Woo-hoo! Watauga Farmers Market to Reopen May 5th!

Woo-hoo! Watauga Farmers Market to Reopen May 5th!

I live in the Blue Ridge Mountains in the summer time, where the farmers markets brighten up the road sides with in season produce, fresh flower bouquets, and vending stations offering all kinds of goodies. As a cookbook author, it’s a chance to run wilder than the azaleas in bloom– and my favorite place to do it is the Watauga Farmers Market in Boone, NC.

I always load up on beets, blueberries, bok choy, broccoli, cabbage, collards, green peas, lettuces of all kinds, and loads of delicious strawberries this time of year.

My Kale Salad with Strawberries and Goat Cheese takes advantage of the freshest kale, sweetest strawberries and creamy artisanal cheese found in the market. There’s a cheese maker at the Watauga Farmer’s Market in the mountains of North Carolina that makes so many variations of goat cheese that it’s hard to choose. You can taste them all, if you are patient enough to wait your turn.

I also like to create super granola with the seeds and nuts I find at the market. Look for the super granola recipe at the bottom of this recipe. All kinds of possibilities lay in wait under those farmer’s market tents! See you around…

Kale Salad with Strawberries and Goat Cheese
& a Nutty Topper
Serves 4 to 6 as a side salad
30 Minute Cuisine

For Nutty Topper:
1 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon brown sugar
¼ cup roasted, salted and shelled pistachios
¼ cup roasted, salted sunflower seeds
¼ cup roasted, and salted Pepitas

For Dressing:
½ large lemon juiced, about 2 tablespoons
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoons honey
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon coarse black pepper
½ cup olive oil

For Salad:
1 bunch kale, stems removed, leaves chopped, about 3 to 4 cups
1 pint fresh strawberries, stems removed and sliced, about 2 cups
4 to 5 medium radishes, sliced thin, about 1 cup
4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled, about ½ cup

Melt the butter and brown sugar in a medium skillet pan over medium-high heat. Stir in the pistachios, sunflower seeds and pepitas. Cook until the nuts are just beginning to toast, about 2 to 3 minutes. Pour the nuts and seeds onto a parchment paper lined rimmed baking sheet to cool.

Place the lemon juice, mustard and honey in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Whisk in the olive oil. Place the kale into a salad bowl and pour the dressing over the top. Let the salad sit on the counter at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes to allow the leaves to soften.

Add the strawberries, radishes and goat cheese to the salad bowl. Toss with the kale and dressing and sprinkle the nutty topper over the top.

To make super granola: Just place nuts and/or seeds into a bowl with 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats, ½ cup dried fruit (like cranberries or blueberries), and a tablespoon of honey. Toss with a beaten egg white, a tablespoon of honey and a pinch of salt. Pour the granola mixture onto a parchment paper lined rimmed baking sheet. Bake at 350°until the oats are golden and toasted, about 10 minutes. Cool and store in an airtight container. Spoon granola over yogurt and berries for a fast and yummy breakfast starter!


Simple. Elegant. Delicious.

Simple. Elegant. Delicious.


So far as side dishes go, you can’t do better than these poached carrots. The treatment they receive calls for any kind of carrot you see fit, a cup full of extra virgin olive oil, plenty of chopped parsley and pinch of salt. Am I missing anything? Nope! My latest cookbook explains a humble, yet amazing poaching method that elevates carrots faster than Bugs Bunny can say, “What’s up, doc?” In addition to parsley, these carrots love poaching with fennel, spring onions and celery.

Face it. It’s the simplicity you need right now with so few days between now and Christmas. This is a brilliant one to add to your year-round repertoire as it’ll work for all the special holiday dinners in 2018, too. In my book, SUNDAY BEST DISHES: A COOKBOOK FOR PASSIONATE COOKS, this recipe shares prime real estate with its sister side dish, Saucy Succotash; to get and entire collection of weekend inspired yumminess, please click the Amazon link to purchase. Oh, and don’t forget to email me at jorj@jorj.com with your home address, so I can personalize the first page with a little note: from one passionate cook to another!

