September 24, 2008

Local Flavors, Local Colors

The weather is cooling off, the leaves are starting to turn and fall is on it’s way to the Midwest! Ahhhhh…how I love this time of the year. It’s warm enough during the day, but just cool enough to wear a light jacket at night.

The beautiful fall colors, harvest time in the fields, colorful mums start appearing, pumpkins of all sizes, corn mazes, apple pie, winter produce from the garden….there are so many wonderful parts of the fall!

As you might have caught on recently from reading my personal blog – I’ve become a huge “localvore.” Not that I wasn’t before, but with my job at the Dept. of Ag I’ve learned a lot about eating local and I have truly found my passion in life. (Yes, I know it might sound corny – but it’s true!)

In my job I work with farmers across the state that sell their farm products at farmers’ markets or off their farm. I also help producers become certified organic through the USDA and help our Agri-Tourism operations market their businesses. I get to spend the day at farmers’ markets visiting with the producers, going to do farm tours with specialty crops growers and I have the opportunity to learn something new everyday. I truly love my job and enjoy helping our producers across the state.

I really feel like everything that I have done before this job was preparing me for this position and the work that I now do. Yes, there are days in the office that aren’t so wonderful, but that’s why they call it a job – it ain’t all peaches and cream all the time.

I am just thankful for this position finding me and so thankful for the farmers that I have the opportunity to work with on a daily basis. Ok that said, back to cooking right?

If you haven’t been on the Farm to Fork Cooking Blog, you need to. It’s all about eating local food, with great recipes and stories! I’m addictive…I wish I could get paid to just cook and write about the pleasures of local food. The blog is a part of, which is a great site that you can find lots of wonderful and tasty recipes on.

Today’s cooking treat: Butterflied Chicken! I watched Barefoot Contessa on the Food Network the other day and I knew this was one recipe I knew I would love, plus I have a ton of rosemary in my herb garden that needed to be put to good use.

Butterflied Chicken
By Ina Garten

1/4 cup chopped fresh rosemary leaves, plus 2 sprigs

3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
Good olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 roasting chickens (2 1/2 to 3 pounds each), deboned and butterflied
1/2 lemon, thinly sliced

Mix the chopped rosemary, garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper together in a small bowl to make a paste.

Place the chickens on a sheet pan, skin side up, and loosen the skin from the meat with your fingers. Place 1/2 of the paste under the skin of each chicken. Rub any remaining paste on the outside and underside of the chickens.

Turn the chicken skin side down and scatter the lemon slices and sprigs of rosemary over each chicken. Season with salt and pepper. Roll each chicken up, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Heat a grill with coals. Spread the coals out in 1 dense layer and brush the grill with oil. Unroll the chickens, place them on the grill and cook for 12 minutes on each side.

September 21, 2008

Apple Stuffed Pork Loin

Recently, I’ve had apples on the brain. Maybe it’s because I’m trying to eat healthier, maybe it’s because I recently visited Peter’s Market near Marshall, Mo for work or maybe it’s because it’s apples season in Missouri – but either way I’ve had apples on the brain.

On a recent visit to Peter’s Market for work I toured the very impressive orchard and came away from the market with the best Gala apples I’ve ever eaten! I also purchased apple butter, some pickled okra (because I didn’t pickle any of my own this year…ran out of time), home-grown nectarines, gallon of apple cider and a few other Missouri made products that I hadn’t tried before.

Paul Peter, owner of Peter’s Market, took me around the orchard to look over their extensive operation. I learned that Peter’s was the largest distributor of Jonathan apples in the nation, who would have known….right here in good ole Missouri.

There are over 7,000 named varieties of apples in the world – 7,000!

Since it’s apples season across the nation what a better time to try your hand at making a homemade apple pie or this new recipe I recently tried from Paula Deen. I didn’t know about stuffing a pork loin with apples, but this is a very simple recipe for dressing up a traditional pork loin, plus it makes a lovely presentation. And you know…it’s all about the presentation!

