atmosphere. At a recent dinner, as we were in the NASCAR mode, at least for the evening,  we opted to try of the Childress red wines on the menu – both excellent selections.

A delicious take on The Wedge salad from the chefs at The Spedway Club at Charlotte Motor Speedway

A delicious take on The Wedge salad from the chefs at The Speedway Club at Charlotte Motor Speedway

If you are interested in becoming a member and would like to see or know more, contact  GM George Krail who would be happy to help you arrange to come for dinner, holiday time or no for test drive – pun intended, thank you.

This time of year though, the added benefit to enjoying dinner at The Speedway Club is the spectacular holiday light display called “A Speedway Christmas”

speedway Christmas Now through Dec. 30 but closed on Christmas Day, you can enjoy the creative display of  Three Million Lights and  Holiday Music, , a huge infield Christmas Village with photos with Santa, a bustling Bethlehem village, petting zoo, holiday crafts and more  and the unique chance to drive the track, and  Classic Christmas Movies on the 16,000 square foot Big Screen

 

The Speedway Christmas drive-through light show is open nightly from 6 to 10 p.m. through Dec. 30 (closed Christmas Day). Christmas Village is open Thursday through Sunday. The movie schedule includes showings of Frozen Dec 21-24 and Dec 26 and 27 at 8 and 10 pm
For tickets, the pricing is as follows:  Christmas Village open: Thursday & Sunday: $25 per car; $50 per van (max 36); $175 bus (max 57), Friday & Saturday: $30 per car; $50 per van (max 36); $175 bus (max 57), Military Discount: $3 off, Fast Pass: Move to the front of the line with a fast pass for an additional $10 to the above price

Light Show only: $20 per car; $40 per van (max 36 people); $140 per bus (max 57 people), Military Discount: $3 off

Visit www.charlottemotorspeedway.com or call 1-800-455-FANS (3267) for pricing and more information about Speedway Christmas.

I just adore the light and crispy waffle cones at Elizabeth Creamery some of the best I have ever tasted!

I just adore the light and crispy waffle cones at Elizabeth Creamery some of the best I have ever tasted!

During the remainder of the holiday season it’s for sure you’ll be entertaining a bit, and if you are looking for a little homemade ice cream to go with your line up of holiday desserts look no further than Charlotte’s own Elizabeth Creamery.

Elizabeth Creamery, is located at 1535 Elizabeth Ave,directly behind Carpe Diem… 

With so many places to dine in Charlotte now, different places capture our attention at different times. This family owned and operated ice cream parlor came back onto my radar as I was writing an article about the Elizabeth Ave revitalized restaurant row for the new issue of Charlotte Living magazine out before the end of the year.  Owner Sun Jae Kim has been making ice cream in Charlotte since 1996. He believes in simple honest flavors that are steeped in tradition.

All of the ice cream is made fresh on location with the very best ingredients.  And the waffle cones are light and crunchy – they melt in your mouth along with your flavor of choice and are some of the best I have ever eaten…

Three favorite seasonal flavors you simply must try: Mocha, Ginger and Smurf!

Three favorite seasonal Ice cream flavors at Elizabeth Creamery you simply must try: Mocha, Ginger and Smurf!

Elizabeth Creamery is a great stop for a family outing after you drive the neighborhoods to see holiday neighborhood lights – or before or after a ride around through the Elizabeth Ave corridor to Uptown on Charlotte’s only street car in 77 years.

After you’ve enjoyed a cone or two –be sure to take home a pint of your favorite flavors –  perfect for your holiday desserts – try the ginger with a slice of gingerbread, a cinnamon rolls or ginger cookies; or a scoop of mocha in your next cup of hot chocolate! And, just because you’ve gotta love blue food and as a favor for your sweet tooth don’t miss the cotton candy flavored Smurf.

 

 

Here is a platter representing the incredible seafood display you'll find at Christmas morning brunch at Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge

Here is a platter representing the incredible seafood display you’ll find at Christmas morning brunch at Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge

Finally, a banquet at Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge is the perfect destination dining stop and this year a great place to continue on the celebration the holidays with friends and family – once gifts are opened, take a deep breath and relax as the talented Culinary team at Ballantyne Hotel  & Lodge as done the work for you.

