I’m gathering material for a couple of upcoming episodes of the Indiana Home Cooks Podcast, and I hope you’ll check them out when they are posted. I have some other tasks to complete in the next week, and after that I’ll be in the studio editing and producing like mad to get them ready. I’m working on episodes featuring Professor Torbert’s Orange Corn Grits, based in West Lafayette, and Shoup’s Country Foods in Frankfort.
Shoup’s Country Foods sponsor the Backyard BBQ Cook-Off at the Indiana State Fair each year. The fair is coming up soon, August 2-18, and the cook-off is Saturday, August 10. Catagories include pork ribs, pork loin, chicken, “Build a Hog Burger,” and more. If you are a backyard barbecuer, consider entering! You’ll find all the details HERE. The deadline to enter is July 26, or until space fills up.
(I just found out I’ll be a judge for the BBQ Cook-Off! So sign up or come by and see it all take place August 10 at the Indiana State Fair.)
The Shoup family of Frankfort, Indiana, started in the custom meat processing business decades ago. Over the years they have expanded into a retail meat store, mail order, and catering business. Catering has lead them to open their own event center and to involvement with the biggest catered tailgate party anywhere–the Super Bowl. Their story will be featured on an upcoming episode of the IHC Podcast.
On my blog and on social media you may have seen pictures of Professor Torbert’s Orange Corn Grits. I’ve cooked them several times and liked the results so much I couldn’t help sharing! I met Professor Torbert Rocheford and his son Evan recently and I’ll be sharing their story about how the grits came to be, and where in the world orange corn comes from. (Hint: Professor Torbert invented it.)
Look for these stories and more here on the blog and on the Indiana Home Cooks Podcast. You can always catch up on your listening by clicking on the episodes listed here on the blog. Or go to indianahomecooks.podbean.com, Apple Podcasts/iTunes, Stitcher, Google, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts. Subscribe, download, and take IHC on your summer travels. That’s a great time to listen. And thanks!
In the midst of summer as we are, our gardens are catching up after the wet and cool start of the growing season. It will be awhile before my tomatoes are ready so they will get lots of tender loving care in the weeks ahead. But my tiny herb garden is thriving, and my basil is the best I’ve ever grown.
Naturally, I feel pressure to utilize these fragrant, glossy, emerald leaves as soon as possible, and as often as possible. The standard suggestion is “Make pesto!” And I have done that in years past. I like pesto, but I realize I’ve never been ga-ga about it like many folks are. In fact, when I make a large batch and freeze or refrigerate it for later use, I just ignore it. I never use it up.
As I watered the flowers and vegetables this morning, I knew I had to use some of that beautiful basil today, so pesto it would be. But only a small batch to go with pasta and a couple chicken thighs I had pulled from the freezer. They would be delicious grilled, skin-on. I did de-bone them, just to open them up and maybe speed the cooking a bit, and learned it’s not easy to remove the bone from a chicken thigh. If I do it again, I’ll study up on it beforehand.
The pesto recipe I use is from my old stand-by, The Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook, circa late 1980’s. I had not heard of pesto in the 1980’s. But the BHGC was on the cutting edge of trendiness, I suppose. Although pesto has been made in Italy for centuries, it didn’t catch on here in the states until the 1980’s. BHGC was all over that one.
I titled this blogpost “Pesto Love Affair” and then proceeded to explain I’ve never been crazy about pesto. And until today, I wasn’t. But putting the ingredients in the food processor, starting with the cubed parmesan cheese and processing to a nice granular consistency, then adding the walnuts, garlic cloves, basil leaves–barely 2 cups, eyeballing it–processing it into that luscious consistency, then drizzling in the olive oil, it came together magically. I didn’t season with salt and pepper until I tasted it. Then a generous grind of pepper and just a pinch of salt and another teaspoon of olive oil and…whizzzzz…whizzzzz…it was done and delicious, and I was falling in love.