Carrots Poached in Olive Oil


¼ cup olive oil

1 bunch carrots, peeled, green tops removed

½ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon coarse black pepper

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley


Heat a skillet over medium heat. Pour the olive oil into the bottom of the pan. Place the carrots into the skillet. Pour enough water to come up 1-inch from the bottom of the skillet. Bring the liquid to a simmer. Cover the skillet with a lid. Cook until the carrots are fork tender, about 5 to 10 minutes depending on the size of the carrots. Season with salt and pepper.  Sprinkle with fresh parsley.



Dish of the Day: Baked Eggplant with Ricotta Cheese

Dish of the Day: Baked Eggplant with Ricotta Cheese

With 20 days until Christmas, it’s time to get into the spirit! My recipe for Baked Eggplant with Ricotta Cheese is perfect for a veggie weekday meal. You can prepare in the morning, and finish it in the oven for Tuesday’s dinner.

Before I dish out the recipe, here’s a gentle reminder to order your copy of SUNDAY BEST DISHES today! It’s the perfect Xmas gift for the foodie on your Christmas list! Jorj.com subscribers — OR any subscriber who emails me, actually — gets a FREE autographed bookplate to insert into the book! Send an email to Jorj.com that includes your mailing address and the name you want me to personalize!! Oh, and get cooking!

The prep work on this one fills your kitchen with an incredibly pleasing aroma. See what I mean?

Another bonus is that the herbs have an almost Christmasy look – well, in my holiday kitchen they do:

Baked Eggplant with Ricotta Cheese



This vegetarian delight is every bit as filling as traditional lasagna, and special because of its closeness, yet differences to eggplant parmesan. It’s ooey, gooey and totally yummy!


2 (1-pound) eggplants, sliced into ¼-inch rounds, about 27 slices

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 cups Italian style breadcrumbs

Canola oil

Preheat the oven to 350°. Season the eggplant slices with salt. Place into a colander in the sink for 1 hour. This will take the bitterness from the eggplant. Rinse the slices and pat dry. Heat 2 tablespoons canola oil in large non-stick skillet over medium high heat.  Dredge the eggplant in the breadcrumbs, pushing the crumbs into each slice.  Add as many eggplant slices that easily fit into your skillet.  Brown on one side, turn and brown on the other side until golden.  (As the eggplant cooks, it will immediately absorb most of the oil.  As it continues cooking, it will start to exude that oil back into the pan.  Watch carefully as you cook.) Remove the eggplant to a baking sheet, lined with paper towels.  Season with salt and pepper. Continue until all of the eggplant slices are browned.  Add more oil as you cook a new batch.



½ cup whole milk ricotta cheese

¼ cup organic half and half

1 large egg

2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated, about ½ cup

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

2 ½ cups marinara sauce

12 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced

Whisk together the ricotta cheese, half and half, egg, Parmesan cheese and nutmeg. Coat an 11 x 7 x 2-inch baking dish with vegetable oil spray.  Spoon ½ cup of the marinara into the bottom of the dish. Place a layer of eggplant slices into the bottom of the baking dish. Top with 1 cup marinara sauce. Place ½ of the mozzarella cheese over the sauce. Top with another layer of eggplant.  Repeat with 1 cup marinara and the remaining mozzarella cheese. Top with the last layer of eggplant. Pour the remaining marinara sauce over top. Spoon the ricotta cheese topping over all. Bake until the casserole is bubbling and the top is golden, about 30 minutes. Increase the oven temperature to the broil setting. Place the casserole under the broiler for a few minutes to brown the topping.

Let the casserole rest for 15 minutes before cutting into squares.

Turkey Day Planning

Turkey Day Planning

We all know it starts with the bird. But, how are you cooking your bird this year? Are you shooting him up with butter and seasonings, are you bathing him in an overnight brine? Are you getting him ready for the fryer? Or, if you are like me, are you rubbing him down, inside and out, with fresh herbs and olive oil and stuffing him with oranges and apples? Whichever way you plan to cook him, the bird goes on your menu plan as the shining star of the meal.

I have traditional appetizers that I have made for years, and that my mother and grandmothers made before me. I make a salmon mousse spread, and a garlic and sherry infused chopped liver pate. I think two appetizers are great, one that is lighter and one that is rich. Think crudité and bruschetta, cheese board and roasted veggies, savory onion dip, and blue cheese stuffed endive leaves. It’s about balance here. Appys are the lead up to the big event.

