The Sugar (& Cinnamon) To Sprinkle on Your Snow Day

make-it-a-cinnamon-rollDateline: January 6 2017 , Charlotte NC.

So they say its going to snow. That’s #SnOMG or #Snomageddon for those of you anxious to share the excitement on social media!

Although I’ve been Charlotte-based since 1975, I’m still enough of a Florida-raised girl that, for me, the words, “Snow Day” run synonymous with the term “Free Day”

Snow in Charlotte, and often the accompanying ice, cause a run on the bread and milk aisles in local groceries and a bit of a local panic. Truth is, in 2-3 days its usually all melted and gone. So, while the “free” time does provide an unexpected opportunity to take a deep breath and to catch up on cleaning and paperwork, I’d prefer to  look at it through adolescent rose-colored glasses and take is as a day off to play, make footprints in the snow,  drink hot chocolate and in the case of today’s post make cinnamon rolls.

Snow or not, you’ll find this recipe makes for a fun morning of winter’s baking, filling your home with the sweet strong scent of cinnamon. Traditionally I make cinnamon rolls for all of our neighbors and local family and deliver the warm pans of rolls tied up with a holiday bow to those on the cul-de-sac on Christmas Morning. But, you don’t have to wait for the holidays to circle back round, cinnamon rolls are a fun treat for yourself and your friends any time of the year.

img_7817What you will need:  Keeping the recipe as local as I can, I now love using Carolina Farmhouse Dairy plain or vanilla organic yogurt in place of the sour cream that I originally called for in this recipe. This yogurt, made in Bahama NC just north of Durham, gives a creamier lighter taste to the finished rolls; and as its local and organic I know where the milk that turns to yogurt come from and makes me feel better about what I am feeding my family and friends.  Same goes for the local eggs. In this case I used chicken eggs from Rowland’s Row Farms, but local duck eggs work equally as well and add a richer taste and texture.

Where to buy? Both Carolina Farmhouse Dairy Yogurt and Rowland’s Row eggs are available at the all new Queen City Pantry/ Vin Masters at Atherton Mill!  That’s right, Vin Master is not just a wine shop any more. Recently purchased by Queen City Pantry’s Rochelle Baxter, Vin Master now carries all the local product that Queen City Pantry has been know for as well as a terrific variety of wine and beer. (Note to self: in light of the upcoming snow, might want to  pick up a couple of bottles of wine while shopping for yogurt and eggs)

As far as the remaining ingredients go, if I can’t find a locally raised or produced option, I turn toward organic choices whenever I can. In this case, the sugar I use in the recipe is organic, as is the butter; and the flour is local Southern Biscuit Flour,  brought to you by Renwood Mills in Newton NC. This trio of ingredients is available at almost every local grocer.

imgres-2My personal preference in yeast is SAF Red Instant Yeast. The Healthy Home Market  with three locations in Charlotte usually carries this yeast in 1 lb. bags – which, in my experience, will last till you use it all, if you keep it in a sealed container in your freezer. if you can’t find it locally you can order it from the fine folks  at King Arthur’s Flour.  

Here’s the How-To when using yeast in a recipe. Proof the yeast ( to make sure it is good) when you first open the vacuum sealed bag , by stirring the prescribed amount into water that is tepid. That is no hotter than 110 degrees F. You can use an instant-read thermometer if you’d like, but if you want to go by feel, tepid water  is not as cold as what you would pour for a glass to drink; but not as hot as what you would use to wash your face. Think room temperature.  Stir the yeast in and wait for a bit of foaming of bubbling action to occur on the water’s surface, once that happens you are good to go. Store the remaining yeast in an airtight container in the freezer and use it as needed. Further directions in the recipe below…

 

img_7831Now about the cinnamon. My go-to spot for spice is the Savory Spice Shop in Southend Charlotte. Run by Amy and Scott McCabe and an incredibly knowledgeable staff, Charlotte’s South Charlotte Savory Spice Shop now enjoys new digs at the Atherton Mill & Market. Located right around the corner from their former location, between O-Ku Restaurant and Big Ben’s, they’ll set you up for success, making it easy for you to keep fresh fragrant and flavorful spices in your pantry of spice drawer all year long.

No more buying big jars and then having them grow old and stale between recipes. It’s always good to keep basics on hand, but for specialty items, buy as is needed and know that you may purchase as much or as little as you’d like. While the Savory Spice Shop in Southend carries several varieties of ground cinnamon and cinnamon chips ( ooh, wouldn’t those be a great addition to these rolls!) my favorite cinnamon for sweet and spicy culinary endeavors alike is the piquant, rich ground Saigon Cassia Cinnamon. Before you cook, go in and taste all the varieties on the shelves ( this is one of the pleasures of shopping at Savory Spice,  you may taste before you buy) and find the one that works best for you.

So there you have it – all that’s left is the fun that’s to be had in the baking. I fill my cinnamon rolls with a mix of the organic white sugar, cinnamon and my homemade brown sugar ( the how-to here is in the recipe) Be generous as you sprinkle for extra ooey-goo-iness. If you’re feeling adventurous, mix it up a bit with the addition of chocolate, cinnamon or butterscotch chips,  or cocoa nibs ( Black Mountain Chocolate cocoa nibs from Winston-Salem, NC are also available at the new Vin Masters, as well!)

Heidi’s Homemade (SnowDay) Cinnamon Rolls

1 cup organic sour cream or (preferably) organic yogurt – Carolina Farmhouse Dairy is my Go-to brand

½ cup organic sugar

1 tsp. salt

½ cup melted butter

½ cup tepid water

2 Tbsp. SAF Red Instant yeast

2 local chicken or duck eggs

4 cups organic or local unbleached flour

For the cinnamon roll filling:

generous amounts of melted butter
, cinnamon, sugar, brown sugar*

*Here’s the Brown Sugar How-To: Make your own brown sugar by using 2 1/2 cups of organic sugar and 1/4 cup of local NC Sorghum Syrup molasses ( Forget the commercial blackstrap molasses and go local here – it really makes a delicious difference! I love the sorghum syrup molasses from Harrell Hill Farms in Bakersville, NC and you will too; but any NC sorghum syrup works well) Blend the two ingredients together  by using quick on-off pulsing motions in a food processor until the sugar dissolves into the sorghum and viola! – Your own homemade brown sugar – yum!

 

img_7819For 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.

img_7806Heidi Cooks | Heidi Writes | Heidi Teaches

I can’t wait to see and hear how your cinnamon rolls bake up!  Post photos and then tag me on your social media posts – @HeidiBillotto and @HeidiBillottoCooks on Facebook; @HeidiCooks on Twitter and @HeidiBillotto on Instagram

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Stay tuned…my list of Jan, Feb and March 2017 hands-on cooking classes posts this weekend – can’t  wait!

