Home Grown Tomatoes

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

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

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

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

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

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Just a little reminder from my friends at Barbee Farms

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

tomato tips

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

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

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

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

1 cup organic sugar

1 cup water

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

lime

1 local jalapeno, sliced and candied*

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

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

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

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

What Would Heidi Do-

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

Heidi’s Master Recipe for Pan-Roasted Summer Tomatoes

 

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

1 small local yellow onion, diced ( optional)

2 cloves local garlic, optional ( optional)

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

3-4 Lbs. local tomatoes,  diced or quartered

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

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

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

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

Your choice of any of these veggies:

2-3 local Haikuri Turnips

1 local eggplant, trimmed and very thinly sliced

1 zucchini, trimmed and very thinly sliced

1 yellow squash, trimmed and very thinly sliced

1 red bell pepper, cored and very thinly sliced

1 yellow bell pepper, cored and very thinly sliced

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

2 Tbsp. Herbs de Provence

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

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

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

Summer Tomato BisqueHeidi’s Summer Tomato Bisque

 

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

2-3 firm, ripe tomatoes, diced

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

2 cups water

drizzle of Olive Crate Chile Pepper organic vinegar

1/2 cup Greek yogurt

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

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

Homemade KetchupHomemade Tomato Ketchup and Fries

For the Ketchup:

2 Tbsp. Olive Crate Kores Estate  Extra Virgin Olive Oil

½ local red onion, minced

¼ cup minced local celery

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

1/2 cup water

2/3 cup organic sugar

3/4 cup Olive Crate Honey vinegar

2 Tbsp. sea salt

Heidi’s Hot Pepper Blend, to taste

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

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

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

Adjust seasonings to suit your tastes

 For the Fries:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stuffed Squash Blossoms: A New Take on Ham and Cheese

img_5252I’ve been doing a lot of cooking this month on television and for catering jobs and cooking classes. As my regular readers know, I am all about local and cooking in the season, so this month, in particular, I have celebrated the end of the squash season with  several recipes for stuffed squash blossoms. Recently I made a delicious (if I do say so myself) ham and cheese stuffed version of my baked stuffed squash blossoms, originally for a brunch I catered for the Charlotte Food Bloggers.

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Earlier this week, I shared the recipe on WBTV’s new program, Morning Break, in the television kitchen with my friend Kristen Miranda  and you’ll find the video of this recipe prep is at the end of this post, as well as a special bonus recipe from the Charlotte Food Bloggers’ Brunch.

My friends from Goodnight Brothers Country Ham were good enough to help sponsor the brunch I prepared for the Charlotte Food Bloggers and so as a way of saying thanks I wanted to come up with several new and interesting ways to serve Goodnights thin sliced dry cured country ham. You might consider it North Carolina’s answer to Italian prosciutto. This thin sliced ham is locally available in Charlotte at Earthfare and Whole Foods.

dsc_0734What I love about the ham is first is all its a local North Carolina product all the way around. Goodnight Brothers, based in Boone, NC,  doesn’t raise the pigs – they just cure the meat, but they are selective in the meat they use.  The Goodnight products are produced from pigs pasture-raised on North Carolina family farms. These animals were raised in an antibiotic-free environment and when the meat was cured it was done so without the use of added nitrates or nitrites except for those naturally occurring in sea salt and celery. The ham comes thin sliced in 4 oz packages and slices are separated with parchment paper to make using the ham even easier.

 

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Heidi’s Ham and Cheese salad with Goodnight Brothers Thin sliced ham, grilled Bosc Pears, boiled quail eggs, Tega Hill Farm Lettuce and Uno Alla Volta cottage cheese, dressed with Blackberry Ginger Balsamic from Pour Olive in Charlotte

I’ve seen chefs across the state use this tasty ham in multitudes of recipes as Goodnight Brothers products have been featured in many of the GotToBeNc Competition Dining  series battles I have worked; and inspired, I have used it myself to make ham-wrapped everything from shrimp to pretzels, in salads, on biscuits and in combination with another local favorite of mine, Uno Alla Volta feta cheese to stuff local squash blossoms, available from Tega Hill Farms.