And then there are the desserts. Pumpkin pie, of course. We also include chocolate pecan pie, and good old-fasioned chocolate cream pie. All served with a heaping ladleful of bourbon and vanilla laced whipped cream.

Every year it’s the sides that get my imagination going. Here’s where I change it up a bit (much to the chagrin of the family). And, every once in a while I hit a home run! There are the standards: whipped potatoes and dressing. The accompaniments are as endless as your Thanksgiving Day waistband.
In place of a sweet potato dish, this year I’m making a savory carrot pudding served with creamed onions and peas. (You see, three vegies in one!). I’m also serving fresh green beans sautéed in olive oil, with thin slices of garlic and julienne sundried tomatoes (The recipe is below). I’m also considering creamed spinach and saucy succotash. It’s a dilemma. A good one! Here’s my recipe for changed up green beans.

Green Beans
With Sliced Garlic and Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Serves 6 to 8
20 Minute Cuisine

Here is a really simple recipe that you can make in minutes, and is as perfect for a weekday meal as it is when company comes a callin’. You can make everything in advance, and then reheat just before serving. The best part is that leftovers are delicious in a pasta salad for tomorrow’s lunch!

1 (4-ounce jar) julienned sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil
1 whole head of garlic, cloves peeled and thinly sliced
1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed, cut into 1-inch pieces, about 4 cups
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon coarse black pepper

Place the sundried tomatoes into a skillet over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and cook until the garlic is soft and golden, about 3 to 5 minutes.

Blanch or steam the green beans until crisp-tender. I use the vegetable setting on my microwave for this. I place the green beans in a bowl with a little bit of water. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place into the oven. The green beans are usually crisp-tender in about 4 minutes. Drain the water from the bowl.

Place the green beans into the skillet and toss with the sun-dried tomatoes and garlic. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Cook’s Tip

You can find those fancy, skinny green beans in the grocery store, already cleaned and bagged. These are delicious in this recipe. The only change to make is that you do not have to blanch them first. To make this an even heartier side dish, add baby new potatoes, halved and blanched until they are tender. Green bean, tomatoes and potatoes all in one dish…. Well that’s good!



The Humble Fungus

The Humble Fungus

You’ve seen them in the produce section, those over-sized, imposing mushrooms that are earthy tan colored. These fungi have black gills on their underside and a thick woody stem. They might not be all that appealing in their native state, but boy are they great grilled, roasted and stuffed! It gets even better when you find out that these Portobello mushrooms are a natural source of vitamin D.

Because they are so meaty, you can substitute Portobello mushrooms in many meat dishes, and lots of good cooks do this all the time. But, when you make the mushroom the actual star of your meal, you can adapt a whole new attitude! Here’s a recipe that I played around with this week. Let me know what you think.

Grilled Portobello Mushrooms

With Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Goat Cheese, Pancetta & Toasted Breadcrumbs

Serves 4 for a Veggie Main or 8 as an Appy

30 Minute Cuisine

The goat cheese is remarkable in this appy! The goat cheese is remarkable in this appy!

Spending quality time in the Farmer’s market naturally leads to veggie forward main meals. This is one of these. There’s nothing better than meaty mushrooms, with a tangy, crunchy filling! You can serve these mushrooms as a first course, or as a late-night snack. The flavors are fantastic – everyone is a mushroom lover after tasting this dish!

1 cup Panko Breadcrumbs

2 tablespoons butter, melted, plus 2 more for sauce

1 (3.5-ounce) julienned sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained but save 2 tablespoons of the oil

4 ounces pancetta, finely diced

4 large garlic cloves, minced, about 2 tablespoons

¼ cup Marsala wine

Juice of ½ medium lemon, about 2 tablespoons

1 teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

8 Portobello mushrooms, stem and gills removed

8 ounces goat cheese

2 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat the oven to 350°. Mix the bread crumbs with 2 tablespoons melted butter in a small bowl. Spread the crumbs onto a baking sheet. Toast the buttered crumbs until they begin to crisp, about 5 to 7 minutes. Remove and set aside.

Pour 2 tablespoons of the oil from the sun-dried tomatoes into a skillet over medium high heat. And the pancetta and cook until crisp. Use a slotted spoon to remove the pancetta to a platter lined with paper towels.

Add the sun-dried tomatoes to the skillet. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Pour in the wine and simmer until most of the wine has disappeared, about 3 to 5 minutes. Pour in the lemon juice. Season with some of the salt, crushed red pepper and parsley. Turn off the heat and swirl in 2 tablespoons of butter. Stir in the parsley.

Heat a grill pan on high heat. Brush the mushrooms with olive oil on both sides. Season with salt and pepper. Grill the mushrooms, turning once, until they are just beginning to soften, about 5 minutes total. Add the goat cheese into the cap of the mushrooms, turn off the heat and cover with aluminum foil to allow the cheese to melt. Transfer the mushrooms to a platter. Spoon the sun-dried tomatoes over the cheese, into the mushroom caps. Top with pancetta and toasted breadcrumbs.

A Simple Italian Favorite Best Served to Good Friends

A Simple Italian Favorite Best Served to Good Friends

I’ve been experimenting with some new recipes for a book I am working on with my friend, Susan Fazio – who also happens to be a painter. She’s painted a series of scenes from fresh markets all over the world. I pair my farmer’s market recipes with her pictures and… well…there’s a book concept there!

Sue and her husband, Tom Fazio (he’s a golf course architect) visited recently, and I pulled out the stops, creating an evening in Italy. The menu featured a basket of antipasti, home baked focaccia bread, Caprese salad, lasagna Bolognese, home-made gelato and fresh baked hazelnut biscotti. Sounds yumm, right? But, the star of the meal was my tomato braised veggie dish. The recipe stars artichokes, which I designed as a first course. But, for this meal, I added baby zucchini and yellow squash. Let, me tell you, I was very popular by the end of the evening.

Here it is for you to critique! Let me know what you think!!

Tomato Braised Artichokes with Pesto Rub

Serves 8 as an Appy, 4 as a Main Dish

90 Minute Cuisine

In Italy, everyone is family and family dining is all about platters of delicious food, passed around the table to loud kudos and sighs of delight. This is one of those dishes. Artichokes are an Italian staple. Trimming the artichoke takes some time, but after that, this dish is all about infusing flavors. These artichokes are covered in a salty, rich pesto and then simmered in a tomato-wine broth. They take on the flavors that they swim in. Serve these in a large, shallow bowl with the resulting juices spooned over the top. Everyone rolls up their sleeves, and pulls the leaves through their teeth. When you get down to the artichoke heart…. life is just a bowl of goodness!

For sauce

1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes

1 cup dry white wine

2 cups homemade vegetable stock, or prepared low sodium vegetable broth

¼ cup olive oil

2 teaspoons kosher salt

½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

For pesto

1 (7-ounce) tin flat fillets of anchovies, packed in oil

1 whole head garlic, cloves peeled

1 bunch fresh basil leaves

½ cup olive oil

For artichokes

4 large artichokes

2 lemons, halved

Pour the tomatoes, wine, chicken broth and ½ cup olive oil into a large roasting pan. Season with some of the salt and crushed red pepper. Set the pan on the counter while you move on to make the rub.

Place the anchovies, garlic and basil into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to combine. With the bowl running, slowly pour in ½ cup olive oil to make a thick paste.

Trim the artichokes by first pulling the thick, dark green outer leaves, leaving the tender green leaves in place. You’ll lose about half of the leaves. Use a vegetable peeler to remove the tough partial leaves from the bottom of the artichoke and the stem. Cut off the tough end of the stem, leaving about 3 to 4 inches. Cut off the top third of the artichoke leaves. With every cut or peel that you make, rub lemon over the cut ends. Slice the artichokes in half. Use a spoon to remove the spiny choke from the center. Pull out the spiky inner leaves. Place the trimmed artichoke into a bowl of cold water with lemon slices. Repeat with the remaining artichokes.

Remove the artichokes from the lemony water one at a time. Brush anchovy pesto on both sides of the artichoke and place cut-side down into the pan with tomato sauce. Place the pan on the stove top, and bring the sauce to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the pan with a lid (or aluminum foil). Simmer the artichokes low and slow (over low heat and for a long time). Turn the artichokes in the sauce several times to coat while they simmer. Continue cooking until a fork easily pierces the artichoke hearts and the sauce reduces, about 45 to 60 minutes. If the sauce evaporates too quickly, pour in more stock.

Serve the artichokes on a platter and spoon the sauce over the top.