Snapper is also on the brunch buffet - prepared here pan seared with parsnip puree, candied pineapple and Spanish onion

Snapper is also on the brunch buffet – prepared here pan seared with parsnip puree, candied pineapple and Spanish onion

The hotel will offer Christmas Brunch on December 25, 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. The elaborate buffet will include a variety of salads, an assortment of cheese and seafood displays, breakfast items, an omelet station, carving station and indigenous desserts. There will be live holiday music. Cost is $75 per person, $35 for children, ages 5-13, and complimentary for children ages 4 and under (pricing does not include tax or 23% service charge). Private dining rooms are available.

Gallery Restaurant will be open for dinner on Christmas Eve and Christmas, 4 p.m. – 9 p.m. The restaurant will feature its regular menu as well as offer a prime rib dinner special.

Reservations are required for dining on Christmas Eve and Christmas. To make a reservation, please call 704-248-4100 or visit www.gallery-restaurant.com.

Be Sure to visit Gingerbread Lane at Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge before the holiday season is over

Be Sure to visit Gingerbread Lane at Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge before the holiday season is over

While you are there visit  the Hotels annual Gingerbread Lane open now through Sunday, December 27. Vote on your favorite entries with $1 minimum donation per vote. All proceeds will benefit Levine Children’s Hospital (LCH), dedicated to caring for the physical and emotional needs of children and their families.

Here I am with the Seafood Platter from Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge in hand, ready to tease the Charlotte Today segment just before a commercial break

Here I am with the Seafood Platter from Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge in hand, ready to tease the Charlotte Today segment just before a commercial break

 

 

 

To see the video with my take on all these December restaurants click here for the segment on Charlotte Today with Hosts and my friends Colleen Odegaard and Eugene Robinson  http://www.wcnc.com/story/entertainment/2015/12/18/take-a-break-from-cooking-and-visit-these-5-restaurants/77567784/

Patio Picks – Do it Dining al Fresco

HEIDI BILLOTTO FOODDining al fresco – the art of eating outdoors is a pleasure that combines casual atmosphere, fresh air, cool breezes and great food and beverage. The venue can range from family style BBQ and picnic tables or even your car at places like BBQ King on Wilkinson Blvd. or Brooks Sandwich House on North Brevard Street to a setting with comfy patio furniture seating at places such as Osso Restaurant and Lounge at the Music Factory and Bonterra Dining and Wine Room in Dilworth.

Lots of restaurants with patios offer opportunities for dining al fresco throughout the year, but late spring, summer and on into early fall is the time we want to enjoy the out of doors as much as we can. So lap up the sunshine or sit in the cool comfort of the summer shade. Join your kids in a game of shuffleboard at the patio at Zada Jane’s in Plaza Midwood while you wait for a table at breakfast or brunch; take in the splendor of our city’s skyline from the highest heights atop the patio at Chef Rocco Whalen’s Fahrenheit Restaurant  at the Hyatt Place Hotel uptown; or enjoy food, wine and occasional music at several eateries or wine shops with outdoor dining and tastings such as Napa on Providence in Eastover; and Vin Masters in SouthEnd.

Alfresco dining in the Queen City can range from large venues, such as the patio at Mimosa Grill, Uptown that over looks the plaza and a bustling sections of Tryon Street to small, much like the patio at Fenwicks on Providence Road,  with just a few tables on the front porch of this neighborhood gathering spot

Great patios to see and be seen abound at local breweries in NoDa; bars and restaurants surrounding the Music Factory; and in shopping “villages” around town where several restaurants might have patios grouped together off a main courtyard as at Ballantyne Village where patios from Mellow Mushroom, Terrace Cafe and Villa Antonio meet; or off South Main Street in Davidson where the back porch patio of the Pickled Peach looks over the patio behind Summit Coffee nestled up to an adjacent playground – on Saturday mornings this “common area” is home to the Davidson Farmers’ market where locavores can enjoy combine their morning coffee al fresco with a little fresh from the farm shopping trip.