My husband and son both agreed it was the best pesto I’d ever made. What else would they say? But it was true. The best ever. And I’m not sure why. To me pesto is usually a bit over the top, too much of something, but I don’t know what. It’s a concoction of several strong-flavored ingredients. Perfumey basil, sharp parmesan, and pungent garlic each deliver a heavy blow, and add in the traditional pine nuts and it’s flavor overload in my opinion. Perhaps replacing the “piney-ness” of the pine nuts with the mellow nuttiness of walnuts helps balance the other ingredients.
Or maybe it was just the right day to make pesto, from my own home-grown basil, at the peak of its hypnotic aromatic powers. Cooking with the seasons brings the utmost flavor and satisfaction to the table.
So I’ll stick with the BHGC for pesto, and keep it fresh and spontaneous. And maybe my love for pesto will endure.
The Indiana Home Cooks Podcast has been on a short hiatus. I’m working on several show ideas for the remaining weeks of summer. If you have a topic or a person you’d like to hear more about on the podcast, drop me a line. You can contact me by clicking “Contact” at the top of the screen or on the website menu. I would love to hear from you!
And thank you to all who have signed up to receive this blog via email. I’m pleased you are interested in Indiana Home Cooks, and honored to be an occasional guest in your inbox.
You can catch up on past episodes of the IHC Podcast directly from this blog, or on your favorite podcast app–Apple Podcasts/iTunes, Podbean, Stitcher, Google, Spotify, etc. On any of those apps, simply search for “Indiana Home Cooks” and all the episodes will be right there at your fingertips. Thank you for listening, and for reading this far. The pesto recipe is below.
Fresh Basil Pesto
Adapted from The Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook
Parmesan cheese, block (or 1/2 cup grated)*
1/2 cup toasted (and cooled) walnuts, rough chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and quartered
2 cups fresh basil leaves, sort of firmly packed, but don’t go crazy
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
*You can buy grated parmesan cheese, but the kind in the shaker can is not recommended. Fresh grated is available in tubs in the “fancy cheese” section of the grocery. If you use block parm cheese, then follow the steps below…
Cut the block parm cheese into half-inch size cubes, up to about 1/2 to 2/3 cup, cubed. Put the cubes into the food processor bowl, close the lid and process until the consistency of very coarse cornmeal. You should end up with about 1/2 cup grated cheese.
To the grated cheese add walnuts, garlic, and basil leaves. Process this mixture until well combined. Next, drizzle in the olive oil while processing the mixture until everything comes together. Stop processing and taste for seasoning. Add salt/pepper as desired and process again for a few seconds. Add more olive oil or a bit of water if pesto seems too stiff. But don’t over process the mixture.
Use immediately or store in the fridge in a glass jar covered with a layer of olive oil, or in a plastic container or dish covered with plastic wrap directly in contact with the pesto. Both these storing methods will keep the pesto bright green. Use within one week. It may also be frozen in portion sizes if desired. Makes about 3/4 cup.
For this dish simply stir pesto (the amount is up to you) into hot cooked spaghetti, along with a bit of pasta cooking water to create a thin sauce to coat the noodles. Top with fresh diced tomatoes, sliced chicken, and a dollop of pesto. Drizzle with olive oil and serve.
Hear this Bonus Track of the Indiana Home Cooks Podcast HERE.
All our Indiana crops are suffering from late planting, soggy, if not out-right flooded soils, and cool temperatures so far this spring and summer. We will see the effects throughout the season in farm fields, in the garden, and at the farmers markets. Lower than normal yields and a decrease in quality are no doubt in store this summer and fall.
For those who like to cook with the seasons, it might be “slim pickin’s” of fresh local produce this summer, but we’ll manage and make do with the choices available. If the quality of produces is not picture perfect, I have a suggestion. Try a vegetable tian. It’s pronounced “tee ANN” or “tee OHN,” depending on how French you want to sound. I tend to fall somewhere in the middle–“tee AHN.” However you say it, it’s a delicious and easy way to prepare summer vegetables in a flavorful, colorful side dish.