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.

video graphic

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 Bite of GotToBeNC Competition Dining Charlotte from Behind the Scenes

DSC_0655As many of you know I travel with the GotToBeNC Competition Dining series organizers across the state of North Carolina – promoting chefs and their culinary prowess as they participate in  dinner events set up like a live version of a mix of Chopped and Ironchef.

Slide95My job is not to cook, but  instead to tell the tale of chefs and farmers, restaurants and featured products; and in addition to handle all the social media, the sponsors and relationships with our competing chefs.

I love what I do and have met some very cool people in each city, but have to say I am so happy to be in Charlotte this month as The GotToBeNC Competition Dining series kicks off a seven night series in the Queen City.

 

Team Radical Range Riders

Team Radical Range Riders

Monday Aug 8 was evening one. This first preliminary battle saw chefs Paul Verica from Heritage Food & Drink; Ashely Boyd from 300 East and Heritage Food& Drink and Joe Bonaparte from the International Culinary Institute of Myrtle Beach on Team 3 Cooks up against chefs Adam Reed from Sante of Matthews, Terra Ciotta of the Art Institute of Charlotte’s Artisan Restaurant and Jess Cochran from CPCC’s culinary school who came to play as Team Radical Range Riders.

Team 3 cooks

Team 3 Cooks

The concept of a dream team of chefs – all from one restaurant or from three separate restaurants is new to the GotToBeNc Competition Dining Series this year and the chefs and the audience are loving the experience.

I, too, had a blast yesterday. I have had the pleasure of knowing all of these chefs for years – save for Jess who I just met the other day and am looking forward to getting to know.

Its been great watching all of them grow, hone their skills, make their marks both individually and together to help carve a place for the Charlotte culinary community in the statewide, regional and national spotlights.

Yesterday was no different and the fact that all six of these chefs were good friends with similar cooking styles, made it all the more fun from the Chefs’ Breakfast at the start of the day to the announcement of the winning team about 9:30 Monday night.

images-2One of this year’s Competition Dining sponsors, Alsco, treats the chefs in each region across the state to a relaxing breakfast as a start to the day and in Charlotte our breakfast spot is @Dawn, located at 2130 Ayrely Town Blvd at the intersection of I-485 and South Tryon Streets, the relatively new breakfast concept brought to you by Greg and Subrina Collier of The Yolk, a great  little breakfast spot in Rock Hill. After a family style meal of local eggs cooked to order, two kinds of grits, pancakes, waffles, bacon, sausage, biscuits, fresh local fruit, coffee tea and more and some fun photos the crew all headed over to Bonterra Dining & Wine Room, our home base for each of the Charlotte events.

chefs at the reveal

Chefs meet each day with Chef Ref Chad Blackwelder for the Secret Ingredient and Mystery Basket reveal

Back at Bonterra Dining and Wine Room, located on Cleveland Ave in the Dilworth neighborhood,  Competition Dining Chef Ref Chad Blackwelder from Sanford, NC, sets up a refrigerated mobile pantry, sponsored by Pate Dawson Southern Foods full of great items for the chefs to cook with and make a part of the meal. The pantry has all the basics and includes lots of North Carolina product.

 

 

In addition Chad UPDATED - NCDAalso shops at local markets in each city so that the end result of each six course meal features a good mix of  local farmers, NC  Produce, product and proteins as well as a mix of other regional and seasonal items.

At the reveal each morning of competition, chefs learn of the secret ingredient they will be working with – to be featured in each of their 3 courses to make a 6 course meal. In addition, they have a group of mystery basket ingredients to choose from that they must include somewhere in the meal.

To that end, the first Charlotte preliminary  dinner featured Black Mountain Chocolate cocoa nibs and Dominican Chocolate as well as several varieties of local chiles and peppers.

The chiles and peppers came almost entirely from the Matthews Community Farmers’ Market from my friends Mark and Mindy Robinson at Tega Hill Farm and from Cathy and Eric McCall at As Hot As Possible Hot Pepper Herb Farm. Poblano chiles were from Coto Farms at the Atherton Farmers market and the spicy Thai Chiles were from Ma Cha at the Charlotte Regional Farmers’ Market

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Chef Paul Verica | Heritage Food&Drink

From the  Mystery basket selections, chefs were limited to two proteins – duck from Joe Jurgielewicz & Son – a fourth generation sustainable duck farm in Pennsylvania and one of the leading Pekin duck suppliers in North America ; and Greenbrier Farms pork, a farm I discovered and was happy to bring to the Competition Dining table and to the attention of Pate Dawson when we competed in Greenville SC last year.

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Chef Adam Reed Sante of Matthews

Also in the Mystery Basket this first night of Charlotte competition, other local favorites from the Savory Spice Shop in Southend and from Charlotte’s own, award winning Cloister Honey. Basics in the kitchen also came from lots of local farms all of whom sell at the Charlotte Regional Farmers Market on Saturdays including watermelons, onions, and more from A Way of Life Farm; cucumbers, blackberries and more from Burton Farms; Tomatoes and Peaches from Lincoln County; Blueberries from Blackwood Berries, a farm located not far from Fayetteville, NC

These six chefs did both secret ingredients and all the mystery basket and pantry items proud in six courses that featured flavors from an rich Manchamanteles sauce served in The Radical Range Riders course 3 to a light NC Peach and Thai Chile sorbet a part of the plating for Team 3 Cooks course 6. The intriguing mix kept the crowd guessing all through the evening as to which team made which plate, but as Competition Dining host and creator Jimmy Crippen always remnds guests, it is always best not to guess who made what, but instead to simply vote your palate.  For final results of this first battle and a detailed description of each plate visit the Results Page at the Competition Dining Website

In the end, it was an excited Team Radical Range Riders who took the win and will go on the compete in the Thursday August 11 semi final round.

They will go up against the winner of tonights August 9 battle which will find Team Bistro 127 from Hickory NC with chefs Shawn Bank, John Edwards and Jeff Croft all going up against Team Vicious & Delicious with chefs Ryan Forte and Phillip Platoni from Southminster in Charlotte and chef Brigitte Oger from Craft Cakes of Charlotte. Check out these pages on Wednesday Aug 10 to see the results of the  Tuesday Aug 9 nite event.

As I write this Monday night recap, chefs are in the kitchen with 2 very cool secret ingredients, one a local seasonal favorite and the other one you might be surprise to find is an ingredient produced in the state of North Carolina.  Here are all of the Aug 10 chefs at the

 

Its anyone’ game. Tonight’s  preliminary battle and the August 11 semi final battle are already sold out with a waiting list, but tickets to the  Aug 22 and 23 preliminary battles are still available.  Treat yourself to a night of North Carolina’s favorite culinary sport and join us, if you will.