As I write this, it is the middle of October, and by the end of the month, squash season will be over in the Tega Hill Farm greenhouses and the vines of beautiful yellow blossoms will make way for pea tendrils and other seasonal greens. But don’t you fret, this wonderful ham and cheese stuffing can still be made and used in many ways – here are just a few suggestions before we get to the squash blossom recipe.

img_4985Cut jalapenos or small sweet peppers in half, scrape out the seeds, fill the pepper halves with the ham and cheese filling, top with a sprinkling of panko crumbs and grated Parmesan and bake at 375 for about 20 minutes or until brown for a great spicy or not ham and cheese popper.

The stuffing can also be piped onto toasts or into small savory pastry shells and baked as you would the peppers, or mix the stuffing recipe here in its entirety with 2 ( 8oz) blocks of cream cheese and then baked in small well greased muffin tins at 375 for about 30 mins to make bite-sized ham and cheese cheesecakes!

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You can also use the ham all by itself to make a mean mini ham biscuit – I particularly like these dressed with a new mustard I just discovered. Its Korean Mustard, produced by a South Carolina based company called Burnt and Salty and is available in Charlotte at the Savory Spice Shop in Southend. The sweet salty taste of the dry cured ham and the sweet spicy taste of the mustard are a match made in heaven and perfect on a one or two bite fresh baked biscuit!

 

 

So many variations -hope you have fun trying them all, but first back to the matters at hand. The Squash Blossoms and the master recipe for my local Ham and Cheese  stuffing.

Heidi’s Ham and Cheese Stuffed Squash Blossoms with Honey and Bechamel 

img_5267For the Squash Blossoms:

1 cup Uno Alla Volta feta cheese

3 local eggs, divided

1/2 cup chopped local parsley or spinach

½ cup shredded Goodnight Brothers Thin Sliced Dry Cured Country Ham

orange zest

12 squash blossoms from Tega Hill Farm

Flour

¾ cup breadcrumbs

For the béchamel

¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter

¼ cup all-purpose flour

img_52571½ cups whole local milk ( I used Hickory Hill Milk produced just outside of Greenville SC and available in Charlotte at Earthfare – its a wonderful cream top milk and – fun fact – is the milk from which Clemson Blue Cheese is made!)

2 tablespoons whole grain mustard ( or you can use the Burnt and Salty Korean Mustard for a nice kick!

½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

salt and pepper to taste

Directions for the blossoms:

Mix together feta, 1 lightly beaten egg, shredded ham and  parsley or spinach and orange zest. Season to taste.

Put the remaining 2 eggs in a bowl and whisk. Put the breadcrumbs in another bowl.

Carefully remove the stamen of each blossom and then pipe the  filling into each squash blossom and twist loosely at the end to close.

img_4991Dust the stuffed blossoms lightly with flour. And then dip each stuffed squash blossom in egg, then breadcrumbs, and transfer to a wire cake rack. This is the secret – allow the breading and egg to rest for about 5 minutes before placing the breaded blossoms on a parchment paper or silpat lined baking sheet.

Bake for 10 minutes, in a preheated 400 degree oven until the blossoms are lightly browned.

Remove from the oven. Allow to cool for a few minutes before serving.

For a savory dish, top the blossoms with the béchamel. For a sweeter note, drizzle them with local honey from Dancing Bees Honey before serving.

Directions for the béchamel:

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat until foamy. Add flour and stir cook, until mixture is pale and foamy, about 3 minutes.

Gradually add milk, stirring until mixture is smooth.

Cook, stirring, until sauce is thick and coats the back of a wooden spoon.

Remove the bechamel from heat and whisk in mustard and nutmeg; season to taste with salt.

video graphic

And now click here to link to the video from my WBTV Morning Break cooking segment earlier this week. As I mentioned on air, the cheese from Uno Alla Volta and the squash blossoms from Tega Hill Farm and the honey from Dancing Bees Honey will all be available at the Matthews Community Farmers Market on Saturdays. The blossoms will only be available through the end of October, so get cooking and enjoy this special taste of the season.