There are many versions of tian, but it’s all the same idea. Google it and you’ll find recipes from Ina Garten, Martha Stewart, and about every chef out there. In my version, it starts on the stove in a cast iron skillet, then we move out to the grill for most of the cooking. I usually cook this dish on the gas grill, but live fire will work also, as long as you can monitor and regulate your cooking temp. With a small amount of seasoning, this combination comes out bursting with flavor and freshness.
Vegetable Tian On The Grill
Kosher salt & fresh ground pepper (plus thyme or oregano, if desired)
One large yellow sweet onion, sliced in 1/4-inch thick slices
4-5 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
4-5 Yukon Gold or red skin potatoes, depending on size, sliced 1/4-in thick
2-3 ripe tomatoes, sliced 1/4-in thick
2-3 small zucchini, sliced 1/4-in thick
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
On the stove, heat a 10-inch cast iron skillet, or other pan suitable for the grill, to medium low. Get the outdoor grill preheated to 375º. Drizzle in the skillet about 2 T olive oil, then put in onion slices and begin to cook, no higher than medium low. You are not cooking them completely, just getting them started. After a couple minutes, add the garlic, stir, and continue cooking gently for another minute. Then remove from heat and turn off stove. Season the onions and garlic with just a pinch of salt and pepper, and add another drizzle of olive oil.
To the skillet, on top of the onions, add the potatoes, tomatoes, and zucchini in layers. Either potato/tomato/zucchini, in a fan arrangement, or a potato layer, followed by tomato layer, followed by zucchini layer. Whatever makes you happy. Season lightly as you add layers. Top with the parmesan cheese and another generous drizzle of olive oil.
Using oven mitts (it may still be hot from the stove) take the skillet out to the preheated grill (375º). Place it on the grill over direct heat. After 10-15 minutes, move to indirect heat and finish cooking, about 30 more minutes. At that point, cover the pan with aluminum foil and continue cooking 15 more minutes, for a total cooking time of 60 minutes on the grill. Test potatoes for doneness before removing from grill.
When done, set the skillet aside while you finish preparing the rest of the meal. The tian can sit for up to 30 minutes before serving. It’s also good served at room temperature. Serve it right out of the skillet.
If you don’t want to cook the tian on the grill, simply bake in a 375º oven following the same instructions.
The “Indiana Traminette” episode of the IHC podcast is HERE.
June is “Indiana Wine Grape Month,” and the nearly 100 wineries of Indiana are proudly featuring our state’s official signature grape—Traminette. I sat down recently with a couple of experts on Traminette and foods that go with it, on the latest episode of the Indiana Home Cooks podcast. Thom England is a Certified Executive Chef and Culinary Arts Progam Coordinator at Ivy Tech in Indianapolis. Meredith Easley is with Easley Winery in downtown Indy. Hear what we talked about and tasted HERE.
A hybrid of the German Gewürztraminer and the French Joannes Seyve, Traminette is all-American, having been developed in the 1960’s and 70’s by researchers at the University of Illinois and Cornell University. And it’s gaining in popularity for growers, winemakers, and consumers in the Midwest because of its suitability to our growing conditions and its versatility.
I love Traminette and the variety of styles our Indiana winemakers produce—it can be floral and spicy, crisp and fruity, dry, off-dry, or subtly sweet. Traminette’s versatility makes it a perfect wine to sample and compare as you visit wineries around the state.
Thanks to Martin Marcelo and Gina Powell of Easley Winery for their help with our tasting–prepping, pouring, and photographing! And thanks to Thom for his delicious food and Meredith for the delightful wines. Cheers!
The arrival of grilling season always inspires new ideas for outdoor cooking, whether on a gas or charcoal grill, or in a smoker. Since purchasing a Big Green Egg combination grill/smoker a couple years ago, I’ve been working on my BBQ game, improving in consistency, but also identifying what I still don’t understand. And if you are like me, and most backyard barbecuers, you might only fire up your smoker on the weekend, so you don’t get the repetition needed to really master a cooking technique. It does help to take notes, so you can remember what worked or didn’t work the last time!