Tickets for the preliminary events are just $74.78, exclusive of beverages. Here are the direct links:

August 22 between Team Lucianos Charlotte and Team Fahrenheit CLT

August 23 between Team Heirloom and Team Trois Petit Cochon with chefs from The Fishmarket in Ft. Mill and Cafe Montes in Charlotte

Don’t miss a single bite of the action – if you can’t make it you can follow along on all the social media – I look forward to seeing you there – Cheers!

 

Planning The Best SuperBowl Party Ever

You Better Believe It!… The Carolina Panthers are Superbowl bound!

Now that we’ve all had a day to let reality sink in  that our Carolina Panthers are going to  Superbowl 50; those of us here at home will want to cheer on our home team  by celebrating in a big way!

superbowl party cooking class (2)
Despite my ” All Pro” looks of the photo here (the pink shoes make the uniform, don’t you think?), I really don’t know much about the game of football; but I do know how to throw one heck of a Superbowl Party, and I’ll be sharing all my tips and tricks and lots  recipes featuring all local produce, proteins and product at my January 31 On The Farm Cooking Class at Windcrest Farms in Monroe NC.

I started offering On The Farm cooking classes several years ago – teaching occasional classes at a half dozen plus Charlotte area farms. These classes are great fun and will really make you stop and think about the food you eat and where it comes from, and how it is grown. One talk with a local farmer and you’ll look at the phase, “You are what you eat, in a whole new way.”

windcrest LogoFor this class our hosts are organic farmers, Mary Roberts and her husband Ray. Mary  will kick off the class with a farm tour of her organic greenhouses, sharing her philosophy of organic farming and telling the story of how she went from corporate American back to the land.  

After the tour,  we’ll settle in to a cute makeshift kitchen and we will cook (eat and enjoy) 4-5 different all local Superbowl specialties using Mary’s fresh picked produce as well as proteins, produce and product from several other local farmers and producers –  all of which  will set your party apart. 

The class fee includes beverage pairings, recipe packets, farm tour and class as well as coupons to the Savory Spice Shop in SouthEnd and Pour Olive on East Blvd and special Superbowl surprises for all class participants.

I do hope you’ll join in all the fun! The “Plan Your Superbowl Party” Cooking Class is Sunday Jan 31,2016 from 1-4 pm. Cost is $85 per person.

Just email me – Heidi Billotto – at HLNC@Carolina.rr.com  to make your reservation and to get on my email newsletter list where you will recieve anemail every other week or so with updates on my cooking classes and culinary appearances. I’ll respond to your email immediately and we’ll get you signed up for class and the email newsletter list – your payment by cash or check will confirm your cooking class reservation.

HEIDI BILLOTTO FOODLooking forward to seeing you soon – if not on Sunday then at one of my upcoming February or March cooking classes – this list will be out in an email  and up in a blog post this week. 

Cheers!

Heidi 

As Much Fun To Make As It Is To Eat – Happy Popcorn Month!

HEIDI BILLOTTO FOODOctober is National Popcorn Month, so let me be the first to say Happy Happy!   I don’t know about you, but when my thoughts turn to popcorn, my food memories kick in and I go back to a time before microwaves and air poppers.

Like many of you, I go back circa  mid to late 1960’s. My brother Jaimie and I were 8, 9 or 10ish and when we were in need of a snack, our mom would let us make Jiffy Pop. If you know me, you know I’m a sucker for a culinary gadget and the Jiffy Pop “cook it in the package” marketing was – at the time – the ultimate. I loved the process probably even more than the popcorn itself, inspired, as were many my age by the classic commercial with the magic genie in the lamp touting this popcorn as “The Magic Treat” “… as much fun to make as it was to eat”  Before we go further – take a step back in time and watch it with me now…  

 

popcorn popper advertisementIf you didn’t have the luxury of Jiffy Pop, then  you had to go back to the kettle type electric popcorn popper or a large heavy pop on the stove – both required working with hot oil and at least to my mom’s mind – were too dangerous for us to handle ourselves.

As I got older electric popcorn poppers became a bit more refined and when I was in college ( again in the days before microwaves) we used the non stick bowl or base of our electric popcorn poppers much like an electric skillet to cook everything from Kraft macaroni and cheese ( boiled first in the small hot pots we used to heat  coffee, tea and soup) to browning ground beef or searing hamburger patties as much as we used it to make popcorn.

As I recall my popcorn popper then was made by Hamilton Beach and I  know I opted for Flame Red over the Avocado Green and Harvest Gold colors offered. I honestly don’t really recall that it was endorsed by Joe Namath, but according to this old Spiegel Catalog ad – looks like that was the case.

Today technology has sadly eliminated the need for the same type of culinary creativity we had to muster back in the day and  most people turn to the microwave to pop corn ( and make Mac and Cheese), but if you ask me – I still like popcorn popped in oil on the stove – calories or no – its all about the flavor.

popcorn with spicesNow, instead of vegetable oil I suggested using canola oil to start and then finish the fluffy popped kernels with a drizzling of real melted butter and a sprinkling of sea salt;   or mix it up a bit with a grating of aged Parmesan cheese or a blend of salt and pepper; or better yet take a trip over to The Savory Spice Shop – I’m a regular at Charlotte’s SouthEnd location  – Let owners Amy and Scott McCabe and their friendly staff help find one or two spice blends of flavor combos you like. Then just sprinkle them on and let the snacking begin!

 

However you pop it, Celebrate in style this month! Make some popcorn from scratch and enjoy life the old fashion way, one buttery kernel at a time… and then use the leftovers ( or pop a second batch) to make either of the two sweet treats or for a savory splash of popcorn, grind the popped kernels and use them in place of bread crumbs to crust chicken or fish or in addition to the flour for a bit of texture in your next batch of homebaked bread, pancakes or waffles  – Happy National Popcorn month!

CHOCOLATE CHIP HONEY CARAMEL CORN

hhfmolassesInstead of buying commercial brown sugar -I like to make my own by combining ¾ cup of organic sugar and ¼ cup local molasses and stirring until well blended. Worth noting here that my go to for molasses is local NC Sorghum Syrup molasses from Harrell Hill Farms – Doug Harrell tells me they’ve just finished up the 2015 season and its bottled up and ready to roll – order you can buy it in several shops up and around the Burnsville. NC area or call and order directly from the farm – for more details visit http://harrellhillfarms.com/molasses.htm ) Now onto the recipe…

10 cups popped popcorn

1 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup local honey

1 cup butter

1/8 tsp cream of tartar

Pinch of fine ground salt

1/2 tsp. baking soda

2 cups dark chocolate chips

 

Divide the popcorn and spread in simgle layers over two large parchment paper lined baking sheets with sides.