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Chef Wolfgang Puck and Charlotte Based food & restaurant writer Heidi Billotto

Just as a reference, you will hear Kristen and me talking about chef Wolfgang Puck. The evening before my cooking segment, WP Kitchen & Bar restaurant in Charlotte had an event to raise funds and awareness for the Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina. The restaurant used the occasion to kick off the new fall menu and Wolfgang Puck and his brother Klaus were in town to help celebrate. This was the second time I had the pleasure of meeting Puck – he’s a great guy with tons of contagious energy and enthusiasm and is a huge supporter of the Food Bank. “If all of us just do a little,”,he said.” It makes a huge difference.”

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Bonus Recipe… In addition to make the ham and cheese salad and the stuffed squash Blossoms for the Charlotte Food Bloggers brunch, I also made homemade fresh baked Cheese Danish and Sticky Cinnamon Rolls. I promised the recipe and so here tis – enjoy!

Heidi’s Homemade Danish or Cinnamon Rolls

1 cup sour cream

½ cup organic sugar

1 tsp. salt

½ cup melted butter

½ cup warm water

2 Tbsp. yeast

2 local eggs

4 cups organic unbleached flour

For the cinnamon roll filling:

melted butter
, cinnamon, sugar, brown sugar

For the Danish filling:
 1 (6 oz) block cream cheese
, ¼ cup sugar
, 1 egg
 Your favorite jam or fruit spread

For 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.

For the Danish: combine cream cheese, egg and ugar and beat until smooth. Spread the filling down the center of the dough rectangle. Top with your favorite jam or fruit spread. Cut small slits along either side of the dough so that the dough on either side of the filling will resemble fringe. Starting from one end, fold the “fringe” pieces up and over the filling to encase the cream cheese and jam.
Place the finished Danish on a parchment lined baking sheet. Cover with a dish towel and let rise an additional 20 minutes. Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 23-30 minutes.

 

 

 

Recipes from the Southern Ideal Home Show Cooking Stage -Sept 9 2016

Twice a year I have the pleasure of hosting the cooking stage at the Southern Spring Show in April and Southern Shows Ideal Home Show in September. Back to back demos with tons of local chefs, caterers and other food-centric folk every hour on the hour!  I cook as well as host the activities and this year the fun takes place the weekend of Sept 9, 10 & 11 2016.

heres-what-was-cooking-at-the-southern-shows-ideal-home-show-friday-sept-9-2016

Still two days to go for this show with lines ups of great chefs sharing wonderful recipes on Saturday Sept 10 and Sunday Sept 11.  You can purchase tickets online here and use my special Friends and Family code of HeidiCooks16 to get a discounted price ( tickets are regularly $9 online,  $10 at the door, but with my code you can get them from just $6 a piece)

IMG_7417Before we get cooking today, here is the recap and recipes from all the fun and flavor on Friday… Just missing one set of recipes here and I will add them in later this weekend, as soon as I get them, so check back for updates….Meanwhile here’s the recap and the recipes.

The first day on the Southern Shows Ideal Home Show Cooking Stage 2016 day kicked off with chef Troy Gagliardo sharing his EveryDay Eats ( seen Tuesday Mornings on WCCB-TV) technique for homemade smoked pork butt, then transformed into a bbq pork fajita.

I followed Troy’s demo with a French Bistro style lunch or light dinner of Classic French Onions soup and my all local slider take on a Croque Monsieur using milk from Hickory Hill Farm in Greenville SC, biscuits from A Little Taste of Heaven in Monroe, Thin Sliced Prosciutto Style Country Ham from Goodnight Brothers in Boone,  and my favorite Herbs de Duxelle from the Savory Spice Shop in Charlotte’s Southend neighborhood.

img_4181Next Chef Terra Ciotta for the International Culinary School at Charlotte’s Art Institute,  stole the crowd’s heart with her Gateway Cheese Grits and Braised Shortribs, sharing lots of great technique ( Do you know why to add the celery last when you are sauteing a mirepoix? Answer below).

img_4195Melanie and Andy Tritten were up next sharing the fabulous flavors of their four Locally made Got To Be NC Cannizzaro sauces with two great recipes – one for Zucchini Crust Pizza and the other for the cutest little Zucchini and Yellow squash ( instead of pasta) raviolis you have ever seen.

img_4203Private Chef Bill Bigham followed with a trio of tasty crostini – shrimp and garlic, prosciutto, honey and fig and  artichoke with feta – wow!!

img_4206Personal Chef Cynthia Ferich was new to the cooking stage this year and the crowd loved her stories of cooking with her grandmother, sharing family recipes and keeping family traditions alive with her cookbook Mama Mia Cucina and her Fabulous recipe for Meatballs and Sauce.