Apple Stuffed Pork Loin Roast
Photo and recipe from Paula Deen, Food Network

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and chopped
8 fresh sage leaves
2 cups thick-cut white bread cubes, crusts removed
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons butter
Salt and pepper
1/2 to 1 cup chicken broth, plus more if needed
1 (3 pound) pork loin roast, butterflied

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, apples and sage. Sauté until softened. Remove from the heat and gently stir in the bread, egg, butter and salt and pepper. Add the chicken broth gradually until everything is moistened. Let the stuffing mixture cool completely before putting it in the pork loin. Spoon the stuffing down the pork, horizontally, in a line. Roll the pork over the stuffing, jelly roll style, ending with the seam down and fat side up. Lightly score the fat, in a diamond pattern, with a sharp knife. Tightly tie the pork roast up with butcher's twine, season it with more salt and pepper, and transfer to a roasting pan. Roast the pork in a preheated oven for about 90 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer registers 160 degrees F. Remove from the oven and let rest for 15 minutes before slicing. Garnish with apples and fresh herbs.

September 15, 2008

Butternut Squash Soup

Many think about one type of squash – summer squash. But, there is another kind that is just as tasty and easy to cook with- winter squash.

My favorite, Butternut Squash is a winter squash that has a hard, thick skin and it is filled with seeds. It can range in size from 8 to 12 inches long, and about 3 to 5 inches wide, weighing up to 3 pounds. The color of the Butternut Squash ranges from a yellow to a light tan. Inside, the flesh is orange and has a sweet flavor.

Available in early Fall through Winter, you will want to choose a squash that is heavy with few blemishes and moldy spots. Get out to your local farmers’ market and ask the grower to pick you out the best one for you.

You store Butternut Squash much differently than summer squash. Butternut squash can be stored longer than summer squashes because their skin is so hard and thick. Store in a cool dry place for at least a month. If the squash has been cut into pieces, then wrap in a plastic wrap and refrigerate up to 5 days.

I like to pair up Butternut Squash recipes with a Pinot Grigio or Chenin Blanc wine.
When it comes to cooking Butternut Squash you have many options: a gratin, soup, soufflé or even in stir-fry.

My favorite way to really cook a Butternut Squash though is in a soup. And, with the cold weather we have been experiencing lately in Missouri it’s soup time. Try this recipe for a little change at the dinner table.

Butternut Squash Soup
1/2 cup onions, chopped
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
2 cups chicken broth
1 pound butternut squash, pared, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 pears, pared and sliced
1 teaspoon fresh-snipped thyme leaves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 teaspoon coriander, ground
1 cup whipping cream

Cook and stir onion in margarine in 4-quart Dutch oven until tender. Stir in broth, squash, 2 sliced pears, thyme, salt, white pepper, and coriander. Heat to boiling; reduce heat. Cover and simmer until squash is tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Pour about half of the soup into food processor work bowl fitted with steel blade or into blender container; cover and process until smooth. Repeat with remaining soup. Return to Dutch oven; stir in whipping cream. Heat, stirring frequently, until hot. Serve with sliced pear and pecans.

Source: Public domain recipes converted from Meal Master format.

September 6, 2008

Heirloom Tomatoes: Taste the Freshness

Although the farmers’ market season is winding down you can still get out to your local farm stand and markets and take part in one of the very best parts local food – heirloom tomatoes!

My family has grown heirlooms in our family garden since I was a child, as do I in my own garden. Heirlooms (or heritage tomatoes) are non-hybrid tomatoes. The definition of the use of the word heirloom to describe plants is highly debated, according to Wikipedia. I consider a true heirloom a cultivar that has been nurtured, selected, and handed down from one family member to another for many generations.

There are SO many varieties to choose from when it comes to heirloom tomatoes…endless possibilities. My favorites are Cherokee Purple and Green Zebra.

If you have never had the opportunity to taste the freshness of heirloom tomatoes, I highly suggest you visit your local market before the end of the season and give it a try.

This year at the Missouri State Fair visitors were able to taste 9 varieties of heirloom tomatoes at the Missouri State Fair Farmers’ Market I put together in the Ag Building. Read about the market events and the heirlooms on my Farmers’ Market Blog or check out other photos from the fair market.

Here are some good readings if you are interested in heirloom tomatoes as well. Or maybe you want to buy some heirloom seeds for your garden next season….take a look at Baker Creek Seeds (where I purchase a lot of my garden seed) or Morgan County Seed (both Missouri companies).

Suggested Heirloom Readings:
Smith & Hawken: 100 Heirloom Tomatoes for the American Garden (book)
The Heirloom Tomato Cookbook (book)
Why Grow Heirloom Tomatoes
How to plant heirloom tomatoes

Now for a heirloom tomato recipe that I hope you all enjoy!

Creamy Polenta-Stuffed Heirloom Tomatoes
1 Tbs. butter
1 Tbs. diced shallot
1/2 tsp. minced garlic
3 cups lower-salt chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream1 cup polenta (such as Bob's Red Mill brand)
1/2 Tbs. chopped fresh thyme
1/2 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
1/4 cup plus
2 Tbs. freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 large Roma-style heirloom tomatoes
2 Tbs. chopped parsley

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the shallot and garlic and cook, stirring constantly, about 2 minutes. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Add the cream and then whisk in the polenta. Reduce the heat to a simmer, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Add the thyme and rosemary and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the polenta is tender, creamy, and thick, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in 1/4 cup of the cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 400° F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Halve the tomatoes lengthwise and hollow them out. Cut a very thin slice off the bottom of each tomato half so the filled tomato can lie flat without rolling. Arrange the tomatoes on the baking sheet and season them lightly with salt. Fill each tomato half with some of the polenta, mounding just slightly (depending on the size of your tomatoes, you may or may not use all the polenta). Sprinkle the remaining 2 Tbs. of cheese and the parsley over each. Bake until the tomatoes are soft, about 20 minutes. Let cool slightly before serving.

September 5, 2008

Pollo Alla Spiedini Prosciutto

Wow! Where did the time go? I realized today how long it has been since I last posted on the blog and I feel ashamed! I truly apologize for being delinquent!

Between traveling all over the state visiting farms and farmers’ markets, plus working the Missouri State Fair for 11 days, I have not really had time to do anything. But, things are changing.

If you want to see how the first annual Missouri State Fair Farmers’ Market went this year – check out my other blog – A Look at Missouri Farmers’ Markets.

Supporting the local theme that’s been stirring around the media and my own home lately, I have a great recipe from a Missouri food company – Zia’s. Hope you enjoy this as much as my family does.

Pollo Alla Spiedini Prosciutto
8 oz chicken tenders
1/4 cup sliced mushrooms
1/3 cup Zia’s Sweet Italian Dressing
1/4 cup diced prosciutto ham
1/4 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
1/4 cup shredded provel cheese
3/4 cup Zia’s White Wine, Lemon, & Butter Sauce

Combine chicken and salad dressing in a re-sealable plastic bag and marinate for 1 ½ hours. Discard marinade. Prepare medium fire in grill. Thread chicken onto skewers and dust with bread crumbs. Grill over medium heat until juices run clear when pierced. Bring Zia’s White Wine, Lemon & Butter Sauce to a simmer over low heat. Add mushrooms and prosciutto. Cook until mushrooms are tender (about 5 minutes). Remove chicken from skewers to serving plate, top with provel cheese and cover with sauce. Garnish with additional provel cheese.

(Note: If not using a grill, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Do not use skewers, instead arrange breaded chicken in oven safe dish and bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until chicken is cooked through).

It is also available online at