Home Grown Tomatoes

Tomato TimeFresh off the VinePlant ’em in the spring eat ’em in the summer, All winter without ’em’s a culinary bummer…                                 From “Home Grown Tomatoes” | John Denver

I don’t know about you but I have been like a kid in a candy shop with the flood on homegrown tomatoes now available in local markets. I long ago gave up on growing my own, deciding to leave the important work of seeding and sowing such seasonal pleasures to the professionals. Now I buy at every market from a host of farmers and you should too!

There is nothing quite like that first taste after a winter and spring without the real thing, but after a month or so it feels like you  just can’t eat them fast enough.

Truth is though, with one master recipe, you can use this season’s perfect fruit (or vegetable) to create a host of dishes to enjoy. And the best news is that these pan roasted tomatoes freeze well. So cook ’em down and pack ’em up and enjoy this, oh so special, taste of summer throughout the rest of the year as well.

This past week in particular has been a tomato-ey one for me. I’ve done a tomato time cooking class at Windcrest Certified Organic Farm in Monroe as a part of my On the Farm series of classes and then have been on television twice this week to help promote the first ever HomeGrown Tomato Festival to benefit 100Gardens.org in Charlotte.  I’ll be appearing as an official judge at the festival along with mixologist Stefan Huebner of the newly opened DotDotDot at Park Road Shopping Center and North Carolina’s own “Tomato Man”, Craig LeHoullier – Raleigh NC- based author of the award-winning book “Epic Tomatoes” and THE MAN who developed and named the famed Cherokee Purple heirloom tomato.  More about the festival at the end of this post along with the video segments that aired to promote it, but first -lets get on to the recipes of how best to eat ( and drink) up the sensational taste of summer tomatoes.

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Just a little reminder from my friends at Barbee Farms

First thing…How do you know when your tomatoes are ripe? You can’t always tell by the color because many heirloom varieties are not red – they are often green, yellow or striped. Look follow your nose, they should smell wonderfully tomato-ey and should be firm to the touch – although when you are shopping, don’t go around squeezing the tomatoes – farmers hate that and while we are on topic the same goes for peaches!

tomato tips

Now that you know how to choose and how to tell when your tomatoes are ripe, let’s start with a cocktail, shall we? Now I am not a bartender or mixologist by trade, but if you’ve got a good recipe and use great ingredients, making a refreshing summer cocktail is just like cooking a meal. You can do it, too, and here’s how…

Heidi's Summer SmashTomato watermelon cosmopolitanHeidi’s Summer Smash | Tomato and Watermelon Cosmopolitan

1 small local watermelon (check out the watermelons from Rowland’s Row Farm, available at the Matthews Community Farmers’ Market and the Davidson Farmers’ market or the melons from Barbee Farms, available at the Davidson Market or at the Barbee Farms farm store in Concord)

1 ½ lbs. local red, pink or yellow heirloom tomatoes ( in truth the color doesn’t matter – its about the taste of the ‘mater; but for this cocktail, rosier hues help keep it in the pink!)

1 cup organic sugar

1 cup water

3/4 cup Your favorite Vodka ( lots of great choices distilled right here in North Carolina)

lime

1 local jalapeno, sliced and candied*

Cut the pulp of the watermelon from the rind; remove any seeds ( see my tomato seeding tip below) and puree the watermelon until it is smooth. Refrigerate or freeze the puree.

Cut smaller cherry tomatoes in half or seed larger tomatoes; then cut them into chunks. Combine sugar and water in a small saucepan. Heat and add the tomatoes. Allowing the tomatoes to cook for 15 mins or so in the simply syrup made when the sugar melts into the water. Ad the tomatoes cook down, their flavor transfers to the syrup. Remove the syrup from the heat and allow it to cool. The longer the tomato pieces sit in the syrup, the more tomato-ey goodness they will impart.

For two ( or maybe three) cocktails: combine 1 cup of watermelon puree with 1 cup of the candied tomato syrup ( use the candied pieces of tomato themselves for a garnish) Add the vodka and shake well. I like to do this in a large canning jar as I find it easier to shake than a cocktail mixer; but if your watermelon puree is frozen, you could also whip it up in a blender. Blend well; pour over ice. Add a squeeze of fresh lime.