Combine the brown sugar, local honey, butter, cream of tartar, and salt in a medium saucepan over a medium-high heat. Stir constantly and bring to a boil for about 5 minutes.  Remove from the heat and quickly stir in the baking soda.

Pour the caramel over the popcorn and stir gently until all the kernels are coated.

Bake for 1 hour in a preheated 200 degree oven, stirring every 20 minutes. Add the chocolate chips during the last 2-3 minutes of baking. Pull from oven and stir once again to mix chocolate in and around the caramel corn.  Allow the popcorn to cool on the pan as the hot caramel is VERY hot, then, break the cooled pieces apart for easier eating and storage. When it has cooled, store  the popcorn in a tightly sealed container and enjoy!

pink popcorn ballsHomemade Popcorn Balls

I first made these about the same time I first made Jiffy Pop. My very first cookbook was  “Betty Crocker’s Boys and Girls Cookbook” among my favorite  recipes was the one for Pink Popcorn Balls – you can make these any color with just a few drops of your favorite food coloring and if you want to add a bit of flavor, add a quarter to half tsp of any extract or flavoring for a treat fun of any occasion!

6 cups popped popcorn

3 Tbsp. butter

1 (10 ounce) package marshmallows

Melt butter in a large saucepan over low heat. Add marshmallows and stir until completely melted.

Remove from heat.  Add popped popcorn and  toss with a buttered spatula to coat. Coat your hands with melted butter or wear plastic gloves and shape the warm coated popcorn into balls. Allow to cool on a waxed paper or parchment paper lined tray, then wrap with plastic wrap to hold, or enjoy on the spot!

 

Oh my, it’s time for Pi…

I love to bak epies but my most popular is one, though, is not pictured here - its my infamous chocolate pecan pie - Yum!

I love to bake pies but my most popular is one, though, is not pictured here – its my infamous chocolate pecan pie – Yum!

cropped-heidi-cooks-logo.jpgIt’s March 14, 2014 and while many of you may think that this is just the day before St. Patty’s day, others with a slightly more mathematical mind will get that its 3.14 or Pi(e) Day!

Wish I had come up with the pun, but I must give credit where credit it due – Jessica’s Biscuit, a cookbook lovers’ website, just sent out their weekly Biscuit Buzz email with the pun in place to promote baking cookbooks.

I just thought I would jump on in, and take advantage of the theme to bring you my most popular pie recipe ever – my infamous Chocolate Pecan Pie.

Make it work for St. Patty’s by adding some Irish Whiskey in place of the vanilla and a tablespoon or two of the milk.

Delicious Black Onyx cocoa powder and sugar from the Savory Spice Shop SouthEnd in Charlotte NC

Delicious Black Onyx cocoa powder and sugar from the Savory Spice Shop SouthEnd in Charlotte NC

Of course, I shop for  cocoa at Charlotte’s Savory Spice Shop, SouthEnd.

While they have several cocoa choices, I always land on the most chocolatey one – the Black Onyx Cocoa – for this particular recipe.  When you are picking up the cocoa, also look for Savory Spice Shop’s Black Onyx sugar, and if the  luck of the Irish is with you, they will also have their Black Onyx sugar cubes in stock.

Serve theses scumptuous sugar cups to sweeten up that  cup of Irish coffee you plan to serve with your first slice of pie – delish!

Local eggs from anyone of Charlotte’s farmers’ markets, organic sugar and milk and local pecans ( you can order local pecans, in season, from High Rock Farms in Gibsonville NC ) make this Pi, practically perfect.

These two loved the Vodka pie crust when they attended my Apple of Your Pie cooking class earlier this year

These two loved the Vodka pie crust when they attended my Apple of Your Pie cooking class earlier this year

Speaking of perfect – if making your own pie crust has only brought you frustrations in the past, then toss all of your other recipes away and try this foolproof ( it really is) vodka pie crust recipes I took from the page of Cooks Illustrated Magazine some years ago. Still giving credit where credit is due, it really is the best pie crust I have ever made and I thank Cooks for doing the research.

The vodka apparently has a better chemical reaction with the butter and flour than does water and creates a lighter flakier crust. Honestly I have never wondered much about why it works – I am just happy that it does and to tell you the truth , its fun to cook with spirits.

TOPO distilleries in Chapel Hill NC makes local 100% organic vodka, gin and whiskey

TOPO distilleries in Chapel Hill NC make local 100% organic vodka, gin and whiskey

In the “spirit” of keeping things local and organic I have opted for TOPO Vodka here – NC’s own 100% organic vodka made in Chapel Hill – great stuff, available at all NC and some SC liquor stores – do give it a try.  While you are trying you will also want to pick up a bottle of the TOPO gin as well -delish and the perfect addition to a spring or summer time Italian Negroni or all American gin and tonic.

Liquor aside and back to pie, for my gluten free friends I have also included a delicious gluten free crust recipe here -give it a try and let me know what you think – no one – gluten free or not, should ever have to do without a slice of Pi!
Cheers!

CHOCOLATE PECAN PIE TART
Recipe by Charlotte Culinary Expert, Heidi Billotto
hlnc@carolina.rr.com

3 cups organic sugar
pinch salt
7 Tbsps. Your favorite cocoa from the Savory Spice Shop
4 local eggs
1 Tbsp. vanilla
1 ½ cups organic milk
1 stick butter, melted
2-3 cups local pecan halves (be generous)
Dough for two pies fitted into two 10-inch French tart pans with removable bottoms

Carefully fit the dough into each of the French tart pans, trimming edges to fit. Place each on a baking sheet. Mix sugar, salt, and cocoa together. Whisk together the eggs, vanilla, and milk; stir into the dry ingredients. Add melted butter and stir until well blended. Fill each pie shell two – thirds full with pecan halves.
Pour filling over the pecans. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 40 to 45 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. If you are taking your tart to-go, transport them in the pans and then removed on site for easy serving. Top with freshly whipped cream or ice cream if you would like.
Makes 2 pies.

Foolproof Pie Dough
Shared by Charlotte Culinary Expert, Heidi Billotto
hlnc@carolina.rr.com
Originally from Cooks Illustrated, November 2007
Makes enough for one 9-inch double-crust pie

2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces) unbleached organic all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. organic 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.