Favorite al fresco eats from Toscana, Wolfgang Puck Pizza Bar, Tupleo Honey, The Summit Room and Va da Vie Gelato

Favorite al fresco eats from Toscana, Wolfgang Puck Pizza Bar, Tupleo Honey, The Summit Room and Va da Vie Gelato

Tis the season, indeed, and so my June restaurant segment on WCNC’s Charlotte Today with hosts Colleen Odegaard and Ramona Holloway features five of my favorite places to dine al fresco with some of my favorite summer menu selections as well… enjoy!

toscana logoWe’ll start with what I have always thought to be one of the most romantic patios in town, Toscana, located in Shops on the Park across from SouthPark, 6401 Morrison Blvd. 704.367.1808. Like all of Augusto Conte’s magical restaurants, the menu at Toscana offer high quality fresh made Italian fare and the patio is like sitting off a small village side street in Tuscany. Comfortable seating surrounded by a shrub lined fencing keeps it tight and cozy, A beautiful fountain offers the cool comfort and pleasant sounds of a water feature and  large pots of herbs define the heritage.  In the evenings the open sky view add the romance of moonlight and the stars. One of our favorite dishes at Toscana is the gnocchi, tender potato pillows bathed in a light fresh tomato sauce touched with basil and mozzarella – add a bottle from the well appointed wine list – perfecto! Toscana on Urbanspoon
Wp white logoNot far from Toscana, is Wolfgang Puck’s Pizza bar located in the Phillips Place shopping center 704.295.0101 Charlotte’s WP Pizza Bar is Puck’s flagship Pizza Bar Restaurant and offers  a relaxing getaway from to enjoy lunch and dinner. The patio is off to the side of the restaurant, away from parking and much foot traffic and offers a cozy comfortable place to great place to getaway from it all.  Perfect for business meetings, ladies who lunch or a midday tete-a-tete.  While the menu offers an assortment of appetizers and pasta dishes, for me this place is about the pizza done in Wolfgang’s signature style a la an aromatic wood burning oven.  While Wolfgang himself does occasionally make appearances at the restaurant, day to day it is the talented Chef Scott Whallen and staff who channel Puck’s vision and creative juices into beautiful  and delicious plates for lunch and dinner. We now enjoy WP as our go to after the movies spot and our go to order is the arugula and asparagus salad lightly dusted with grated Parmesan, teamed with any one of the lists of pizzas – our current faves are the mushroom pizza with rubiola cheese and the slightest drizzling of truffle oil and the margarita pizza – simply perfect for the two of us to share. Wolfgang Puck Pizza | Bar on Urbanspoon

Tupel Honey Cafe (Contributed)Next, Tupelo Honey at 1820 South Blvd. 980-225-9167. The restaurant and patio are located on the second level of the historic SouthEnd Building,  take the stairs or the elevator up and the fun begins. The restaurant is full of action and a buzz most of the time, so the patio offers a lovely slightly quieter dining option. Great for families or dinners for two, big overhead fans keep the climate cool and in case of inclement weather their are outdoor curtains drawn to keep the rain away. The vibe at Tupelo is reconstructed Southern and it is exceptionally well done from soup to nuts. Great service and an assortment of wonderful craft cocktails and local beers round out the experience. Must tries this season include the sweet potato pancakes ( breakfast is served whenever you want it at Tupelo), the black bean burger and tofu wings (three cheers for some great vegetarian options), the fabulous Southern Popcorn ( aka fried okra) and the Carolina Mountain Trout with Goat cheese grits – shooo mercy! and Tupelo’s own Brown Butter Pecan Pie.  Look for bar specials on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday ( the least crowded days and nights to dine at this Charlotte favorite); and while you are there shop for cookbooks, Tupelo’s biscuit mix and of course, jars of Tupelo Honey. Tupelo Honey Cafe on Urbanspoon

summit logoThe Summit Room at 1531 East Blvd. 980.237.2227 is one of Charlotte’s newest places to dine al fresco. In a clever and creative move, The Summit Room owners also own the adjacent restaurant The MayoBird and the two dining establishments share this picturesque porch and patio. The MayoBird is open for breakfast and lunch, while The Summit Room with Chef Brent Martin at the helm in the kitchen is open from early afternoon till the wee hours of the evening.