I started following the Sandy Beach Barbecue Company on Instagram over a year ago and was impressed with the images of their food cooked on the Big Green Egg. They have a lot of fun doing demonstrations at their Big Green Egg dealership on the shore of Lake Freeman just south of Monticello, Indiana. As the weather slowly, and laboriously, warmed up this spring, I decided to call Michelle and Andy Schwindler, owners of Sandy Beach, and ask if they would show me their set up and be my guest on the Indiana Home Cooks Podcast. They enthusiastically agreed!
When I arrived, Andy had two of the Eggs fired up, one filled with chicken and cauliflower roasting in the smoky heat, and the other in preparation for an appetizer of melted brie, blueberries, and pecans. Was I in for a treat! Andy and Michelle could not have been kinder and more hospitable with their time, knowledge, and food.
See the pictures from my visit below and see more from the Sandy Beach Barbecue Company on Instagram and Facebook and at their website. They have a full slate of live fire dinners featuring low and slow BBQ, wood-fired pizza, surf & turf, and other options.
Full disclosure: I did not purchase my Big Green Egg from Sandy Beach. But I wish I had, as you will hear at the end of the podcast. Happy grilling, smoking, and BBQ’ing!
On the new Indiana Home Cooks podcast episode, we talk about all the food shown here and how it was cooked. Top to bottom: Andy at the Egg; whole chicken, drumstick lollipops, & cauliflower steaks; breaking down the chicken; melted brie with blueberries and pecans; lunch!
I enjoy playing around with different flavors in traditional recipes and giving them a fresh spin. For instance, from-scratch chicken noodle soup can be brightened up with the addition of fresh ginger, lime, and cilantro, and maybe a dash of fresh diced jalapeño or other hot pepper for a slight kick.
One day a few years ago I was preparing pot roast ingredients to load into the Crock Pot, when it dawned on me that I could take this standard family fare in another direction. Instead of the usual pot roast seasoning of salt, pepper, garlic, rosemary, etc., and onions, carrots, and potatoes with gravy, what about an Italian twist? Instead of the carrots and potatoes, how about diced tomatoes and red bell pepper, along with the onions, and thyme, oregano, basil, and parsley for seasoning? Oh, and a splash of red wine couldn’t hurt. When the roast is cooked to fork-tenderness, pull it apart in chunks, and serve it over creamy polenta with a drizzle of olive oil, some chopped fresh parsley, and, of course, grated Parmesan cheese.
The whole scenario ran through my mind in an instant. So I followed my inspiration, and my Italian Pot Roast turned out fabulous!
Part of my thought process involved how I could use polenta. I had known about this creamy cornmeal dish for some time, seeing it on TV cooking shows, in magazines, and elsewhere. Along with pasta, it is a staple of Italian cuisine. To us Hoosiers, it’s known as grits.
I thought I should be authentic and use “polenta” so I found a quick-cooking Italian polenta that I used the first few times I made it. It was perfect with the Italian Pot Roast, serving as a creamy bed on which to ladle the tender beef chunks and sauce. But lately, when I make polenta, I pull out the Quaker Yellow Corn Meal and cook it according to the directions for Corn Meal Mush on the box. I add a little butter, olive oil, and Parmesan cheese, and maybe a splash of milk to keep it creamy. It’s delicious and comforting.
A recent discovery I’ve made is another grits product that makes a fine polenta–Professor Torbert’s Orange Corn Grits. It’s a bit pricey, but delicious, and the orange corn is a brighter color on the plate if you are serving it with the Italian Pot Roast or Shrimp & Grits. Professor Torbert is a real professor of agronomy at Purdue University, who developed a special line of corn that is higher in beta-carotene, giving it a more orange hue. He has turned his orange corn into a specialty food product. I hope to share his story on a future episode of the Indiana Home Cooks Podcast.