Heidi’s Gluten Free Brazil Nut Pie Crust                                                                                                                                                 

Recipe Adapted By Charlotte Culinary Expert, Heidi Billotto                                                                                                     Hlnc@carolina.rr.com

4 1/2 cups (630 g) high-quality all-purpose gluten-free flour ( I like the all purpose gluten free flour at Trader Joes very much)

4 tsps. xanthan gum

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

20 Tbsp.  unsalted butter, roughly chopped and kept cold

4 ounces grated Brazil nuts, finely grated

1 cup to 1 1/4 cups cold water, iced (ice cubes do not count in volume measurement)

Egg wash (1 egg yolk + 2 tablespoons cream, whisked to combine)

Into the bowl of your food processor fitted with the steel blade (or a large bowl, if you don’t have a food processor), place the flour, xanthan gum, baking powder, salt, and grated Brazil nuts, and pulse a few times until well-combined (or whisk if not using the machine). Add the chopped and chilled butter, and pulse until the chunks of butter are a bit smaller and are covered in the dry mixture.

Add 1/2 cup ice water to the mixture a bit at a time. If using a food processor, pulse repeatedly while dribbling in the ice water very slowly. After you have added this first 1/2 cup ice water, pulse a few more times to see if the mixture is beginning to come together in the food processor. If not, dribble in more water by the scant tablespoon and pulse. Stop adding water the moment the mixture begins to come together.

Dump the dough out onto a large sheet of plastic wrap, enclose and place in the freezer until firm, about 30 minutes. If you are not planning to use the dough right away, but will use it within a few days, transfer the wrapped dough to the refrigerator, where it can keep for a few days. If you don’t plan to use the dough for more than a few days, freeze until solid and defrost in the refrigerator overnight before using.

For more information about the Savory Spice Shop SouthEnd in Charlotte visit https://www.facebook.com/pages/Savory-Spice-Shop-Charlotte-South-EndDilworth/136994393059682 – Take in you old bottles of commercial herbs and spices from now till April 15 and take advantage of the Cash in Your Cupboard Event where the shop will pay you to bring in your old dried herbs spices and buy new ones!

For more information about TOPO spirits – visit http://www.topodistillery.com/

For more information about Local NC pecans and chestnuts, in season, visit http://www.high-rock-farm.org/

Weekend One of Charlotte’s 2014 Spring Show Cooking Stage: Recap & Recipes

cropped-heidi-cooks-logo.jpgIt is, each and every year, my great pleasure to coordinate the chefs and host the culinary action on the Southern Shows Spring Home and Garden Show cooking stage in late February and then again I do the same in August for the Southern Shows Ideal Home show.
This year the spring show ran two consecutive weekends in a row and with nearly 60 different chefs, sous chefs, foodies and farmers making appearances on stage, every hour on the hour, the action was hot!

With so many different chefs I made the decision to make the stage “paperless” this year – so aside from coupons, business cards and menus for the crowd to pick up and share, there were no printed recipes.

bannerInstead of all the paper,  my good friends at Charlotte Living magazine have created a Southern Spring Home & Garden cooking stage landing page where readers will find an index of all the participating chefs, links to their printed recipes and further links to restaurant, chef, farm and shop websites. the link to the recipe index from the first weekend is at the end of this post; recipes for the second weekend will be up next week and I’ll soon write a recap blog post for that as well –  but first a brief recap of the first weekend of fun, food and flavor!

Heidi and Tom in the Booth  spring show 2-14

Heidi and Tom Billotto in Charlotte NC at the Southern Spring Home & Garden Show 2014

As I mentioned, this year, The Southern Spring & Garden show ran Feb 22 – Feb 24 and Feb 28 – Mar 2, While I was at the Cooking Stage, my very talented husband Musician Tom Billotto, was performing instrumental and vocals in the show’s gardens. We sold his CD, Two and A Half Guitars, at the Heidi Billotto & Friends booth directly across from the  cooking stage and then we played it between chefs  –  the crowd seemed to enjoy the blending of food and mood.

If you missed purchasing Tom’s CD for a little food and mood of your own – its available through his website – look for the link at the end of this post.

So what follows is the low down on the line up of first weekend chefs, farmers and foodies that I am proud to call my friends and colleagues as they shared their skills, tips and techniques with the audience. – Thank you every one!

 

Heidi Billotto with Cantina 1511's Vince Giancarlo and Greg Balch

Heidi Billotto with Cantina 1511’s Vince Giancarlo and Greg Balch

Chefs Vince Giancarlo, Kyle Biddy and Greg Balch from Cantina 1511 kicked things off on Feb 21 at 11 am preparing Al Pastor Pork from Cantina’s new spring menu.

Al Pastor Pork on a griddle fried corn arapas

Al Pastor Pork on a griddle fried corn arapas

This delicious little bite is one you should certainly request when next you eat at either of Cantinas two locations – the big news is that the East Blvd. location will soon be moving to Park Road Shopping Center – stay tuned on these blog pages and on my Facebook page for details as they happen.

Paul Verica and his son Alex from Heritage Food and Drink

Paul Verica and his son Alex from Heritage Food and Drink

Baby bacon Doughnuts from chefs Paul and Alex Verica

Baby bacon Doughnuts from chefs Paul and Alex Verica

As it turned out it was a pork-centric beginning to the day as Chef Paul Verica and his son Alex followed with his version of the story of  “The Three Little Pigs” done Hertitage Food and Drink style with Maple Glazed Pork Belly, Pulled pork with old school biscuits and  Bacon Doughnuts, oh my!

A big supporter of local farmers and farmers markets, Paul has spent the last 20 years developing his personal style of New American Cuisine, and  the opening of Heritage Food & Drink in downtown Waxhaw NC  the culmination of years of hard work and dedication – like all the restaurants featured in this post Heritage is well worth your consideration next time you plan to enjoy dinner out!

Heidi with Chef Bill Bigham

Heidi with Chef Bill Bigham

Then the day on the stage took a turn toward poultry with Private chef Chef Bill Bigham who shared his quick and easy recipe for Mojito Chicken.

Chris Coleman from The Asbury at the Dunhill Hotel

Chris Coleman from The Asbury at the Dunhill Hotel

Bill was followed by Chef Chris Coleman from The Asbury at The Dunhill Hotel, a modern southern restaurant that honors the past, celebrates the seasons, and looks forward serving break fast lunch and dinner 7 days a week. Chris followed the poultry theme  preparing Cured and pan roasted duck with NC peanut Farro Risotto using local duck local peanuts and local farro – Chris is another big believer in the farm to fork concept and the menu at The Asbury reflects this philosophy.

Heidi Billotto with chefs David Moore and Kelly Morrow from The Gallery

Heidi Billotto with chefs David Moore and Kelly Morrow from The Gallery

North Carolina Peanut

North Carolina Peanut

Chef David Moore from The Gallery at Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge was also inspired by all things local and Southern as he too worked with NC peanuts, crafting the legume into a delicious brittle that sported quick a kick as he added South Carolina’s now famous hot sauce, The Grim Reaper, grown and produced by the Puckerbutt Hot Sauce Company in Ft Mill, SC. The Grim reaper chili has recently been classified as the hottest Chili in the world by the fine folks at Guinness who keep all the records!