Several years ago the Dilworth Communtiy made it a mission to  drive neighborhood foot traffic with more pedestrian friendly streetside dining. As a result,  many neighborhood places on the boulevard offer patio dining but not many do it better than this. Rocking chairs with side tables on the porch, patio tables in the sun or under umbrellas –  its a great place for everything from power lunches to a glass of wine or tea – with two very different dining concepts. At  The Summit Room, Chef Martin doing some really innovative things with the menu. Love that the menu changes at his whim, with the weather and with the availability of local product. Specials are always great – the hand cut fries are incredible and  my new favorite – a quenelle (or oval shaped scoop) of chicken liver mousse atop a house made waffle with candied and pickled fruit and microgreens is a real winner! The Summit Room on Urbanspoon

va de vie logo

Wendy and John Paglia create nine different varieties of from-scratch gelato, fresh every day

Wendy and John Paglia create nine different varieties of from-scratch gelato, fresh every day

Finally, the newest patio on our list for today, at just a month old, is to be found in the unlikeliest of locations: the center of the Park Road Shopping Center parking lot!  This free standing building  with the little patio offers big flavors inside –flavors like homemade, almond,  pistachio, coffee bean, chocolate hazelnut, lemon ricotto, local strawberry and blueberry and pineapple and mango! It’s all in the guise of homemade gelato at Va da Vie Gelato, 4203 Park Road 980.201.9159  … owners John and Wendy Paglia use all local product to make their Piedmontese style gelato and sorbet. No bases or mixes just local Homeland Dairy milk and cream and real fruit, fair trade coffee, local cheese and imported Italian nuts –  no chemicals or preservatives.  As this product doesn’t travel well – you can’t really take quantities to go – just gotta eat it there and savor the moment.  During the heat of the  day enjoy the cool marble-lined comfort inside; and  in the evening mix and mingle on the patio with friends and neighbors of all ages, comparing flavors and deciding which one you will order next. Va da Vie Gelato on Urbanspoon

 

To watch the restaurant segment that  inspired this blog post and originally aired on WCNC-TV’s Charlotte Today, simply click on the  caption of the photo of Toscana’s beautiful Italian Patio, then go out and enjoy al fresco dining in Charlotte for yourself.

 

 

Get your Grill On – Good-to-Grill tips to get you Going

grilling out shotSpring and Summertime cookouts are a great way to entertain this season and the convenience of a backyard grill offers a healthier way to cook all year round. Just a couple of dos and don’ts will yield fabulous results.

As many of you might realize, this post coordinates with a cooking tip segment originally aired on WCNC’s Charlotte Today on Tuesday May 20, 2014 –  Click here for the link to the video. Everything I talked about on air and more follows in this post – enjoy!

And, so that you can put these tips to action right away I’ve also included one fun seasonal recipes at the end – its homemade ice cream to serve with a bevy of fresh fruit hot off the grill.

But, before dessert, my good-to-grill tips – just one quick read and you are on your way to getting your grill on for 2014!

You can grill almost any vegetable in season - I'm partial to eggplant, zucchini, onions, bell pepper and bite sized grape tomatoes - serve with a drizzling of your favorite balsamic after they come off the grill and pair with some fresh mozzarella or burrata cheese and a loaf of grilled bread and you have the perfect party appetizer

You can grill almost any vegetable in season – I’m partial to eggplant, zucchini, onions, bell pepper and bite sized grape tomatoes – serve with a drizzling of your favorite balsamic after they come off the grill and pair with some fresh mozzarella or burrata cheese and a loaf of grilled bread and you have the perfect party appetizer

First and foremost – don’t place oil-laden foods on a hot grill.

Oil ignites and will burn quickly, so marinate to your heart’s content, but before placing food on a hot grill, pat it dry first, and then cook. Vegetables and fruits grill perfectly fine without the addition of any oil at all. Just salt and pepper and perhaps place smaller things on a non-stick grill grid for perfect results every time.

Do grill chicken, but don’t feel you need to boil it or microwave it first – it will cook perfectly from beginning to end if you follow a few easy steps along the way.

Start by grilling pieces (with or without the skin attached), simply seasoned salt and pepper – I suggest using my favorite coarse pink Himalayan sea salt and my special pepper blend from the Savory Spice Shop in Charlotte’s SouthEnd. Place the chicken on the grill skin side up, boney side down.

 

Grilled chicken pieces without the barbecue sauce finish. Just salt and pepper and about 6-8 minutes on each side over high heat

Grilled chicken pieces without the barbecue sauce finish. Just salt and pepper and about 6-8 minutes on each side over high heat

This will help to help render the fat. By the time you turn the poultry, the fat has cooked down affording less opportunity to flame up. If a piece does start to flame, just take it off the grill and get it out of the way. Do not douse it with water – you will just make a bigger mess.

Don’t marinade raw poultry (or any other meat) in barbecue sauce as the sugar in the sauce will burn on the grill long before the chicken, pork or beef is cooked inside.