In the meantime, give the Italian Pot Roast a try. You can cook it in your slow cooker, roasting pan or Dutch oven. All three methods are explained below, and you can hear me cooking it here. Enjoy!
Italian Pot Roast (Serves 4-6)
One 2 to 2.5 lb. chuck roast
One medium to large onion, roughly chopped
One bell pepper, any color, roughly chopped
2-4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup beef broth*
1/2 cup red wine*
1 14-oz can diced tomatoes
1 6-oz can tomato paste
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp dried basil
Italian flat-leaf parsley, one handful chopped fresh, or 1 tsp dried
1 T sugar
Kosher salt & pepper
Grated parmesan cheese
Cooked polenta (directions below) or bite-size pasta, such as ziti
If cooking in a slow cooker (Crock Pot), reduce amount of wine/broth by half. Use a 1/2-cup of EITHER broth or wine, or reduce to 1/4-cup each.
Slow cooker instructions:
Put roast, veggies, garlic, tomatoes, tomato paste, broth/wine, herbs, sugar, and salt & pepper to taste in cooker. Cook on low for 10-12 hours. Or cook on high for 5-6 hours.
For conventional oven, preheat to 325º. Combine all ingredients in a large roasting pan as instructed for slow cooker above. Cover pan with foil or a lid, and bake 2.5 to 3 hours, till fork tender. When done, remove from oven, and let sit, covered, up to 30 minutes.
Conventional oven, plus extra flavor step for braising:
Season roast on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat an oven safe pot, like a dutch oven, on the stove on medium setting. Drizzle about 1 T. olive oil in hot pan and place roast in to sear. About 3-4 minutes on each side. Remove roast from pot and set aside.
Lower heat to med-low and pour in broth and wine. Allow it to boil and scrape up bits that are stuck to the bottom of the pot, 2-3 minutes. Carefully add roast back to the pot, season with thyme, oregano, and basil. Add onions, peppers, garlic, tomatoes, tomato paste, and sugar.
Cover pot and place in preheated oven, and allow to braise for 2.5 to 3 hours, till fork tender. When done, remove from oven and let the roast sit, covered, for up to 30 minutes.
To serve, pull roast apart into chunks and stir it into the sauce. Ladle over cooked polenta or pasta in bowls, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with parsley and parmesan cheese. Makes great leftovers.
To make polenta:
You don’t have to buy “polenta.” Use Quaker Yellow Corn Meal and follow the instructions for cooking “Corn Meal Mush” on the box. When it has finished cooking and is thick and creamy it is ready to serve. If it thickens up too much before you are ready to serve, add a bit of milk and whisk. It’s also tasty to stir in a couple tablespoons of olive oil and 1/3 to 1/2 cup of grated parmesan cheese.
Defining our state’s culture is the at the core of the Indiana Artisans. Since 2008, this non-profit program has been identifying the best of the best craftspeople and food makers in the state, and helping them market their products and build a brand that signifies “the best” of Indiana.
The annual Indiana Artisan Marketplace, held in early spring at the State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis, is one showcase for these artisans. The new episode of the Indiana Home Cooks Podcast features three of the food artisans at this year’s Marketplace: Lathay Pegues, founder of JohnTom’s BBQ Sauce, based in Muncie; Sister Jean Marie Ballard of the Sisters of St. Benedict in Ferdinand; and Angie Burton, of Burton’s Maplewood Farms in Medora.
Each of these artisans has a unique story about how they turned a traditional recipe into something they can share with folks in the Hoosier State and beyond. From a grandfather’s barbecue sauce, to baked goods with German roots, to a new spin on Indiana maple syrup, these are a small sample of the variety of foods and food stories that come from our Hoosier Heartland.
Look for Indiana grown and produced foods in your local grocery and other small retailers, and at farmers markets, local fairs and festivals. You might be surprised at the variety but certainly not at the quality of products available.
Here are the links to the artisans featured in this episode: