Fresh from the Farmers’ Market: Pork Chops and Sweet Tater Tots

I love shopping at farmers’ markets and eating local. For those of you who have read the stories I share on these digital pages, or the words I write between the covers of Charlotte Living magazine; and for those of you who follow me on my social media feeds, you already know that each and every Saturday morning finds me at a local farmers’ markets stocking up for cooking classes, catering jobs and the food my husband Tom and I eat every day.

UPDATED - NCDASo when an opportunity popped up to work  for my friends at the North Carolina Department of Agriculture promoting locally raised North Carolina pork at local regional markets, I jumped at the chance to be involved.

While I am being compensated for this post, the words, recipes and opinions and the choice of the farmer featured here are my own; and am delighted to be representing Charlotte as one of five bloggers from across the state in this sponsored promotion featuring North Carolina farmers who raise pork and sell at Regional State Farmers’ Markets.

This promotion affords me an opportunity  to share the story  of North Carolina farmers Jamie and Sara Jane Davis of A Way of Life Farm in Bostic NC – a regular Saturday morning stop for me at the Charlotte Regional Farmers’ Market.

As luck would have it Jamie and Sara Jane not only raise pork, but a slew of certified organic veggies as well, making their booth at the market a one-stop-shop and a quick answer to the question of whats for dinner tonight?

This time of year, the list of seasonal certified organic vegetables at A Way of Life Farm includes a half dozen or so varieties of sweet potatoes! One variety in particular, “Sunshine” is a species specific to their farm and I’ve used these certified organic sweet potatoes in a fun family favorite recipe for sweet potato tots to go with the chops or to enjoy as a snack all on their own!

 

IMG_3615My recipe for Molasses and Mustard Marinated pork chops has become one of my favorite local pork recipes – you’ll find it at the end of this post.

It’s a recipe I shared on television recently with Charlotte Today hosts Colleen Odegaard and Eugene Robinson in Charlotte on October 6, 2017.   It’s a crowd pleaser for sure and its been time tested and taste approved  with my cooking class students and catering clients as well!

It all starts with the delicious pork from A Way of Life Farm and my hope is that it will inspire your menu planning for this season and for the seasons to come, as local pork like all local meat are available all year round.

Before I share a bit about the farm, the details of the pork chop recipe and a fun side dish for sweet potato tots – I thought you’d like to see the video from the segment on Charlotte Today…

 

On the Farm at A Way of Life

For Jamie and Sara Jane, the way they raise the pigs is important, as is the way they raise all the certified organic crops they cultivate, feed their family and sell to consumers. It is their belief that pigs raised on pasture and woodland,  able to root, dig, and run, are healthier and happier animals; and the fact that these animals have access to sunlight, fresh air, exercise, and wild nutrients make the resulting meat more nutritious than many conventional products.

IMG_1262At any one time you’ll find a dozen or so pigs and piglets roaming the woods up behind the cultivated certified organic fields at A Way Of Life. The pigs wander the woods eating acorns and bark and their natural diet is supplemented with soy-free certified organic feed.

The result is pork with truly exceptional flavor and texture, so marinades such as the one I offer today are only needed to provide flavors to enhance the already spectacular  taste and the melt-in-your-mouth texture.

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Shop Regional and Local North Carolina Farmers’ Markets all year long…

With the change in seasons, many consumers forget that farmers don’t just produce in the spring and summer. Local farmers and ranchers farm and ranch all year long, through snow and rain and wind and hail.

At A Way of Life Farm, Sara Jane and Jamie live on the farm, and the “yard” that surrounds there home is all farm land yielding seasonal crops that range this time of year from all sorts of leafy greens, ginger, turmeric, broccoli, and more to a half dozen varieties of sweet potatoes.

Every week they work the land and take care of the pigs on the farm; then they regularly  harvest produce on Friday and load up the truck to ready themselves for the Saturday morning 5 am start time to head from Bostic to the Charlotte Regional Market. The market opens at 8 am and Jamie and Sara Jane and their crew are there until 1 or so in the afternoon, but the best selection of pork and veggies from A Way of Life are to be had before noontime.

IMG_3617-1The Charlotte Regional Farmers’ Market is one of four regional Farmers Markets owned by the State of North Carolina and operated by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services. These regional Farmers Markets are strategically located across the state to serve North Carolina farmers, both large and small and make shopping local easy for area consumers who support North Carolina agriculture, our state’s largest industry.

The Charlotte Regional Farmers Market is located at 1801 Yorkmont Road and is easily accessible from South Tryon Street, Tyvola Road, I-77, and I-85. Farmers and vendors at the market are spread out in four different buildings and you’ll find A Way of Life Farm in Building A, on the right hand side just as you enter from the parking lot. You’ll see all the seasonal veggies, but go to the table set up in front of their truck for the pork.

Meat is much harder to display than all the colorful produce – Its all frozen in coolers behind the counter and at A Way of Life Farm it is portion packaged, so you have your choice of cuts, sizes and quantities.  Don’t leave the market without purchasing enough pork for at least one meal, believe me, after you taste, you will thank me for the sound advice.

The selection of  available pork cuts at A Way of Life Farm, varies each week as do the seasonal vegetables. When you are at their booth, sign up for their weekly newsletter to help keep you in the know and up-to-date with what you will find at the market each week.

And now, thanks to a grant from Farmers Market Coalition, A Way of Life Farm is set up to accept SNAP benefits at the Charlotte Farmers’ Market and for on-farm sales. This makes it possible for even more people to enjoy the benefits of eating local. Jamie and Sara Jane asked me to help spread the word and I hope you will as well.

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In the recipe below I’ve featured the chops; but this recipe will also works well with a loin roast, boneless loin chops, pork shanks and a pork shoulder roast – those cuts will just take a bit more time to cook.

I hope you enjoy my recipe for what I think are some of the most delicious pork chops you’ll ever eat, and the accompanying recipe for my homemade sweet potato tots to go with…

But wait, that’s not all…

If my recipes whet your palate for more ways to eat local pork, then visit these other blog posts featuring recipes using more North Carolina Pork from farms around the state…

Got To Be NC Pork at Your Local NC Farmers Market

 

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Heidi Billotto’s Mustard & Molasses Marinated NC Pork Chops from A Way Of Life Farm

4-6 local bone-in pork chops from A Way of Life Farm in Bostic NC available at the Charlotte Regional Farmers’ Market on Yorkmont Road on Saturday mornings

For the marinade:
1 cup dry white wine
2 Tbsp. Olive Crate Kores Estate extra virgin olive oil
1 sprig fresh rosemary
2  bay leaves
1 cup of your favorite whole grain mustard

1 cup local molasses
6 juniper berries, lightly bruised or 1/4 cup gin

Marinate the chops for up to an hour at room temp or longer in the refrigerator, turning it occasionally. Remove from refrigerator and bring to room temperature before cooking.

Transfer the chops to a roasting pan and bake, covered in a 375 degree oven for 20 minutes or so.

Uncover and broil  just to crisp the outside of the chops, taking care not to burn the marinade.

And because man and woman cannot live on pork chops alone (although it is tempting to try)…. I offer a fun sweet potato side to the chops…

chops and tots

A Way of Life Farm “Sunshine” Sweet Tater Tots

 

2 lbs. A Way of Life Farm “Sunshine” Sweet potatoes or any other dry flesh variety, peeled

1/4 cup self rising flour

1 Tbsp. sweet paprika

1 tsp. granulated garlic

1 tsp. onion powder

1 tsp. sugar

Heidi’s Hot Pepper Blend ( a mix of pink and black peppercorns) to taste

1 cup organic Canola oil

Place potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with cold water by 1 inch. Bring to a boil and cook until parboiled, about 6-7 minutes; drain well and let cool.

IMG_7722Using a hand grater, finely shred potatoes. Using a clean dish towel, gently pat the potatoes dry, removing as much water as possible. Gently spread the grated potatoes on the dish towel and sprinkle with the flour; then season with the granulated garlic, paprika, onion powder, seasoning salt and pepper, to taste. The mixture should be soft but dry. Gently scoop up the seasoned potatoes, place the mix into a bowl and then gently shape into  “tots” , taking care not to squeeze them too put as you mold them into shape.

Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat.

Add tots to the oil, 5 or 6 at a time, and cook until evenly golden and crispy, about 3-4 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to drain, re-season if you would like and enjoy!.

 

 

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For more great all local recipes come and join in the fun at one of Heidi’ Hands-on cooking classes – including a Pork 101 Cooking Class see the complete schedule of classes for Oct and Nov; then call your friends and make your reservations today! #TellThemHeidiSentYou

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.

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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

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!

A Taste of Spring: Asparagus

cooking with springtime asparagus 2Spring is my favorite season. In my hometown of Charlotte, NC it starts with the first crocus, then the cherry trees add a pop of color and after a long winter’s break, the beautiful Bradford Pear trees which line many a street in town, burst forth with blossoms. For about a week, the city is awash in white blossoms and that’s when you know it – you’re on the cusp of asparagus season.

Before you know it we’ll be slicing into tomatoes and spitting watermelon seeds, but lets not rush things. Time to enjoy the flavors of springtime and that first taste is of asparagus.

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Doug Carrigan and team with local asparagus at the Charlotte Regional Farmers’ market

I planted my own little asparagus bed when we moved into our home – about 10 years ago. We now have a healthy little crop for the two of us to enjoy, albeit, one or two stalks at a time. Alas, I am a hobby gardener, and while its fun to watch the tiny green heads peep up out of the ground and grow up to reach the sky; when its really time to cook, I turn to farmers who grow professionally like Doug Carrigan of Carrigan Farms.

IMG_9171Carrigan Farms is a 5th generation farm in Mooresville, NC and is a beautiful destination for weddings, farm to table dinners; and just after asparagus season, pick-your-own-strawberries and more, but lets not rush things.  For now, Doug is my go-to asparagus guy. Every Saturday between somewhere around the end of March to about the middle of April Doug brings bunches of the bright green stalks to the Charlotte Regional Farmers Market. This time of year, you’ll find other local farmers with their bumper asparagus crops bound in bundles ready for you to take home and enjoy at  the regional Charlotte market and other local farmers’ markets as well. The season is short, so eat it up while you can.

Today the focus is on several quick and easy asparagus salad recipes I first shared with you on a late March 2016 television segment on Charlotte Today. We filmed about the same time Doug and his family where picking the first crop to bring to market. As you will see on the tape, I wasn’t expecting to find fresh locally grown asparagus for a week or so, but was delighted to find Doug and his son selling at the market the Saturday just after the show. Timing is everything.

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note the difference between the end of the asparagus stalk several days old (left) and the freshly snapped one

A stalk of asparagus is just like a fresh picked flower: to keep it tender, it must be kept in water. If you are buying fresh picked asparagus from a local source and cooking it immediately, then there is no need to trim the stems – you can eat the whole thing.  If you are purchasing from a grocery store or working with market asparagus you purchased several days ago, then you’ll want to pop off the dried part of the stalk. Just bend the end – the asparagus will snap naturally where it goes from tough to tender. The tougher ends can be used to make vegetable stock, the tender tips may be eaten raw, steamed, poached, grilled or roasted.

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I think the best way to cook fresh asparagus is the roast them – or just enjoy them raw!

For the easiest method of cooking I turn to the grill or the oven. place the stalks in a single layer, roast in a preheated 400 degree oven for 8 minutes. That’s it. Roughly the same timing on the grill, although if you have thin stalks, keep an eye out that the flames aren’t too high or hot.

Once the asparagus are roasted or grilled, you can turn them into a host of different salads, as I did on the March Charlotte Today cooking segment and as I have outlined here.

Here are some easy peasy ideas on how to turn fresh raw or just roasted asparagus into a meal.

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Cut the stalks into bite sized pieces and toss with fresh blue berries, raspberries or strawberries. Add orange zest and a popover ( see recipe below) and a bit of fresh mint. Drizzle with your favorite balsamic vinegar  or local honey and serve atop a bed of locally grown leaf lettuce.

 

IMG_8897While the asparagus is roasting, fry a local egg to your own personal degree of desired doneness (I’m a sunny side up gal, myself) Serve the egg along side the bundle of warm asparagus, drizzle dark roasted sesame oil over all and then top with a sprinkling of white and black sesame seeds. The egg may be served over toast as well or for a great open faced sandwich variation on this same theme. Top the toast with some grated  sharp cheddar cheese and run under the broiled just until the cheese melts. Top with the roasted asparagus and hot fried egg. Add some sauteed mushrooms (check out the wonderful selection of locally grown ‘shrooms from Urban Gourmet Mushroom Farm at the Atherton Farmers’ Market) if you would like, drizzle with the sesame oil and you are good to go.

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As spring morphs into summer we will start to see greenhouse tomatoes making appearances at local markets, or you can make this recipe with oil packed sun dried tomatoes with very successful results as well. Make up a late spring or early summer bruschetta topping of chopped tomatoes, peppers, black olives and basil. Toss the mix in a bit of your favorite olive oil .Arrange the bruschetta mix over the hot or cold roasted asparagus, then dust with a sprinkling of finely grated Parmesan cheese  and there you have it!

 

IMG_8865You may notice that each of the asparagus plates above includes a popover. Popover are an easy, fast and fu alternative to any other bread and their light and fluffy nature makes for a great foil to the crisp green crunch of the freshly roasted asparagus. You can use a popover pan or a metal of silicone muffin or brioche pan does the trick just as well. The beauty of the silicone pan is that the popovers pop out without a fuss. I am generally not a big fan of silicone, bowls and “pans” but in this case, I make an exception…

Heidi’s Parmesan Popovers

1 1/2 cups organic all purpose flour

1 tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp. your favorite fat ( you may use olive oil, melted butter, melted leaf lard, bacon fat, etc)

1 local or pasture raised organic egg

1 1/2 cups organic whole milk

Fresh grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese ( I Love local product and am a big supporter of all kinds of local cheese, but when it comes to Parmesan cheese, just pretend you live in Italy and go with the real thing)

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Preheat the oven 475 degrees – it is important here to start with a hot oven.    Prepared the muffin tins or popover pan by greasing them with butter ( unless you are using a silicone pan). Place the pan in preheated 475 oven for 2 minutes, to heat the pan ( unless you are using silicone) while you whisk together the flour, salt eggs, milk and melted butter until smooth. Remove the muffin tins from the oven and carefully fill each cup less than halfway full with batter. Sprinkle the top of each cup of batter lightly with grated Parmesan cheese. Return to oven and bake for 30 minutes. Enjoy hot or cold.

 

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Now that you know all the tricks, enjoy the video of my March Charlotte Today  Cooking with Local Asparagus segment once again. Show hosts Colleen Odegaard and Eugene Robinson always make my time on set tons of fun!  Watch Now!