Private chef Jill Aker-Ray

Private chef Jill Aker-Ray

Rachel Klebaur from Orrman's cheese shop

Rachel Klebaur from Orrman’s cheese shop

Private chef Jill Aker Ray lightened things up a bit with her easy Primavera sauce and I followed with Rachel Klebaur of Orrman’s Cheese Shop, making my recipes for Local Bosky Acres goat cheese fondue and beer cheese stuffed jalapenos.

Greg and Subrina Collier from The Yolk in Rock Hill

Greg and Subrina Collier from The Yolk in Rock Hill

Later, I took the stage once more to share perfect pairings of Pour Olive ultra premium extra virgin olive oils and artisan Balsamic vinegars and then Chef Greg Collier put a cap on the evening as he entertained the crowd while he prepared a twist on a breakfast classic – steel cut oats. Instead of making a sweet oatmeal, Greg transformed the oats into a melt in your mouth mushroom risotto – what a way to end our first day and one reason you should definitely check out the breakfast menus at The Yolk located in Rock Hill, SC!
 

 

Heidi with DJ Ivey and Jon Fortes form Mimosa Grill

Heidi with DJ Ivey and Jon Fortes from Mimosa Grill

The action Continue at a fever pitch on Saturday, Feb 22 with appearances by four of Charlotte’s top restaurant chefs one right after the other:

Carpe Diem's Chef Paul Ketterhagen with his biggest fan

Carpe Diem’s Chef Paul Ketterhagen with his biggest fan

Chef Paul Ketterhagen from Carpe Diem, a fine dining restaurant and catering company
located at 1535 Elizabeth Avenue  in Charlotte delighted show goers with recipes for  a springtime farro salad with a duo of vinaigrettes – look for creative dishes like this one on the carpe diem springtime menu

Chef Sam Stachon from The Kings Kitchen

Chef Sam Stachon from The Kings Kitchen

Then Chef Sam Stachon from The Kings Kitchen a not for profit restaurant in Uptown , with a mission  to help and feed our city’s hungry and homeless, brought it all back home with his melt in your mouth biscuits and sasauge gravy. Kings Kitchen is now open for breakfast and these biscuits are featured on the breakfast and lunch menus.

Chef Tim Groody from Fork! in Cornelius

Chef Tim Groody from Fork! in Cornelius

Smoked pork potstickers by Chef Tim Groody

Smoked pork potstickers by Chef Tim Groody

Show goers were ready for more as Chef Tim Groody from Fork Restaurant  on Main Street in Cornelius, a farms to fork restaurant supporting dozens of local farms in the Carolinas, put an international spin on a bevy of local ingredients to make his tasty smoked local pork pot stickers!

Creole stuffed hushpuppies by chef Jon Fortes of Mimosa Grill

Creole stuffed hushpuppies by chef Jon Fortes of Mimosa Grill

Chef Jonathan Fortes, winner of the 2013 Fire in the City Competition dining series,  and his team from Mimosa Grill located in Uptown Charlotte, wowed show goers with his  creole stuffed hushpuppies – the crowd, quit literally, ate it all up.

Nada Vergili of Nada's Italy

Nada Vergili of Nada’s Italy

a beautiful presentation of homemade Boursin cheese by chef Jill Aker Ray

a beautiful presentation of homemade Boursin cheese by chef Jill Aker Ray

I made real Italian biscotti while Italian travel expert Nada Vergili  expounded on all that is wonderful about traveling in Italy; while private chef Jill Aker-Ray stepped up for  the first of  three separate time slots on stage over the course of the show  sharing her recipes for  primavera sauce, boursin cheese and southern pesto.

On Sunday Feb 23 – The crew from the Papi Queso Food Truck was unable to attend as scheduled, so I stepped in sharing a few tips I’ve learned from Papi Queso and others on making superlative grilled cheese sandwiches  -the big trick is to use real mayo instead of butter on the bread for a truly golden and crispy finish ( the brand is your call but my go-to is Carolinas-made Dukes) – other than that, use interesting breads and fill with your favorite combinations of cheese, fruits, meats and veggies and you’re good to grill!

Heidi Billotto with Chef Nathan Volz from the Ritz -Carlton in Charlotte

Heidi Billotto with Chef Nathan Volz from the Ritz -Carlton in Charlotte

Profiteroles with foie gras filling from Chef Nathan Volz

Profiteroles with foie gras filling from Chef Nathan Volz

I was followed on stage  by a new, very talented, chef in town. So glad to have Nathan Volz, executive sous chef at Charlotte’s Ritz Carlton join us on stage.  Nathan’s “taste of the Ritz- Carlton” this day were bite sized pistachio profiteroles filled with a foie gras mousse – ah – what a way to start the day!

Heidi Billotto with Chef David Lucarelli from The Cowfish

Heidi Billotto with Chef David Lucarelli from The Cowfish

After the foie gras, amuse, so to speak, Chef David Lucarelli from The Cowfish, sushi burger bar, gave the crowd a rundown on making the very best burgers and  cheeseburgers and shared recipes for some of his favorite sauces.

Mary and Ray Roberts-Tarlton with enough fresh picked certified organic spinach  to feed the crowd!

Mary and Ray Roberts-Tarlton with enough fresh picked certified organic spinach to feed the crowd!

Next things took a light turn as Windcrest Farms’ Mary Roberts  joined me on stage to talk about al things organic and to tell guests int he audience how to grow from their own organic gardens.

Windcrest Organic Farms spinach - just beautiful!

Windcrest Organic Farms spinach – just beautiful!

Mary and her husband Ray brought along two huge bags of fresh picked organic spinach which we served to the crowd paired with organic strawberries for a  light spinach salad and then backed with Bosky Acres goat cheese and grated parmigiana reggiana for a rich warm spinach soufflé. We also sautéed this wonderful seasonal green with organic chick peas and tomatoes to create a tasty simply side dish as well. 

Heidi Billotto and chef Ben Philpott

Heidi Billotto and chef Ben Philpott

Inspired by Ben's mustard recipe I went home and made my own local mustard! - seeds soaking here....

Inspired by Ben’s mustard recipe I went home and made my own local mustard! – seeds soaking here….

That afternoon  I welcomed Chef Ben Philpott from Block and Grinder to the stage . At Block & Grinder, Ben makes delicious charcuterie and so he brought some of his duck ham to share with the cooking stage crowd and then he made a homemade mustard to go with. Keeping true to the philosophy that the show must go on, Ben persevered through an explosion of his blender and the fact that the fire alarm in the building went off in the middle of his demo.  After the all clear, we all realized that sometimes you just have to laugh and keep moving on.