Instead, do salt and pepper your favorite cuts and grill on each side over a low to medium flame to cook through and brown slightly – about 4-6 minutes on each side. Then baste the top of each piece with sauce, close the lid of the grill and allow the sauce to cook for 2-3 minutes before you flip. Repeat with the other side. Results will cook up tender, juicy – not charred – barbecued meats and poultry every time.

Grilling a whole chicken is a whole other story, so I’ll save the details on that for a future blog post or a future segment on the Charlotte Today broadcast.

For fish, use the Canadian rule. That’s ten minutes of grilling time for every inch of thickness when you measure the fish fillet or steak at the thickest part. Make sure that the fish is not frozen when you start for best results. Turn the seafood once during the cooking process.

Shimp is most easily grilled when it is double skewered - don't forget to skewer and grill single shrimp for a fun "Shrimp on a Stick" app

Shrimp is most easily grilled when it is double skewered – don’t forget to skewer and grill single shrimp for a fun “Shrimp on a Stick” app

The exception to this rule is shrimp and tuna steaks. Most people like their tuna raw to rare in the middle and seared on the outside, honestly its probably easier to do this indoors in a hot sauté pan with a little high quality extra virgin olive oil or your favorite sesame oil; but it works on the grill too. Just season with salt and pepper and place the steak on a hot grill for a minute or so on each side.
For shrimp, use small thick wooden skewers for best results – soak them in water if you would like, but the truth is if the skewers are thick enough, its so fast that they won’t burn in the time it takes the shrimp to cook. Skewers a servings worth of shrimp at a time – 4-6 in each set and use two skewers instead of just one. This keeps the shrimp flat and easier to turn over with the simply flip of a spatula. You may grill them in or out of the shell – or for a fun hors d’oeuvre you may run a skewer up through a single shrimp and grill it that way then serve with a sauce for dipping – who wouldn’t love shrimp on a stick?

You can marinade if you would like, but I think a sprinkling of high quality salt and flavorful pepper brings out the true taste of the beef

You can marinade if you would like, but I think a sprinkling of high quality salt and flavorful pepper brings out the true taste of the beef

Do season beef and pork with a coarse-grind sea salt or Kosher salt to add flavor but not dry out the meat as finer ground salts tend to do. Flipping burgers and steaks with a spatula or tongs instead of a fork will help to keep a moist juicy texture as well.
You may marinate if you would like. Be sure to pat marinated beef, chicken or fish dry with several thicknesses of paper towels before grilling, remembering that wet product will not brown even on the grill, it will only steam instead.
Once marinated meat has begun to brown, you can continue to baste with the marinade as you cook. Once the cooking is done, toss any leftover marinade.
Timing depends on your desired doneness. For the perfect steaks – start with 4-5 minutes on the first side then turn and cook 3-4 minutes more for rare, 4-6 minutes more for medium rare and, if you must, 8-10 minutes more for well done.

For the perfect London Broil as shown on the Charlotte Today spot – cook it for three minutes over high heat, the turn the meat at an angle to get the look of those professional crossed grill marks and grill for three minutes more. Turn the steak over – with tongs – not with a fork – and repeat the three and three grilling times. Take the meat off the grill; let it rest for 8-10 minutes and then slice at a slight angle. You’ll find the results are perfect and tender every time – with or without the addition of a marinade!

The entire grilled spread from the May 20 2014 segment at WCNC's Charlotte Today

The entire grilled spread from the May 20 2014 segment at WCNC’s Charlotte Today

Finally, don’t put cooked meat back into a marinade that once held raw meat – the result will be a bacteria hey-day Likewise for putting the cooked product on the same serving platter that once held raw meat or fish.
Do use a clean serving plate to bring your grilled goods to the table.

For dessert, who doesn’t love a banana split with homemade ice cream? Putting the bananas on the grill adds a richer toastier taste plus its fun to eat your own banana splits right out of the peel!

The ice cream recipe is for a basic vanilla. If you’d prefer to add another flavor do it right before churning – fresh strawberries, ½ cup of strong coffee, chocolate chips or crumbled Oreos all work well.
To freeze the ice cream without an ice cream freezer, divide the mixture into cupful servings and place each cupful into a pint sized freezer strength zip lock bag. Place the small sealed bag inside one gallon-sized Ziploc bag and then fill the big bag half full of ice and add six tablespoons of rock salt. Seal the bag. Shake for 5-10 minutes or so until the mixture in the small bag freezes and becomes ice cream.