I finished off the day with a Local Love demo, sharing tastes of Uno Alla Volta Cottage cheese with Cloister Honey’s new Salted Honey, My Tenda-Bake Pancake Mix cobbler recipe ( see yesterdays blog post)  and another version of the earlier Croque Monsieur recipe, this time with slices of White Chocolate Baguette from La Farm Bakery in Cary topped with more Goodnight Brothers ham and a bechamel made again with Hickory Hill Farms whole milk and Ashe County Blue Cheese – its a keeper, folks!

#TellThemHeidiSentYouRecipes from our first day follow here as well as links to to all the chefs. My plan is to post the recipes each evening ( or the morning after) so just stay tuned for  more or just subscribe to the blog ( on the home page here) to get the posts each day in your inbox and then you’ll be among the first to receive my regular blog posts every week or so.

Chef Troy Gagliardos PRO Pork for the home cook   

More At http://cheftroy.net/

8-10 Pounds-Pork Butt-with fat cap, bone-in or boneless

To Coat-Chef Troy’s Back Rub-or your favorite bbq rub

4 Cups-Hickory Wood Chip-soaked at least one hour

Sauce

1 Cup-Ketchup

¼ Cup-Cider Vinegar

¼-½ Cup-Cold Water

2 Tablespoon-Chef Troy’s Back Rub-or your favorite

Combine all ingredients and refrigerate until ready to use.

Directions

Pre heat oven to 225 degrees.  Pat pork dry and completely coat pork with rub. Place in a roasting pan fitted with a rack, cover with aluminum foil. Roast until tender, about 8 hours. Pre-heat grill/smoker for indirect low heat, about 225 degrees.  Remove foil, place rack with pork on grill, indirect heat side.  Add wood chips and let smoke for 1 to 1 ½ hours.  Remove and shred pork using two forks.  Sauce if desired and serve on buns, tortillas or on its own.

Chef Troy Gagliardos Pulled Pork Carnitas with Charred Slaw

1 Recipe-PRO Pork for the Home Cook (see recipe at http://www.cheftroy.net)

2 Each-Lime-one cut into wedges, one juiced

To Taste-Chef Troy’s Back Rub

1 Recipe-Charred Slaw with Spicy Russian Dressing

Flour or Corn Tortillas

Directions:

Cook pork according to recipe.  Pull pork off in large pieces and place 6 cups in a mixing bowl and squeeze in lime juice to taste.  Season with Chef Troy’s Back Rub and toss to combine.  Place an iron skillet over medium high heat.  Place pork in skillet and begin to brown.  When warmed through and slightly caramelized, cover and remove from heat.  Warm tortillas in a dry pan or on low heat grill, keep warm in a clean kitchen towel. Top each tortilla with a mound of pork, a dollop of slaw {garnish with crispy ramen from slaw recipe}.

Charred Slaw with Spicy Russian Dressing

3 Cups-Red Cabbage-about a quarter head, leave core intact

3 Cups-Green Cabbage-about a quarter head, leave core intact

To Bruch-Olive Oil

To Taste-Chef Troy’s Spice Mix

½ Cup-Carrot-shredded

3 Each-Green Onion-sliced thin

2 Tablespoons-Unsalted Butter

1 Pack-Dry Ramen Noodle-crushed

Dressing

¾ Cup-Mayonnaise

¼ Cup-Ketchup

1 Teaspoon-Tabasco Hot Sauce

½ Teaspoon-Worcestershire Sauce

3 Tablespoons-Chives-sliced thin

To Taste-Kosher Salt/Black Pepper

Directions

Preheat grill for direct heat grilling to medium high heat.  Make dressing by combining all ingredients and refrigerate.  Melt butter in a non-stick pan over medium heat.  Crush ramen noodles, place in pan and cook until lightly toasted-3-5 minutes.  Place on a paper towel lined plate and allow to cool.  Brush cabbage lightly with oil and season with Spice Mix.  Place over direct heat and char on both cut sides, 3-4 minutes per side.  Remove, allow to cool and slice thin.  Place cabbages in a bowl, add carrot/green onion and toss to combine.  Add just enough dressing to coat and toss to combine.  Add toasted ramen to taste and serve.

