Heidi Billotto’s “On the Farm” & “At Home with Heidi” Cooking Classes

 

Saturday July 29, 11-1pm – Summer Seafood At Luca Modern Italian Kitchen with Chef Luca Annunziata

delamer-aboutheader-1I am over the moon to be asked to join Chef Luca Annunziata and Jessica Annunziata of Luca Modern Italian Kitchen to help teach a Summer Seafood Cooking Class.  The class will take place a the Annunziata’s own Luca Modern Italian Restaurant on Elizabeth Ave. You’ll learn to shuck, fillet, peel, saute and steam your way to four summer seafood courses with tremendous wine pairings. Can’t wait to see you there! Cost is $80 plus tax and gratuity. Tickets are only available through this Eventbrite link.

Tomato Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Heidi Billotto's Tomato Pie

 

Heidi’s Taste of Summer Tomato Pie

Recipe by Charlotte Culinary Expert Heidi Billotto

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

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

fresh locally grown basil

Fine grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Panko Crumbs

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

1 local egg yolk

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

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

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

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

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

Easy Vodka Pie Crust

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

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

1 tsp  salt

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

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

1/4 cup cold vodka

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

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

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

 

August and September On the Farm and At Home with Heidi Cooking Classes

cropped-heidi-cooks-logo.jpgAugust 1, 2014 – Anyone can cook, Let Heidi Billotto show you how to make it fun! Two terrific On the Farm cooking class offerings and several seasonal At Home with Heidi events coming up and  I know you are going to love every one!.

For each of my cooking classes, I team up with my friend, wine guru, Josh Villapando from the Assorted Table Wine Shop to offer wine pairings with every course in each class; and the opportunity to purchase the wines we taste in class directly from Josh – take a bottle home and enjoy it all over again.

My cooking class participants will also receive coupons good toward purchases at the Savory Spice Shop SouthEnd  on South Blvd. and Pour Olive Artisan Olive Oil Shoppe on East Blvd.

I invite you to register for any one of these hands-on classes simply by emailing me  to make your advance reservation.

Remember, never any hard and fast rules at my classes – if you would rather just watch, sit back ,eat and drink and enjoy instead of trying your hand, that’s fine too – just come and have fun!

Looking forward to cooking up a storm with you real soon!

On the Farm at New Town Farms | Saturday August 2 | 11 am – 3:30 pm | Farm Tour and Cooking Class

sammy at the marketCome and meet farmers Sammy and Melinda Koenigsberg of New Town Farms in Waxhaw, NC. Join us as we visit with the heritage breed chickens and pigs, collect eggs and see the seasonal produce in and out of greenhouses. You’ll hear all about Sammy’s farming philosophy and, we’ll cook with all the farm has in season. I guarantee, it’ll change the way you think about the food you buy and the way you eat.   The day includes a cooking class, wine parings, generous samples, recipe packets and a fabulous farm tour.

Cost $75 per person         Email Heidi to make your reservation

 

COOKING WITH SUMMER HERBS | At Home with Heidi | Saturday August 9 | 11am – 2 pm

herbs Fresh herbs have been planted and are growing and now its time to cook.

This class offers a host of fun new ideas for using you herb garden  harvest to season and spice. Four courses, wine pairings, growing and  preserving tips too.

 Cost is $65             Email Heidi  to make your reservations.

 

 

On The Farm at Windcrest Organic Farms & Greenhouses | Its Tomato Time! | Sun August 10 | 1-4 pm

mary tomatoes from Windcrest Its tomato time and this class is all about what to do when  there are    too many tomatoes and you can’t eat them fast  enough.

We’ll use them to make ketchup, salsa and a host of  sauces as well as  my famous summertime tomato pie and  the best fried green tomato    and goat cheese stack you’ve  ever had. Wine pairings as always, plus a tour and Mary  Roberts take on growing organic – don’t miss it!

Cost is $75 per person      Email Heidi to make your reservations

 

 

Its For The Birds | Cooking with Chicken, Duck & Quail | At Home with Heidi| Sat Aug 16 |  11am – 2 pm

chickenThe name says it all – great recipes for family  friendly dishes featuring chicken, quail, duck  and maybe local turkey too.

We’ll pan sear, roast, braise and cook on the grill – you’re gonna love it!

Cost $65 per person             Email Heidi to make your reservation

 

 

Gluten Free Gourmet |At Home with Heidi | Saturday July 26 | 11 am – 2 pm

gluten free chestnut flour breadAll new recipes for those who want to eat well and make it gluten free -for breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert and the best Gluten free bread and rolls you’ve ever had! Wine pairings always included.

Cost is $65 per person       Email Heidi to make your advance reservations  

 

 

Eat Local – Cook Local – Tempura Okra “Fries” with Homemade Ketchup Recipes by Charlotte Culinary Expert, Heidi Billotto

9-12-13 Charlotte today tempura okra and AZN fusion 026Once a month I have the great good fortune to appear in a cooking segment on WCNC’s midday program, Charlotte Today. Hosts Colleen Odegaard and Ramona Holloway have become good friends as has the staff and crew of this locally produced midday show and I always enjoy the time I spend on set.

9-12-13 Charlotte today tempura okra and AZN fusion 001I work  hard each month to cook locally and seasonally; and my September episode was no exception.

Just picked local okra and tomatoes from New Town Farms in Waxhaw could have given way to many wonderful late summer/early fall dishes; but today I decided to dip and fry the okra in an easy tempura batter and use the tomatoes to make my own ketchup!

You can tweak the ketchup recipe however you like, substituting local honey or agave for  the organic sugar I used.

I like to add just a bit more red wine vinegar than I originally called for in the recipe as I like my ketchup more on the vinegary side – I also used my own homemade red wine vinegar – but that’s a story and a recipe for another day.

Meantime feel free to spice up the original recipe with red pepper flakes, fresh or dried minced chilies, red lobo adobo, chipotle or chili powder or my own, Heidi’s Hot Pepper Blend – all available from my friends at the Savory Spice Shop on South Blvd. in Charlotte’s historic SouthEnd at the Atherton Mill – 2000 South Blvd, Charlotte, NC 28203  Phone:  980.225.5419

My favorite Tomato Powder from Savory Spice Shop in SouthEnd Charlotte

My favorite Tomato Powder from Savory Spice Shop in SouthEnd Charlotte with a quarter up bowl of my homemade red wine vinegar

The tomato powder I used in the recipe came from the Savory Spice Shop as well, and is probably one of my favorite products there – try some to enrich the flavor  and acidity of your homemade ketchup and you’ll never use canned tomato paste again.

The tempura batter is an easy 1-2-3 recipe but you can spice it up with the addition of salt and pepper, chili powder, granulated garlic, finely minced onion or chive or Za’atar ( a combination of dried thyme, sesame seeds and citrusy dried ground sumac) as I did in the  segment with Colleen. Or you can make the batter Gluten free by omitting the flour and blending together corn meal and corn starch for the base of your batter instead.  Use any type of sparkling liquid to make the batter – sparkling water, sparkling cider, or even beer, Prosecco or Champagne! Take note , though, gingerale or sparkling clear oft drinks will make the batter too sweet.

Heidi Bilotto and Colleen Odegaard cook on the set of WCNC's Charlotte Today

Heidi Bilotto and Colleen Odegaard cook on the set of WCNC’s Charlotte Today

Both of my recipes are printed below – click here for the link to the video

Tempura Okra Spears With Homemade Ketchup

Recipe by Charlotte Culinary Expert Heidi Billotto

 10-12  local okra, cut into halves or  quarters, lengthwise

2 cups self-rising flour
1 cup cornstarch
3 cups unflavored sparkling water
Sea salt and pepper to taste – make it spicier to taste with the addition of chili power, adobo seasononing and cumin!

whick together the self rising flour, cornstarcha nd za'atar to get rid of any lumps in the dry mix.

Whisk together the self rising flour, cornstarch and za’atar to get rid of any lumps in the dry mix before adding the sparkling water.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour and cornstarch. Add sparkling water and whisk until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Toss cut okra in additional flour just to cover.

Heat vegetable oil in a large heavy bottomed pot using the wooden spoon test to judge readiness. – put a cold dry wooden spoon in the pan of cold oil. heat the oild up and as it becomes hot enough to deep fry in , little bubbles will form around the piece of wood just as they would around a pices of food. When bubles surround the edge of your wooden spoon, you know the oil is hot enough for deep frying.

deep fry the batter dipped okra until the coating turns a golden brown

deep fry the batter dipped okra until the coating turns a golden brown

Dip floured okra in batter, one at a time, allowing excess batter to drain off. Carefully place dipped okra pieces in oil and cook until golden brown.

Remove from oil with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel-lined plate or wire rack to drain.

Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper while still warm.

Repeat dipping and frying with remaining okra – eat and enjoy immediately.

From Scratch Ketchup

Recipe by Charlotte Culinary Expert, Heidi Billott0

3 lbs. firm but ripe local tomatoes, seeded and diced

2 cups sugar

8 Tbsp. red wine vinegar

1 Tbsp. salt

1 Tbsp. red pepper flakes

combine the tomatoes, sugar and vinegar in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium high heat

Combine the tomatoes, sugar and vinegar in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium high heat

Allow tomatoes to cook down ,stirring occasionally, untilt he mix becomes thick. Adjust seasoning to suit your tastes. Puree the ketchup if you would like.

Allow tomatoes to cook down, stirring occasionally, until the mix becomes thick. Adjust seasoning to suit your tastes. Puree the ketchup if you would like or leave it chunky like a chutney!.

Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer. Stir regularly until the mix reaches a thick sticky consistency. Puree with a food processor or immersion blender. Adjust seasonings to taste. Keep refrigerated.

Sammy and Melinda Koenigsberg of New Town Farms

Sammy and Melinda Koenigsberg of New Town Farms

For more from New Town Farm join me for a fall On  the Farm Cooking class at New Town on Saturday, October 26 from 11 am – 4 pm

So happy to be cooking once again with my good friends, local farmers Sammy and Melinda Koenigsberg.  The first time I toured the property at New Town Farms I told Sammy that if I lived there I would never leave – its a gorgeous piece of land I know you will love as well.  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