Wednesday, August 24, 2011


Border Springs Farm photo credit Mike Saurez

Shepherd. Lamb fanatic. Owner of a thousand acres of Southern Heaven within the shadow of the Blue Ridge. A bon vivante whose contact list includes the who's who of chefs from the Mississippi to New York City. That's Craig Rogers, former Dean of Engineering, CEO of his own startup, now owner of Border Springs Farm in Patrick County, VA.

Once a year, Craig welcomes chefs, food artisans, writers, foodies and other professional fans of lamb to his Border Springs Farm for a three day orgy he calls LAMBSTOCK. Think Woodstock with music under a bandstand, yes, but more importantly, as a humongous picnic that allows you to gorge yourself with tender, succulent lamb prepared by some of the nations top chefs.
This year, George Mendes of Aldea in New York City, one of Food & Wines Best New Chefs; Sean Brock of HUSK, winner of the James Beard Best Chef in the Southeast; John Currence of City Grocery in Oxford, Miss, another contender for that award; and other big name chefs brought their staff and RVs or tents, slept in the sheep pastures and then for three days prepared lamb for our tasting.

EWE'RE HOT . . . . .COUNTING SHEEP. . . . BAAAAAD TO THE BONE (thanks to the American Lamb Board)

Here are a few things we tasted:

Lamb roasted on a spit supervised by Angelo Vangelopoulos of The Ivy Inn in Charlottesville.
Lamb tacos with a smoking hot adobe sauce, salsas. . . and did I mention freshly rolled, pressed on the spot, then grilled tortillas?

Lamb burgers, grilled with freshly made tomato catsup and homemade mustard.

Lamb posole, a spicy stew with hominy, salsa and fatback chips.
An older lamb, a whole splayed mutton, slowly grilled to 190 degrees like a whole hog, for a lamb pickin' by Jimmy Hagood, who owns the Que-osk in the newly opened Charleston Market.
Clams with lamb? You bet, with Rappahannock River Oysters, too.
And to balance the menu, there was gazpacho, and collards, and more collards, and roasted tomatoes . . . .

And dessert? Cookies and a gorgeous coconut cake.

Lime curd, Lemon Curd and a Coconut Paste separate the layers of this Coconut Cake.

Here's the recipe for Lamb Burgers that Craig Rogers shared with me for THE NEW BLUE RIDGE COOKBOOK, by Elizabeth Wiegand, Globe Pequot Press, 2010. (c) Please be nice and give credit.


Craig Rogers loves to wax poetic about his Texel sheep and lambs, and the Border Collies he trains to keep them in line at Border Springs Farm. These lamb burgers are the very best you’ll ever taste, he says. The mayonnaise provides an exquisite, finishing touch. “Leave the catsup and mustard in the refrigerator in you want to enjoy a true, farm fresh burger,” he says.


1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 pinch sea salt

¼ teaspoon pepper, freshly ground

¼ teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 egg, large, fresh from the hen

1 cup olive oil

Optional: 2 teaspoons dill, finely chopped and 1/3 cup feta cheese, OR, 2 teaspoons mint and 2 teaspoons rosemary, both finely chopped

1. In a medium bowl, mix the red wine vinegar, lemon juice, sea salt, pepper, Dijon mustard and egg together well, using a whisk or egg-beaters (or a blender).

2. Very slowly add the olive oil while mixing vigorously or pureeing in the blender. The final product should be whipped-cream smooth and firm.

3. To add a twist try folding in your favorite herbs and cheese once the mayonnaise is complete.

a. For one variation try: 2 teaspoons dill, finely chopped and ⅓ cup feta cheese, crumbled. The dill adds some pizzazz and the feta a nice texture.

b. For another twist try: 2 teaspoons mint, finely chopped and 2 teaspoons rosemary, finely chopped.

4. Let the mayonnaise rest in the refrigerator for an hour before serving to allow the flavors to set.


2 pounds ground lamb

1 onion, finely chopped

½ cup fresh mint, chopped

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 eggs, large, fresh from the hen

½ teaspoon red chilies, crushed

1 teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon cumin, ground

1 teaspoon coriander seed, ground

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon pepper, freshly ground

Homemade Mayonnaise with a Twist (as above)

6 Buns

Sliced tomatoes and onions, optional

1. Prepare charcoal or preheat gas grill.

2. In a large bowl, mix all ingredients well.

3. Form 6 burger patties from the mixture.

4. Grill slowly, for approximately 20 minutes. Leave the middle medium rare or to taste.

5. Serve on a good bun, with homemade mayonnaise, a slice of garden fresh tomato and onion.

YIELD: 6 Servings

Friday, August 12, 2011


Hey, it's beginning to happen here in the South, just like in metro areas such as New York City - fish and other seafood that were swimming in the ocean yesterday can land on our plates today, even on our tables at home.
It's the latest trend to hit the Fresh and Local scene. Shrimp, clams, crab and fish get loaded onto refrigerated trucks as soon as the boats hit the dock, and take a cold ride to inland farmers markets for lucky consumers like myself in Raleigh. Many CFAs, that's community supported fisheries similar to the CSAs that provide produce fresh from the farm, also give lucky subscribers boxes laden with the fresh catch of the week.
I've talked before about several of these fishermen-based co-ops, like Core Sound Seafood,, based out of the Morehead City area, and also Walking Fish,, a CFA that provides central NC customers with fresh seafood.
This Wednesday, I discovered LOCALS SEAFOOD, at Raleigh's Downtown Farmers Market. They offered ice chests laden with tuna, mackerel and other fish. Shrimp was from Dare County, in the northern Outer Banks. The shrimp were huge and as fresh as could be, so two pounds went home with us.
Recipes started stirring in my head, esp. after I remembered some locally made dried tomato and basil pasta I had brought home from the farmers market at the Mast General Store in Valle Crucis. In fact, the fresh basil growing on the deck and tomatoes, fresh from our little garden, would be perfect paired with that pasta. And a nice wedge of crusty sourdough bread from La Farm Bakery's stand across the way would be perfect, too. A baby watermelon cut into chunks, sprinkled with almonds and basil, and feta? A perfect salad.
Yum, dinner was on the way!