Scott MacCabe from the Savory Spice Shop Southend

Scott MacCabe from the Savory Spice Shop Southend

Heidi with Scott and Amy from Savory Spice Shop Southend

Heidi with Scott and Amy from Savory Spice Shop Southend

The weekend ended with a presentation from Amy and Scott McCabe from The Savory Spice Shop SouthEnd  – my go -to place for all spices and herbs sweet and savory. Scott cooked up a rigatoni pasta dish while Amy handed spice samples out to the crowd – the perfect cap off for the evening and the first weekend of the show..

For all the recipes from this talented line up of first weekend of chefs at the cooking stage at the Southern Spring & Garden Show in Charlotte click on over to http://charlottelivingmagazine.com/spring_show_2014/Spring_Show_Recipes.pdf

Each of the recipes on the Charlotte Living site offer links to the chef restaurants and websites… recipes from the second weekend of chefs will be up and online mid March 2014. 

Meanwhile, for more information about any of our first weekend chefs  – just follow these links to get to their respective websites ….

For more information on me, Heidi Billotto and my cooking classes – friend me on Facebook at Heidi Billotto or follow me on Twitter at @heidicooks  and follow this blog and all the details will come to you as I post…

 

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

Heidi’s Cooking Stage at Charlotte’s Southern Ideal Home Show – August 23-25, 2013

home show promo

This weekend, August 23-25, 2013, I have the pleasure of once again hosting the cooking stage at the Southern Ideal Home Show, held at Charlotte’s The Park Expo and Convention Center – Its a labor of love as I get to work with some of my favorite Charlotte Chefs presenting back to back cooking demos every hour on the half hour.

Showgoers will enjoy complimentary samples at each cooking demo, recipes, giveaways and more; plus the opportunity to chat with your favorite chefs up close and personal too!

As our grand prize giveaway at the cooking stage this year, two lucky visitors to the cooking stage will win a pair of tickets to one of the Competition Dining Dinners held in Charlotte in September and October as a part of the upcoming Fire in the City Competition – more news on that to come…

Meanwhile, imagine my delight when I read this – about me – today on the  Southern Ideal Home Show’s website:
Heidi Billotto – Host and darling of the IDEAL Cooking Stage

“Everything’s cooking with Heidi at the helm of the cooking stage. She’s our darling, your darling and just about everyone’s darling in the food world. She’s a culinary expert, food writer and editor/Charlotte Living, a cooking instructor, a food stylist and caterer and host of the cooking stage. She will be on-hand to guide you through each of the fabulous daily cooking demonstrations. The cooking stage is a crowd favorite for recipes, tastes, how-to’s and everything in between for your palate and reservations are not required.”

You can plan your visit to the home show based on when your favorite area chefs will be cooking…. and if you click on the link at the right to follow this blog – I’ll have two complimentary tickets waiting for you at the show’s Will Call desk… I’ll email you the details once you sign up to follow.
So Now, Here’s the complete schedule of cooking demos for the weekend – you’ll want to come back all three days to see and taste it all! Looking forward to seeing you there!

IDEAL Cooking Stage Schedule – Friday August 23
11:30 am All you want to know about local ‘cue- how to rub Butt and more   Presented By : Pitmaster Dan “Boone” Gibson from TBE Foods
12:30 pm Mangia, its Mediterranean with Chef Gene Briggs   Presented By : Blue Restaurant & Bar and Osso Bar & Restaurant
1:30 pm Modern Southern Cuisine   Presented By : Chef Chris Coleman
2:30 pm Meet the Farmer: Heidi Billotto Cooks with local organic grass-fed beef   Presented By : Shelley Eagan with Proffitt Cattle Co.
3:30 pm Quick, Easy and oh so Good   Presented By : Personal Chef Jill Aker-Ray from “What’s for Dinner”?
4:30 pm Make it Italian   Presented By : Charlotte Culinary Expert Heidi Billotto and Nada Vergili of Nada’s Italy
5:30 pm Conscious Eating   Presented By : Chef Andres Arboleda from Boutique Chef Services
6:30 pm Pseudo Southern   Presented by: Chef Troy with WCCB Charlotte the CW


.

IDEAL Cooking Stage Schedule – Saturday August 24
10:30 am N’awluns Inspired American Cuisine   Presented By : Chef Brian Mottola from e2 emeril’s eatery
11:30 am Conscious Eating   Presented By : Chef Andres Arboleta from Boutique Chef Services
12:30 pm Modern Southern Cuisine   Presented By : Chef Chris Coleman
1:30 pm Meet the Farmer –Heidi Billotto Cooks with local lettuces, microgreens and more with Mindy Robinson   Presented By : Tega Hills Farm
2:30 pm Quick, Easy and oh so Good   Presented By : Personal Chef Jill Aker-Ray from “What’s for Dinner?
3:30 pm A taste of Mimosa Grill   Presented By : Chef Jon Fortes
4:30 pm Meet the Farmer – Heidi Billotto Cooks with local certified organic herbs and veggies   Presented By : Mary Roberts with Windcrest Farms
5:30 pm All you want to know about local ‘cue- how to rub Butt and more  Presented By: Pitmaster Dan “Boone” Gibson from TBE Foods

IDEAL Cooking Stage Schedule – Sunday August 25

11:30 am Summer Sippin’ with Amy and Scott McCabe
Presented By : Savory Spice Shop in Southend

12:30 pm The Art of Grilled Cheese with Brian Stockholm
Presented By : Papi Queso Food Truck

1:30 pm Farm to Table Appetizers from Roots Food Truck
Presented By : Chef Craig Barbour

2:30 pm A Taste of Passion 8
Presented By : Chef Evan Micek and Chef Matthew Krenz

3:30 pm American Café – Comfort Foods
Presented By: Chef Luca Annunziata and Chef Dan Steel from American Café

GRILLED SALMON WITH SUMMER SUCCOTASH AND CREAMED CORN by Charlotte Culinary Expert Heidi Billotto

cropped-heidi-cooks-logo.jpgSomething about Summer – Just love the flavors of local corn, tomatoes and fresh shelled limas? We in the Carolinas are lucky enough to find ourselves smack in the season for succotash, creamed corn and a plethora of ways to eat, cook and serve up local tomatoes! Inspired by a Facebook post from my friend Susan Dosier, lover of local food herself; I decided to share this, one of my favorite recipes for superb summer supper all served atop a bed of local succotash.

Of course, the wild salmon I call for in this recipe is not local to Charlotte, NC; but it is in season and readily available at fish mongers around town, so take the opportunity to enjoy.
All the vegetables in the succotash and creamed corn may be sourced locally this time of year – with the crazy weather we have been having, it may still be a bit early for the limas, so if you can’t find them at any one of Charlotte’s many local farmers’ markets, then opt for frozen baby limas – I prefer organic.
Local corn is spot on right now – I found beautiful ears of a fresh corn variety called ‘Incredible” ( and it is!) at the Atherton Farmers’ Market in SouthEnd last Saturday ( August 3, 2013)  from Paul Brewington of Brewington Farms.

In fact, I will be making the creamed corn recipe here to use in a tasty jalapeno cornbread I am making for a cooking segment on WCNC’s Charlotte Today on Thursday August 8. Be sure to tune in (Channel 36, 11am – noon) or look on these pages for a post of the video and the afore mentioned cornbread recipe the end of this week. Paul tells me he has Collards coming up for the fall season, so look for more on local greens in the months ahead; but I digress….

As far as the condiments for today’s recipe go – for top notch extra virgin olive oil the Queen City I turn to my friends Sophie and Doug at Pour Olive, a gourmet olive oil and artisan vinegar shop On East Blvd. in Charlotte’s Dilworth neighborhood. Pour Olive features current harvest olive oils from around the world and so the selection of these golden elixirs changes from season to season. Right now I am loving the Picual from the well-known Oro Bailen Estate in Spain and the Koroneiki from Greece – both would work well in the recipe, its just a matter of your personal taste. Do stop by Pour Olive to visit and taste and make your own selections or use my choices as a guide. Pour Olive is truly a gem in Charlotte’s culinary landscape.

And here’s yet another – For spices, dried herbs, my favorite sea salt and the ingredients that make up the Heidi’s Hot Pepper Blend noted in the recipe, take a culinary field trip to the Savory Spice Shop in SouthEnd. My friends and fellow foodies Amy and Scott McCabe and their knowledgeable staff will help guide you in your selection of dried spice and herbs and will measure out whatever you need. The beauty of shopping at the Savory Spice Shop is that you can buy a pinch or a pound of any of the high quality, often organic, dried herbs and spices to use at the peak of flavor.

I love the pink Himalayan sea salt and use the coarse grind most of the time. It works particularly well on proteins ( like the wild salmon listed in this recipe) Season the fish before cooking, as the coarse ground salt adds flavor but doesn’t pull out too much moisture.
As for the pepper – I have come up with two mixes that my husband, Tom Billotto and I love to spice things up with – I’ve given one the moniker Heidi’s Hot Pepper Blend; and the other, simply, Heidi’s Hot Pepper Blend with Coriander.

The original Heidi’s Hot Pepper Blend came to be because I loved a product called Hot Shot available at most grocery stores in the spice department.
However as my philosophy of trying to eat and cook with local and organic products has developed, I have opted not to purchase commercially packaged products that rely so heavily on preservative and chemicals to maintain freshness.
When I found the Savory Spice Shop in Charlotte’s SouthEnd neighborhood I was in heaven and totally redid  my spice drawers. Tossing out the old and enjoying the selection of the new and interesting.
My new pepper blend is a combination of Tellicherry, Lampong and Pink Reunion Peppercorns  – equal parts of each –  and I grind up new batches as needed in my coffee grinder. For summer I have started adding in an equal amount of coriander seed to the mix – it adds a nice spicy and  citrusy touch – perfect with the grilled fish here and on chicken and veggies, too.
I suggest you wander in the Savory Spice Shop SouthEnd when you get a chance and be prepared to taste you way through the flavorful selection of dried herbs and spices before you buy. Tell them you want Heidi’s Hot Pepper Blend and they’ll know just what to measure out for you – with or without the coriander.

Now that you have all the particulars – lets get on with the recipe… all the parts stand up deliciously on their own or together they make for the perfect summer supper – Enjoy!

Here is what you’ll need:
For the succotash:
1 1/2 pounds local baby lima beans, shelled,
2 large ears local corn, kernels cut from the cob (about 2 cups)
1 large local tomato, seeded, diced
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh local or organic Italian parsley
2 Tbsp. of your favorite Pour Olive extra-virgin olive oil

For the creamed corn:
7 large ears local corn, kernels cut from cob (about 7 cups)
¼ cup heavy cream or half and half ( or the new coconut milk creamers work well, too)

For the vinaigrette:
1 lb. local tomatoes, chopped – no need to seed or peel
2/3 cup your favorite Pour Olive extra-virgin olive oil
1 clove local or organic garlic, minced
4 Tbsp. Pour Olive Blueberry Ginger infused balsamic vinegar
Sea salt and Heidi’s Hot Pepper Blend from the Savory Spice Shop

For the fish:
Your Favorite Pour Olive extra virgin Olive oil
4 ( 6 oz) portions of wild salmon

Here’s what to do:
For the succotash: Cook beans in large saucepan of boiling salted water until just tender, about 5 minutes. Using slotted spoon or strainer, transfer beans to colander; reserve cooking water. Rinse beans with cold water. Add corn kernels to reserved cooking water and cook until just tender, about 1 minute. Drain. Return beans and corn to same saucepan. Mix in tomato, Italian parsley and extra-virgin olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (Can be prepared 2 hours ahead. Let stand covered at room temperature. Rewarm over low heat before serving.)

For the creamed corn: Place corn kernels in processor. Puree until liquid is released from corn, about 3 minutes (mixture will still be coarse). Transfer one third of the pureed corn to strainer set over large measuring cup. Press on solids in strainer to extract as much juice as you can; discard solids. Transfer corn juice to medium saucepan. Stir over medium heat just until juice begins to thicken, Add remaining corn kernels and whipping cream to saucepan and stir just until corn is heated through, about 2 minutes. Season to taste
with salt and pepper. Remove creamed corn from heat; cover to keep warm.

For the vinaigrette:
Season tomatoes with coarse sea salt and Heidi’s Hot Pepper Blend.  Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and saute garlic and tomatoes 4- 5 minutes till the tomatoes begin to soften. Remove from heat, add balsamic vinegar and remaining olive oil. Toss well to blend.

Chad Parks masters the technique for grilling wild salmon!

Chad Parks masters the technique for grilling wild salmon

For the fish:
Sprinkle fillets with coarse salt and  Heidi’s Hot Pepper Blend with Coriander.  heat grill, place fillets on the grill skin side up . Cook fish for 10 minutes per inch of thickness – measure them at the thickest part and then turn them over using a pair of tongs and a spatula, halfway during the grilled time. After fish has grilled the skin will easily peel off should you wish to remove it, although some people love crispy salmon skin.

To serve:

Divide creamed corn and succotash equally among 4 plates. Top each serving with a grilled fillet. Spoon tomato vinaigrette atop each fillet and serve.