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!

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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!

In Celebration of Julia and Four More Fabulous Cooking Classes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shelley and Brian of Proffitt Cattle Co.,

Shelley and Brian of Proffitt Cattle Co.,

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

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

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

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

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

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

thai food

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

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

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

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

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