 

Charlotte Culinary Expert Heidi Billotto’s Classic French Onion Soup

HeidiBillottoFood.com

 

3 medium onions, thin sliced

2 cloves Local or organic garlic

5 Tbsp. butter

2 Tbsp. sugar (not needed if you are using sweet onions or if you have the time to really cook the onions low and slow)

6 cups beef, mushroom or chicken broth or half of each

1 cup dry white wine

a bouquet garni ( made with celery bay leaf and other fresh herbs like thyme and parsley

½ cup Tawny Port

1/3 cup heavy cream or fat free half and half (optional) or you can also use an unsweetened coconut creamer

For finish and gratinee:
1 baguette of French bread
1 cup grated swiss cheese ( Emmenthaler or Gruyere are always good)

Here’s How Its Done:  Sweat the onions and garlic in the butter over medium low heat for 15-20 minutes or until tender. During the last five minutes stir in the sugar. Add the stock and wine and bouquet garni. Simmer, covered for 30 minutes. Add Port and  creamer.

To serve: Pour soup into individual ramekins. Top each with a slice of the baguette. Sprinkle with the Swiss cheese. Run under the broiler until the cheese melts

Charlotte Culinary Expert Heidi Billottos’s French Bistro Croque Monsieur Biscuits

HeidiBillottoFood.com

 

Béchamel

¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter

¼ cup all-purpose flour

1½ cups whole local milk

2 tablespoons whole grain mustard

½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Pink Himalayan seas salt from the Savory Spice Shop to taste

Heidi’s Hot Pepper blend from the Savory Spice Shop ( 1/3 each Black tellicherry peppercorns, Black lampong peppercorns and pink reunion peppercorns)

For the sandwiches:

8 A Little Taste of Heaven Biscuits

6 oz. Goodnight Brothers Country ham, biscuit cut or thin sliced prosciutto style

3 oz. Gruyère, grated (about 1½ cups) or for a fun local twist use Fading D Farm aged Buffola cheeses

2 Tbsp. Savory Spice Shop tomato powder  + 1 Tbsp Savory Spice Shop Herbs de Duxelle Mushroom Powder

For the béchamel:  Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat until melted. Add flour and stir cook until mixture is pale and foamy, about 3 minutes. Gradually add milk, stirring until mixture is smooth. Cook, stirring, until sauce is thick and coats the back of a wooden spoon. Remove the bechamel from heat and whisk in mustard and nutmeg; season to taste with salt.  The sauce may be made ahead and held in the fridge for a day or so or frozen – defrost overnight in refrigerator

For the sandwiches:  Warm the biscuits in the oven according to package directions, Cut each biscuit in half. Place the biscuit bottoms on a Parchment paper lined baking sheet, Top each biscuit with a spoonful of béchamel, then layer each with ham and grated cheese.Take a cup of the remaining béchamel and stir in 1 tablespoon of the tomato powder and 1 Tbsp of the Herbs de duxelle mushroom powder.  Cover each bundle with a biscuit top them, coat each with bechamel, then top with remaining cheese and sprinkle with tomato powder and herbs de duxelle. Bake until cheese is brown and bubbling, 10–15 minutes.  Serve warm or at room temperature

Chef Terra Ciotta’s Braised Short Ribs

Artisan Restaurant at the International Culinary School – Art Institute Charlotte

4 oz Oil – Olive & Canola Blend

3 lbs. Short Ribs

Salt & Pepper to taste

Flour      to coat

1 lb. Onion

½ lb. Carrot

½ lb Parsnips

3 cloves Garlic, crushed

2 oz. Tomato Paste

8 oz Beer, Dark preferred

2 oz Brown Sugar

2 oz Worcestershire

2-3 cups Beef Stock

3-4 sprigs Oregano (or other strong herb)

Heat the blended oil in a deep cast iron skillet over medium high heat.