Garnish with a candied tomato and a candied slice of jalapeno if you want to spice things up!  **To candy the jalapeno, make the same simple syrup mixture you did for the tomatoes, but this time add in fresh sliced jalapenos instead.

What Would Heidi Do-

pan roasted tomatoesNow that we all have a cocktail in hand, lets get down to cooking with all of this season’s wonderful tomato – you will find them everyone, just be sure you are buying local. In these photos you will see local tomatoes from Windcrest Farm in Monroe, New Town Farm in Waxhaw and Tega Hills Farm in Ft Mill ( all available at the Matthews’ Community Farmers’ Market), from Burton Farms ( available at the Cotswold Farmers’ Market and the Regional Market on Yorkmont Road) and from Rowland’s Row Family Farm ( available at the Matthews’ Community Farmers’ Market and the Davidson Farmers’ Market)

Heidi’s Master Recipe for Pan-Roasted Summer Tomatoes

 

3 Tbsp. Olive Crate Kores Estate Extra Virgin Olive Oil ( available on Saturdays at the Cotswold Farmers Market and at all of my cooking classes)

1 small local yellow onion, diced ( optional)

2 cloves local garlic, optional ( optional)

OuterBanks SeaSalt & Heidi’s Hot Pepper Blend (made from a blend of three peppercorns found at the Savory Spice Shop in Southend Charlotte)

3-4 Lbs. local tomatoes,  diced or quartered

Place 2-3 Tbsp. of Kores Estate olive oil in a large pot and saute diced onion and garlic with salt and pepper. Saute for about 5 minutes or until the onions are translucent. If you don’t want to add the onions and garlic, then just start with the oil.

Add all of the tomatoes to the pan and cook for 4-5 minutes until the tomatoes start to soften. Puree the onion-garlic-tomato mixture with an immersion blender or food processor and use as a spread on toast for a wonderful appetizer all on its own or proceed with any of the following recipes…

Just Like Disney Did It RatatouilleJust Like Disney Did It Country French Farmers’ Market Ratatouille

One pan of Heidi’s Master Recipe for Pan-Roasted Summer Tomatoes

Your choice of any of these veggies:

2-3 local Haikuri Turnips

1 local eggplant, trimmed and very thinly sliced

1 zucchini, trimmed and very thinly sliced

1 yellow squash, trimmed and very thinly sliced

1 red bell pepper, cored and very thinly sliced

1 yellow bell pepper, cored and very thinly sliced

3 Tbsp. Olive Crate Kores Estate olive oil, or to taste

2 Tbsp. Herbs de Provence

¼ cup Uno Alla Volta cottage cheese ( available in cheese and gourmet shops all around Charlotte as well as on Saturday mornings at the Matthews’ Community Farmers’ Market and the Charlotte Regional Farmers’ Market on Yorkmont Road)

Spread the pan roasted  tomatoes on the bottom of an oven to table casserole.

Arrange alternating slices of eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, red bell pepper, and yellow bell pepper, starting at the outer edge of the dish and working concentrically towards the center. Overlap the slices a little to display the colors. ( Remember how the little chef did it in the movie Ratatouille? Layer your veggies, just like that!) Drizzle the vegetables with 3 tablespoons olive oil and season with salt and black pepper. Dollop with the Uno Alla Volta cottage cheese or ricotta cheese.  Sprinkle with Herbs de province. Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 20-30 minutes until veggies are roasted and tender and slightly browned. Top with the remaining pan roasted tomatoes just before serving.

Summer Tomato BisqueHeidi’s Summer Tomato Bisque

 

One pan of Heidi’s Master Recipe for Pan-Roasted Summer Tomatoes

2-3 firm, ripe tomatoes, diced

5 large Italian  basil leaves, cut in a chiffonade (roll the leaves up and then thinly slice them and viola! You have a chiffonade of basil!)