Grilled Banana Splits
Place 4 unpeeled bananas on medium-hot grill; grill 4-5 minutes on each side, until bananas darken and slightly soften. Cut into the peel to expose the banana and serve warm topped with Biscoff, marshmallow fluff and nutella – oh my! Of course you can add ice cream if you would like…

Homemade Ice Cream
2 cups whole organic or local milk
2 Tbsp. vanilla
1 cup organic sugar
6 local egg yolks
1 cup organic or local heavy cream

1, Combine the milk and vanilla.
2, Beat the egg yolks and sugar well, until the mix is thick and almost white.
3. Add the milk to the egg mix. Transfer to a large saucepan. Stir the mixture constantly with a wooden spoon over medium heat until the custard starts to thicken.
4. Remove the pan from the heat; add in heavy cream to the custard and blend well.
5. Cool the mix to room temperature and then transfer the mix to the refrigerator to chill it down completely.
6. Pour the cold custard into the ice cream freezer and freeze according to machine instructions.

Gluten Free Pancakes as seen on WBTV with Kristen Miranda

cropped-heidi-cooks-logo.jpg

WBTV's Kristen Miranda

WBTV’s Kristen Miranda

I’ve LOVE cooking in front of a group, making personal appearances and cooking on television. I am quite fortunate to have regular culinary segments on several Charlotte television stations, among them WBTV.

Heidi on  WBTV circa 2009

Heidi on WBTV circa 2009

I’ve been cooking on WBTV  regularly since 2009 – I used to get up around 4 am to prep and then arrive at the station around 6 am or so in advance of what is usually a 6:20 or 6:30 3 minutes spot, My wonderful husband Tom would always go with me, helping to lug in all the stuff, to set up what sort of kind of looked like a kitchen counter. Even with the early morning hours it was  and still is always great fun!

A couple of years ago, though, I suggested to the WBTV team that it might be easier if we filmed in my home kitchen. While I still go back to the studio every now and again; now, once a quarter or so, Kristen comes to me,  with lights, camera and photographer and we film four cooking spots to air over the next several months. Such was the case last week.

Fresh off the recipe planning for my Gluten Free Gourmet class a couple of weeks ago, I decided that this recipe for Gluten Free Banana Pancakes might be a fun way to start – great recipe, perfect for kids to prep and help make if you are looking for family fun in the kitchen; plus use organic bananas and blueberries, local eggs and Charlotte’s own Cloister Honey and its a practically perfect way to start the day or enjoy as a little late afternoon pick me up or after school snack.

cinnamonTo spice it up a bit – add one teaspoon to one Tablespoon of your favorite cinnamon from the Savory Spice Shop. ( I shop at the SouthEnd location in Charlotte and while I mix and match the trio of cinnamons they offer, I have to admit that the spicy but very flavorful Saigon Cassia Ground Cinnamon might be my favorite to add to this recipe.

bourbon HoneyLikewise you could top the pancakes with any sort of honey, but eating local is important to me, so local honey is my syrup of choice; and in this recipe the Cloister Honey Bourbon Honey pairs well; but Cloister’s whipped cinnamon honey, melted down in the microwave would be every bit as delicious .

For easy flipping, use a non stick pan and a very thin metal spatula and you are good to go – Here’s the printed recipe and the video for WBTV follows, enjoy!

For more info and to order on Cloister Honey from my friends Randall and Joanne Young in Charlotte NC, visit www.cloisterhoney.com

For more info on the Savory Spice Shop Southend, visit my friends Amy and Scott MacCabe at the shop at Atherton Mill, 2000 South Blvd.  suite 150, Charlotte, North Carolina 28203 or friend them on their page on Facebook 

Gluten Free Banana Pancakes

Recipe shared by Heidi Billotto

hlnc@carolina.rr.com

HeidiBillottoFood.com

1 ripe banana, mashed

1 local or organic egg

½ tsp. baking powder

Blend all of the ingredients together, but keep the batter a little lumpy with chunks of banana

Drop the batter onto a hot non stick fry pan in spoonfuls to make silver dollar sized pancakes.

Cook until bubbles form on the top of the pancakes and the edges are firm. Flip with a this spatula to brown the other side.