Preheat an oven to 325 F (162 C).    Season the short ribs with the Salt & Pepper and dust with the flour.   Sear the ribs on all sides in the heated oil, then remove them.  Saute the onion, carrot & parsnips in the pan.   Add the tomato paste and stir it in to dry; add the beer, Worchester and brown sugar.  Add some of the stock and return the short ribs to the sauce. The sauce should come half-way up the sides of the ribs. Adjust with additional stock as needed.  Place in the preheated oven covered and cook for two hours, turning the ribs over every 30 minutes.  Remove from the oven and place the ribs on a deep platter.   Using a submersible blender, puree the sauce. Adjust the consistency as needed by thinning with additional stock or thicken with a Corn Starch Slurry.

Crock Pot Method

  1. Complete steps 1 & 2 above, placing the Short Ribs in the crock pot.
  2. Follow steps 2 – 5 above, pouring the sauce over the short ribs in the crock pot.
  3. Cover and cook on low for 7 to 9 hours.
  4. Remove from short ribs from the crock pot onto a platter and continue to step 8.

Chef Terra Ciotta’s Gateway Cheddar Grits

3 cups chicken stock

1 cup milk

As needed salt

1 cup stone ground grits

4 oz. unsalted butter

4 oz. heavy cream

4 oz. grated cheddar

Bring stock and milk to a boil.  Season with salt and pepper.  Stir in grits.  Place in 350 oven to cook, stirring occasionally.  Add more stock if needed.

When grits are done, stir in the butter, cream, and cheese.  Adjust seasoning as necessary.  Serve immediately or cool in a shallow pan.

To reheat: combine grits with a little heavy cream and warm gently on the stove over moderate heat.

Chef Terra Ciotta’s Braised Shortribs

Andy and Melanie Tritten’s Cannizzaro Sauce Zucchini Crust Pizza

More at https://cannizzarofamiglia.com/

1 Medium-Large Zucchini
1 Egg
1/2 Cup Shredded Parmesan
2 tsps Sea Salt
1 Jar Cannizzaro Marinara or Arrabbiata
Your Favorite Pizza Toppings

Shred Zucchini on a cheese grater over a clean dish towel.  Squeeze out as much water from the Zucchini as possible.
In a medium bowl, beat the egg. Add zucchini, parmesan and salt and mix well.
Top a large cookie sheet with parchment paper and spray. Place zucchini mixture in the center and with wet hands (this will help with sticking) pat it down to about ½ inch thickness.
Bake at 425 for 30 minutes or until it starts to lightly brown.
Top with sauce and all of your favorite toppings. Bake for another 5-10 minutes or until cheese is melted.

Andy and Melanie Tritten’s Cannizzaro Sauce  Zucchini Ravioli

2 Zucchini & 2 Yellow Squash
1 8 Oz Container Ricotta Cheese
1/2 Cup Shredded Parmesan Cheese
1 Cup Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
1 Beaten Egg
1 Jar Cannizzaro Marinara or Arrabbiata

Slice squash lengthwise very thin – using a wide vegetable peeler.  Layer 2 slices and then 2 slices forming a cross. Mix ricotta, parmesan, ½ of the mozzarella and the beaten egg.
Spray a small lasagna pan and fill with 1/2 of a Jar of Sauce. Place 1 Tablespoon of the cheese mixture in the center of the cross.  Flip each side up to form a square ravioli.
Place seam side down in pan. Spoon remaining sauce over each roll & top with reserved cup of Mozzarella Cheese.  Bake at 400
̊ for 20 minutes or until bubbly & melty.

Chef Big Bigham’s Garlic Shrimp Crostini  

More at http://www.chefbillbigham.com/

8 Large Shrimp, deveined, peeled

8 slices Baguette

3 cloves Garlic, peeled

3 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 Tbsp. Unsalted Butter

Heat grill pan Grill bread until golden brown on both sides  Place toasted slices on a large platter, rub garlic over tops, then brush with olive oil.  In a small saute pan, melt butter with a splash of olive oil over medium heat.  Finely dice one clove of garlic and add to the saute pan. Cook until fragrant. Add shrimp and cook about 1 1/2 minutes per side. Thinly slice a clove of garlic. Add olive oil to a small sautee pan over medium heat. Cook until golden brown. To assemble, place one shrimp on the crostini and garnish with a garlic chip.  Serve immediately