2 cups water

drizzle of Olive Crate Chile Pepper organic vinegar

1/2 cup Greek yogurt

Start by heating the tomato puree you made in the Master recipe. Add the remaining diced tomatoes, basil leaves, and water. Simmer 10-12 minutes.

Remove from heat; spoon into bowls. Top each with a drizzle of the chile pepper balsamic vinegar. Serve with Greek yogurt and additional fresh basil on top.

Homemade KetchupHomemade Tomato Ketchup and Fries

For the Ketchup:

2 Tbsp. Olive Crate Kores Estate  Extra Virgin Olive Oil

½ local red onion, minced

¼ cup minced local celery

One pan of Heidi’s Master Recipe for Pan-Roasted Summer Tomatoes

1/2 cup water

2/3 cup organic sugar

3/4 cup Olive Crate Honey vinegar

2 Tbsp. sea salt

Heidi’s Hot Pepper Blend, to taste

Saute onions and celery in olive oil until tender. Add tomatoes, stir to mix.

Add remaining ingredients.  Cook on medium high heat, stirring constantly, uncovered, until mixture is reduced by half and very thick.

Smooth the texture of the ketchup using an immersion blender, about 20 seconds.

Adjust seasonings to suit your tastes

 For the Fries:

Peel and rinse 4-5 local potatoes.  Cut the potatoes into your desired shape.

Place them in a large bowl and cover with cold water. Allow them to soak, 2 to 3 hours.

Drain the potatoes and blot dry on several thicknesses of paper towels.

Heat a few inches of  organic canola oil in a heavy pot.  ( you can tell that the oil is hot enough by placing a dry wooden spoon in the oil as it heats. When little bubbles start to form around the spoon, then the oil is hot enough for frying)  Cook the potatoes in small batches for just 4-5 minutes – they will not be brown, but remove them from the oil and drain on paper towels.  Then refry them in hot oil until brown. Salt to taste and serve with your homemade ketchup!

More about the first ever Home Grown Tomato Festival to benefit 100Gardens.org in Charlotte.

Come on out and join in the fun at 1 pm on Saturday July 29, 2017 at Midwood Country Club in Charlotte. Purchase tokens for $5 each to buy delicious homegrown tomato sandwiches made with bread from Sunflower Bakery and Burton’s Farms heirloom tomatoes or tomato pies from Christine’s Konditorei; beverages from Eli’s Lemonade and more. You and your kids may also adopt and take home a dwarf tomato plant; listen to the bands, watch the mixologists compete for the best tomato cocktail and see, taste and vote for all the homegrown tomatoes vying for the best of show.

On the Charlotte Today segment I did this past Monday with Home Grown Tomato Festival creator and farmer Sam Fleming of 100Gardens.org in Charlotte and mixologist Stefan Heubner, Sam tells show hosts Colleen Odegaard and Eugene Robinson more about his aquaponic operation and how he is teaching kids how to farm. I talked about all of the dishes I’ve showed you here and Stefan shares another great tomato cocktail recipe. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heidi Billotto Live: from The Matthews Community Farmers’ Market

PrintWe interrupt the regularly scheduled series of blog posts to bring you a brand new series of social media videos – all LIVE from local area farmers’ markets.

I generally hit 2-3 area markets on any given Saturday morning. Its my Saturday morning thing to do. It’s not just about what I need to pick up for that week’s cooking classes, catering jobs or what Tom and I will eat during the week; for me a farmers’ market trip is about seeing what’s growing, visiting with all the farmers and being there to support what they do. The fact that I can buy all the local produce, proteins and product that I need and know where it all came from and what went into the food that I eat and serve to others is a bonus. Someone commented on the Facebook feed that they were amazed that I knew everyone’s name.

That’s what shopping local is all about: Knowing your local farmers and producers; Shaking the hands that feed you and resting assure that the food you eat was grown and nurtured with love and care, not pesticides and hormones.

This new video series started as a way for me to help the Matthews Community Farmers’ Market promote their opening day last week. I was going to write a blog post about the new additions to the market and the list of new vendors, but alas as it was all new I didn’t have any of these photos to include in the post.

So instead, I decided to hit the market early on their opening day April 15, 2017 and film my very first Facebook Live video. I had a blast! I have always loved spreading the word of all our local farmers bring to the table and this was a fun way to do it in real time. It appears that lots of Facebook friends and fans loved it too. To date that first FBLive video has enjoyed over 1.6K views! I am over the moon!

And you will be, too, when you go to shop at the Matthews Community Farmers market this Saturday and any or every Saturday hereafter, Spring and Summer hours are now officially in effect.

The market, located at 188 N Trade Street right in the heart of downtown, Matthews, is open every Saturday from 8 till noon. Matthews is a “growers only” market and  each of the farms represented by the farmers themselves are located within 50 miles of downtown Matthews.

Currently the Matthews Market is hosting a strawberry fundraiser with fresh delicious berries from Cody Strawberry Farms and new to the market this year is the addition of a food truck or two. Both of these trucks are preparing breakfast items using the local product you’ll find available at the market each week. Last weekend I enjoyed a killer Farmhouse Croissant from Carolina Smash Truck. The savory breakfast sandwich was prepared with Maitake Mushrooms, green onion, egg, and white cheddar – just what I needed to go with that delicious cup of Good Cup Cappuccino I was enjoying after I posted my video.

You can check out all the names of all the participating vendors, and sign up for the Matthews’ Market’s email newsletter by visiting their website 

Each week the market features a different chef presenting a 9 am cooking demo; and a different local musician  there to provide a little music to enjoy as you shop from and visit with each of the market vendors.

Last weekend, Chef Luca Annunziata wowed the crowds with a taste of his traditional Italian cuisine now featured on the menu at his restaurant Luca Modern Italian Kitchen ( formally called Passion 8). This Saturday, April 22 at 9 am chef Adam Reed from Sante Restaurant in Matthews will be cooking  up a storm for the market crowds to  sample and enjoy after they watch his entertaining demo.

And there is so much more, from compost to King of Pops, local honey, chicken, eggs, pork, beef, fresh from the Carolina Coast seafood,  fresh flowers, plants for you to grow and produce for you to cook and eat; From Water Buffalo cheese to locally made cottage cheese and ricotta; From Beeswax candles to Breads, pastries, frozen casseroles and pizzas made from local ingredients, baskets, pottery… whew! Just take a look at the video here and check it all out for yourself… then stay tuned.

Coming up  in a day or so, a post I filmed yesterday Wed April 19  which  features my  Facebook Live Video with market vendor details from the brand new Wednesday afternoon Selwyn Avenue Market in the parking lot of the Mouzon United Methodist Church from 3-7 on Wednesday afternoons.

This Saturday, April 22, I am teaching one of my On the Farm cooking classes at New Town Farms, but before hand I  will be at the Waxhaw Farmers’ Market at 208 N Church St, Waxhaw, NC 28173, open from 9 till noon,  to bring you a FBLIve video of everything from the market there. You can join me on my HeidiBillottoCooks Facebook page to watch the video live – probably around 9:30 -10 or so ( I’ll post a social media heads up about 5 minutes ahead of time), or you can catch it later on my personal Heidi Billotto Facebook page. Or if you are not on Facebook you can view it here in the next farmers’ market blog post.

My plan is to film from a local market once or twice a week  over the course of the next several months – so get ready for your close ups Atherton Farmers’ Market, Mecklenburg County Market, Noda Farmers’ Market, Davidson Farmers’ Market and more! If you know of a market selling local product that I am leaving out or one I might not be aware of – please post a comment here,  let me know and I’ll add it to my list.

My purpose is instead of just offering a list of local markets, you can really have the opportunity to see for yourself, virtually meet the farmers and producers and then make plans to go and shop local so you can eat local, too!

And don’t forget, what ever farmers’ market you shop at this weekend, be sure to #TellThemHeidiSentYou

Anyone can cook, let Heidi Billotto show you how to make it fun – 2014 kicks off with Eleven Fabulous Cooking Classes!

cooking class with Nadacropped-heidi-cooks-logo.jpgIt’s always a blast! My Cooking Classes are held at my South Charlotte home in my kitchen. Once you make your reservations I will send out directions to our home,  its all hands on unless you’d rather just sit and watch, enjoy, eat and drink, which is fine, too. 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 gets you on the class list and advance payment confirms your space in class. To make your reservations for any of these classes – or to plan a private cooking class or teambuilding event of your own, just email me at HLNC@carolina.rr.com and we’ll get it set up.

tables set for cooking classMy unique On the Farm Classes are held at various farms in and around Charlotte.
 Each On The Farm class includes a walking Farm Tour and then we settle into the farm kitchen to cook with ( and eat!)  whatever is in season.    You really just have to experience these classes for yourself, there is indeed something quite special about being on all these local farms…

Class size is limited depending upon the size of the farm. At each farm we cook and eat and drink and you and your fellow classmates can watch or lend a hand if you’d like and together will learn to chop, slice, simmer and saute along the way.

So,  now that you know how it works…Lets Get Cooking!!!

Roman Holiday – Food and Wine of Rome with guest Nada Vergili of Nada’s Italy.                                 Wednesday Jan 15, 6:30-9:30 pm.

Nada Vergili of Nada's Italy

Nada Vergili of Nada’s Italy

Want to travel to Rome? Nada’s tours are fabulous and when you do go to Rome, you should plan the trip through Nada. But for now, why not just attend my Roman Holiday cooking class with my special guest Nada Vergili of Nada’s Italy-Tours!  These hands -on cooking classes with Nada are always great fun.                                                    We’ll all cook, enjoy food and wine of Italy ( in this case of Rome and surrounds in particular) and then Nada will teach us all some fun Italian phrases and a little bit about this wonderful and historic region.                                                                    

The classic Roman entrée, Porchetta

The classic Roman entrée, Porchetta

On the menu: we’ll kick things off with a negroni cocktail, but make it a bit more local by using TOPO Distillery certified organic gin from Chapel Hill! Then we’ll prepare cacao e pepe – a fabulous pasta dish with pecorino romano and cracked pepper; a pasta and chick pea soup; porchetta made from local pork shoulder from A Way of Life Farm in Bostic NC and a nutella tiramisu for dessert – Italian wines to pair with each course provided by my friend Josh Villapando at the Assorted Table Wine Shoppe.

Cost is $75 per person, class runs from 6:30-9:30 – printed recipe packet and wine notes for all participants.    To Join us for your Roman Holiday, simply email me at hlnc@carolina.rr.com to make your reservation – Ciao!

gluten freeSat Jan 18 – Gluten Free Gourmet –
11am – 2:30 pm
Now here’s a class I’ve been wanting to offer for some time and so excited to finally have it on the books – an entire dinner meal – all gluten free – with easy substitutions and a host of new products with which to work; plus we’ll adding fresh and local product from this morning’s farmers’ markets. Wine pairings with each course, of course!
Cost is $65 email Heidi at hlnc@carolina.rr.com to make your advance reservations

pieSunday Jan 19 -The Apple of My Pie – 1-4 pm
Nothing more fun than baking in the winter and filling the kitchen with warm wonderful aromas, This afternoon the concentration will be on pies – 4 different from scratch crusts with sweet and savory fillings and an easy way to make pie for a crowd with the refrigerator crust you just unroll and bake.
Cost is $65 email Heidi at hlnc@carolina.rr.com to make your advance reservations

grillSunday Jan 26 – On the Winter Grill –  At Home with Heidi – 1-4 pm
This is a fun seasonal At Home with Heidi Class everyone will love. Local chicken, pork, beef and veggies all on the grill. Class covers basic grilling techniques, marinades, dry rubs and more. You’ll  be good to grill for any occasion after this fun and 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. Wine pairings with each dish, of course!
Cost is $65 email Heidi at hlnc@carolina.rr.com to make your advance reservations

eiffle towerTues Jan 28 – French Dressing – 6:30-9:30 pm – At Home with Heidi
A Winter spin on a delicious Food and Wine of France menu. Wine pairings, techniques for making sauces, braising and more
Cost is $65 email Heidi at hlnc@carolina.rr.com to make your advance reservations

may 2013 007Feb 1 – Superbowl Spread On the Farm at Tega Hills Farms – 3-6:30 pm
Come prep for the big game in the warmth of Tega Hill’s hydroponic greenhouses in Ft. Mill and we use all Mark and Mindy Robinson of Tega Hill grow and have in season. Farm tour and cooking class with wine and some local beer pairings, too!
Cost is $75 email Heidi at hlnc@carolina.rr.com to make your advance reservations

wines of spainTuesday Feb 4 – Food and Wine of Spain – 6:30-9:30 pm
Hands -on class – At Home with Heidi- a complete meal from tapas to dessert with regional wine parings with each dish
Cost is $65 email Heidi at hlnc@carolina.rr.com to make your advance reservations

breadSat Feb 8 – Bread baking 101- 11 am – 3pm -At Home with Heidi
This is the winter therapy you’ll knead to keep you happy! Nothing like baking your own bread and I’ll share several tips and tricks to make it easy and fun; using recipes from my own collection and some from several of my favorite bread baking books –
Cost is $65 email Heidi at hlnc@carolina.rr.com to make your advance reservations

december 2013 076Tues Feb 11 – On the Bone with local beer pairings -At Home with Heidi- 6:30-9:30 pm
A fun twist on one of my favorite classes – we are cooking local beef, pork, lamb and chicken all on the bone and then pairing each dish with a local Winter beer – Eat Local – Drink Local
Cost is $75 email Heidi at hlnc@carolina.rr.com to make your advance reservations

Nada Vergili of Nada's Italy

Nada Vergili of Nada’s Italy

Sat Feb 15 – The Annual That’s Amore cooking class with Nada Vergili of Nada’s Italy – 5:30-9:30 pm
This At Home with Heidi class is always a quick sell out – so make your reservations soon -Nada is back with us for a food and wine of Italy class for you and your Valentine; although you can come as a single or with friends too. We’ll cook a full meal, share Italian wine pairings and Nada will fill us in on some fun and flirtatious Italian pillow talk – good anytime of the year!
Cost is $75 email Heidi at hlnc@carolina.rr.com to make your advance reservations

Sammy and Melinda Koenigsberg of New Town Farms

Sammy and Melinda Koenigsberg of New Town Farms

Sat March 8 – On the Farm at New Town Farms                        11 am – 4 pm                                                                       Veggies and heritage breed chickens and pigs are just a few of things you’ll see on this fabulous family farm in Waxhaw NC. So happy to be cooking once again with my good friends, local farmers Sammy and Melinda Koenigsberg.  This class begins in the kitchen as we prepare a menu
of recipes featuring New Town’s  chicken and eggs in addition to all that is ripe
and ready to pick in  the field. After we cook – and eat and drink – we’ll enjoy
a walking farm tour with our gracious hosts where we will meet the pasture raised
chickens and heritage breed  pigs and  learn about the ins and outs of farming acres
of wonderful produce.  Sammy will share with us his philosophy of farming and sustainability
and the importance of knowing how what we eat is grown and is raised.  Its more
than just a farm tour and cooking class – it’s an event that will change the way
you think about where your food comes from. Cost is $75 email Heidi to make your advance reservations at hlnc@carolina.rr.com

bosky acres baby goatsSat March 22 – On the Farm at Bosky Acres – 11 am – 4 pm.                                                                                               Join me and meet Bosky Acres’ owner Michele Lamb and her oh-so-friendly herd of goats at the farm – including the group of new born kids who you can bottle feed if you would like.  its the only cooking class in twon  where you will learn how to milk a goat and how Michele makes her delicious fresh chevre. As the cheese process takes place, I will cook four different dishes – appetizers, entrees and a dessert – all using Bosky Acres tasty chevre and feta cheese.  Menu to come  – so happy to be at Bosky Acres once again!. Farm tour and cooking class- Cost is $65. For reservations, simply email Heidi at hlnc@carolina.rr.com