Serve topped with fresh blueberries and a drizzling of Charlotte’s own Cloister Honey’s Bourbon Honey

Eat your Peas and Carrots ( and the pods and the stems as well) Repurposing Your Produce Scraps

Heidi Billotto in the kitchen with Charlotte Today hosts Coleen Odegaard and Ramona Holloway

Heidi Billotto in the kitchen with Charlotte Today hosts Coleen Odegaard and Ramona Holloway

Heidi Billotto’s Shares Fun Produce Tips

on WCNC’s Charlotte Today 

Jan 15 , 2014

Save the Scraps and Repurpose Your Produce…

If you have just made a salad or prepared a fresh veggie or two for dinner, think twice before you toss the scraps in the garbage.  This morning on WCNC’s Charlotte Today I did a fun “cooking” segment with my friends, show hosts Colleen Odegaard  and Ramona  Holloway. How to repurpose your produce “scraps”. This cooking “tip and tricks” topic was producer Allison Andrews’ idea but I was up to the challenge and came up with five or six tasty solutions to avoid wasting the good stuff.

Click here for the  Jan 15 video of Heidi Billotto on WCNC’s Charlotte Today 

And here is what we chatted about during the segment…. 

regrown celeryCelery – First of all, purchase whole celery heads, not just celery hearts – you’ll get tons more flavor and then  when you need celery – slice across the whole head for more flavor than you can get simply slicing up  one stalk. Then when you are done and down to the root, put the root end of the celery in a pot of dirt and believe it or not you can regrow it! use the new celery leaves as you would any flavorful herb.

 

broccoli crowns, stems and leaves are all great to eat!

broccoli crowns, stems and leaves are all great to eat!

Broccoli  – You can buy crowns of broccoli as easily as you can purchase whole stalks, but the stalks are every bit as good as the flowers. So just cut the whole stalks so that your blossom ends have a stalk and then peel the stalk with a vegetable peeler so that it will be more tender as your steam or boil it.  You may also cut the stems for the blossom end, peel and then cut into sticks to serve on a raw veggie tray, or the stalks may be peeled and shredded for broccoli slaw. Or steam or boil the blossoms and then cut the stalks into slices – they will resemble little clouds and you can use them in stirfries or instead of or in addition or in place of the peas in  pot pies

What to do with orange and citrus peels?

What to do with orange and citrus peels?

Orange, grapefruit, lemon or lime peel – Its so easy to repurpose any citrus peel –  just cut it into thin strips and then candy it in a simply syrup made with one cup of sugar and one cup of water .

Make candied citrus rind by puuting the cut rind into a simply syrup - 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar. bring the mix to a boil and then let cool .  Pull candied rind out of the syrup and dust with organic granulated sugar

Make candied citrus rind by putting the cut rind into a simply syrup – 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar. bring the mix to a boil and then let cool . Pull candied rind out of the syrup and dust with organic granulated sugar

The candied peel can be used to garnish desserts and the leftover syrup is delicious mixed with you favorite pour in cocktails or used over ice with a splash of sparkling soda for the family to enjoy instead of a soft drink.

Candied orange rind with a orange peel rosette

Candied orange rind with a orange peel rosette

Buy organic carrots for the vey best flavor in the root and greens as well

Buy organic carrots for the vey best flavor in the root and greens as well

Carrot tops  – I have been enjoying the fabulous harvest of local carrots Charlotte has had this year and always opt to take my carrot purchase home from farmers markets with the greens attached. As I had the greens on hand, I  have been doing a bit of research and while I
knew that the carrot tops are as healthy as the carrots – I didn’t know just how healthy.

Carrots themselves are high in beta carotene, Calcium and Potassium, and vitamins A, B1, B2, C, and E.

The carrot greens  contain 6 times the vitamin C in the carrot and are a great source of potassium. They are also an excellent source of magnesium, which promotes healthy blood pressure as well as strong bones and muscles.

So buy  the carrots with the greens still attached.  Cut of the greens and cook, juice or use them first  – carrots have a longer refrigerator shelf life than do the greens – carrot greens are delicious as the herb in  homemade vinaigrettes ( see my favorite vinaigrette recipe  in the Jan issue of Charlotte Parent Magazine  (http://www.charlotteparent.com/articlemain.php?10-Healthy-Ways-to-Use-Vinaigrette-4890)  and simply add in 2-3 Tbsp. of carrot tops with the dried herbs. You can use minced carrot tops in pestos or to flavor  vegetable, potato or carrot soup as well.