Chef Bill Bigham’s Manchego, Prosciutto, Black Fig Crostini

8 slices Baguette

8 slices Manchego Cheese, sliced to fit Crostini

4 slices Prosciutto, slice in strips

4 Black Figs, halved

Honey

1 clove Garlic, peeled

1 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Grill or toast  bread until golden brown on both sides. Place toasted slices on a large platter, rub garlic over tops, then brush with olive oil. To assemble, place Manchego on a piece of crostini. Mound a few strips on Prosciutto on top of the Manchego. Place a halved black fig on top of the Prosciutto. Drizzle with honey. Serve immediately

Chef Bill Bigham’s Feta Cheese, Artichoke, Kalamata Olive Crostini

2 oz Feta Cheese

4 Artichoke Hearts, halved

8 pitted Kalamata Olives

8 slices Baguette

1 clove Garlic, peeled

1 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Grill or toast bread until golden brown on both sides. Place toasted slices on a large platter, rub garlic over tops, then brush with olive oil. To assemble, spread teaspoon of Feta on each crostini. Top with an artichoke heart and Kalamata olive. Serve immediately.

Cynthia Ferich’s “Cynthia Cooks” Noni’s Spaghetti Sauce

More at http://www.cynthiacooks.com/

Salsa di Pomodori della Nonna

meatballs (see recipe below0

2 pounds of fresh Italian sausage

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion

3-4 garlic cloves, minced

4 cups of tomato puree, fresh or canned

1-1/2 cups chicken broth, homemade or canned

2 tablespoons parsley, chopped

1 tablespoon basil, chopped

1/2 teaspoon oregano

1 teaspoon salt

1 whole carrot

1 stalk of celery

6 oz. can of tomato paste, dissolved in 1/2 cup water

Wash and cut the sausage into 2-inch pieces.  Heat a skillet and add the olive oil, sausage and onion.  Fry until the sausage is cooked and the onions are lightly brown and translucent in color.  Add garlic and cook until lightly brown.  In a large sauce pot, pour in the tomato puree, chicken broth, sausage, onion and garlic.  Bring to a slow boil, reduce to low heat, and add the parsley, basil, salt and oregano.  Cook for 2 hours.  Add meatballs, carrot, and celery.  Cook for 2-1/2 hours and remove the carrot and celery after they have cooked.  Add dissolved tomato paste to the sauce approximately 20 minutes before the sauce is cooked.  Remove meat and serve with your favorite pasta.   Serving Suggestion:  For a meatier-flavored sauce, add pork ribs, braciole, and soup bones along with the sausages and meatballs.  The meats add a fabulous flavor.  As a little girl, I woke to the smell of spaghetti sauce every Sunday because that was ‘pasta day.’  This is my grandmother’s recipe as she instructed me to prepare it in her own words.  She said “you add the tomato paste during the last 20 minutes so that the sauce doesn’t become bitter.”  I often double the recipe, and freeze the sauce for a later date.  Don’t store the meat with the sauce, as the meat will absorb the sauce.  Store them separately.

Cynthia Ferich’s “Cynthia Cooks”  Meatballs or Polpette

2 cups of day-old Italian bread, cubed with crusts removed

3/4 cup of water

1/4 pound of ground veal

1/4 pound of ground beef

1/4 pound of ground pork

1 egg

1/2 cup of fresh chopped parsley

1/2 cup Romano cheese, grated

2 cloves garlic, minced

salt and pepper to taste

3 tablespoons olive oil

Soak cubed bread in 3/4 cup water.  After the bread has been soaked, squeeze out the water a handful at a time.  Combine all ingredients and mix with a wooden spoon until blended.  Roll into balls.  At this point, the balls can be fried on all sides in a skillet with 3 tablespoons of olive oil.  They don’t have to be cooked through if you are adding them to the sauce, but they need to be browned so that they will not fall apart when added to the sauce.   Note:  This recipe makes 1 pound of meatballs.  I often triple it and freeze the uncooked balls on a cookie sheet until frozen, and then put them in freezer storage containers for later use.  You can add the meatballs to the sauce frozen.   My great-grandmother used to say, “don’t handle the meat too much or the meatballs will get hard.”  She only used a wooden spoon to mix the meat.  I start with the spoon, but end up using my hands.  Your hands contain heat, so be careful not to heat them up too much!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

IMG_1519

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!