 

Make the leek and potato soup recipe below garnished with minced carrot tops and "hearts" of heavy cream

Make the leek and potato soup recipe below garnished with minced carrot tops and “hearts” of heavy cream

More scraps and peels? Any other veggie peels and stems, stalks etc. can go into a homemade veggie broth – the recipe is super simple – just put all of your scraps in a big pot, add 1-2 cans of organic whole or diced tomatoes and one chopped onion; cover with water and bring it to a boil. After the volume of the water reduces by one half, strain the broth from the veggies parts and pieces, discard the veggies and season the broth to taste with salt and pepper or you favorite herbs or spices. Homemade veggie broth will freeze well for up to a year.

If all else fails – compost – Honestly, this  has been a hard concept for me to wrap my head around, but it really does make sense… and so 2014 may be my year to stop tossing scraps I really don’t use and instead compost them Remember when you first started to recycling and it seems a pain to rinse out cans and jars? Then we got used to it and now it just seems like second nature – plus its so much better of our environment and our landfills. Well, just think of composting as recycling for veggies  – smart to do for your garden and for the environment!

You may start small with tabletop and indoor composters and then move to a bigger outdoor composter when you are ready.

Leek and potato Carrot top soup

Recipe by Charlotte Culinary Expert, Heidi Billotto

HLNC@carolina.rr.com

www.HeidiBillottoFood.com

1 ½ lbs. potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes or slices

2 white rainbow carrots or 1 parsnip, cut into slices

4 medium leeks, chopped

1 cup minced carrot greens

4 cups water

1 cup heavy cream or half and half

sea salt and pepper to taste

minced carrot greens to serve on top

Bring the potatoes, carrots or parsnips, leeks, carrot greens and water to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 20 minutes,

Puree the soup in a blender or food processor. Return to the pot and stir in the heavy cream or  half and half. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve hot or cold garnished with additional minced carrot greens

 BEEF AND BROCCOLI CLOUDS

Recipe by Charlotte Culinary Expert, Heidi Billotto

HLNC@carolina.rr.com

www.HeidiBillottoFood.com

3/4 pound lean beef – London Broil or flank steak – thin sliced

1 1/4 cups oil, or as needed

Marinade:

1 Tbsp. rice vinegar

1 Tbsp. organic sugar

1 tsp. Mushroom flavored soy sauce

1 Tbsp. water

1 Tbsp. cornstarch

Sauce:

2 Tbsp. hoisin sauce

2 Tbsp. mushroom soy sauce

1 Tbsp. water

Thickener:

1 tsp. cornstarch mixed with 1 Tbsp. water

Vegetables:

1 pound fresh broccoli stalks cut into “clouds”

4 carrots, sliced or cut into tulips

1 garlic clove, finely minced

Cut the beef across the grain into thin slices. Add the marinade ingredients, adding the cornstarch last (use your fingers to rub it in). Marinate the beef for 30 minutes.
While the beef is marinating, prepare the sauce and vegetables: for the sauce, mix together the hoisin sauce, light soy, dark soy, and water in a small bowl and set aside. In another small bowl, mix the cornstarch and water thickener and set aside.
Wash and drain the broccoli. Cut the stalk diagonally into thin slices. Cut the flowerets into 3 or 4 pieces. Combine with the carrots and boil or steam quickly in ½ cup As soon as the broccoli turns a spring green color, drain it form the cooking water and rinse quickly with cold water. Reserve.
Heat the wok and add 1 cup oil. When the oil is medium-hot (use the wooden spoon test, add the beef. Sear quickly and remove the beef from the wok when it changes color and is nearly cooked (about 1 – 2 minutes).
Drain beef on several thicknesses of paper towels.
Pour the majority of the oil out of the wok leaving only 2 Tablespoons.
Heat wok again, when the oil is hot, add the beef with the garlic and quickly toss to combine. Add in broccoli, sprinkle with ¼ tsp. salt and ½ tsp sugar over, and stir fry briefly, turning down the heat if necessary to make sure it doesn’t burn. Toss well to combine with beef.

Add the sauce and cornstarch mixture in the middle of the wok and stir quickly to thicken. Mix everything together and serve hot over steamed rice.

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