Fresh pasta is just, well, awesome. And business is awesome for THE PASTA WENCH, a home-grown business out of Boone. Andrea's Organics is their farm that provides seasonal and sustainable veggies and herbs for the fresh pasta made in small, artisanal batches. In fact, the company boasts that 85% of ingredients used for ravioli, fettucini and other pastas are from North Carolina organic growers.
Just recently, the pasta production was moved from the dining room to a large business facility, after contracts were made with Whole Foods and a few other stores. You can still find THE PASTA WENCH products at many farmers markets from the mountains to the sea, from Boone to the Wilmington area. Check them out at

RECIPE *** SHRIMP with Tomatoes, Fresh Corn and Basil ***
I love mixing it up with fresh shrimp, adding whatever may be in season or in my pantry, like the few ears of fresh corn in the fridge. So I cut the corn from a few cobs to add even more taste to this awesome pasta dish.
And here's a handy hint I just read about myself: Get out a bundt cake pan or what I call a pound cake pan, the one with a hole in the middle. Place the cob on top of the "hole", and when you cut the kernels away from the cob, they'll fall into the cake pan rather than go all over your counter. Works like a charm!

As usual, it's best to have all your ingredients prepped and chopped and ready to go, because this recipe comes together fast. So go ahead and start to heat up the water for the pasta, and chop away!

SHRIMP with Tomatoes, Fresh Corn and Basil

9 to 12 ounces fettuccine, dried or fresh
1 small to medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds shrimp, peeled and deveined, washed and patted dry
3 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 cup of fresh corn kernels
handful of cherry tomatoes, cut in half, or a handful of sun-dried tomatoes
2 to 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil or parsley

1. Put a large pot of water on to boil for the pasta. While preparing shrimp, add pasta to boiling water and cook for the recommended amount of time. Pull out one strand and taste to see if done. Drain and set aside.
2. Add olive oil to a large saute pan, and add onions. Cook over low heat until onions are tender. Add garlic, and stir for about a minute.
3. Increase heat to medium, and add shrimp and butter, and corn if using, and stir frequently, until shrimp are pink and firm. Season with the Old Bay and salt and pepper. Add tomatoes, if using, and stir to heat through.
4. Sprinkle the basil or parsley over the pasta just before serving. Spread a mound of pasta on each plate, then spoon the shrimp mix over.

4 to 6 servings
As usual, be nice and give credit for this recipe to Elizabeth Wiegand, CarolinaFoodie, 2011.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


A baby goat being held during the 2010 Farm Tour at Horse Helpers at Wisteria Farm

You, too, can pet a goat or llama, get crowed by a rooster or clucked by a hen, or talk with a farmer about her sustainable methods of collecting and using rainwater or growing vertical tomatoes.
This coming weekend, August 6th and 7th, is the Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture's annual Farm Tour. Each afternoon, from 2 to 6, you can get up close and personal with farm animals, take in farming methods, and see some gorgeous countryside. There are even suggested bike routes to take in some of the farms. Here's the link.
The Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture is such a fantastic organization. Made up by women, and for women, in agriculture, the proceeds from this farm tour will help provide women farmers in the High Country with resources and educational programs.
And besides, this farm tour is a great way to spend a weekend, whether you've got kids you want to educate or if it's just yourself you want to entertain.

Spring House Farm

I've visited most of these farms during past tours, and many of them wound up in stories or with recipes in my book, THE NEW BLUE RIDGE COOKBOOK.
It seemed as though we were driving to the top of the world as we wound our way up the steep and narrow drive to Big Horse Creek Farm, but oh, was the view alone worth it. Ron and Suzanne Joyner will delight you with their story of finding, saving and propagating heirloom varieties of apples, some of which would have died out if not for their efforts. The windmill and battery banks produce enough electricity for them to be "off the grid." And, they'll have some organic veggies and fruits for sale.
This year, I'm anxious to see Sally's new hoop-house and passive solar greenhouse used for growing and propagating heirloom tomatoes at Zydeco Moon Farm. Hang on for a fun but bumpy wagon ride to the top of the hill where they've got a field with a view. She and Joe will also have quite a variety of heirlooms for sale.

Hens gather at the Trailer Park(ed) at ASU's Goodnight Farm

Students will show you around the ASU Goodnight Sustainable teaching farm. I learned new things about garlic and egg production last year.

Charles Church has been farming the Watauga River valley for over 50 years

Charles Church is a delightful farmer, who ten years ago proved you could teach an old dog some new tricks when he switched from growing tobacco to growing organic foods. Purslane, beets, potatoes and some absolutely delightful spicy sausage made their way into my ice chest last year. Ask him to sign his own recipe for kohlrabi he contributed to THE NEW BLUE RIDGE COOKBOOK.
Maverick Farms provides an alternative, communal way of farming and during the last three years has established a CSA program with a few other farms. They've got a beautiful spot and usually have some good baked goods and homemade, organic pizza for sale.

The "Tunnel" at Tumbling Shoals Farm

And a little away from the Boone area is Tumbling Shoals Farm, where Shiloh and Jason are transforming a beautiful little valley into an organic oasis. AS former Peace Corps workers, they are used to hard work and being innovative. I enjoyed learning about the unheated high tunnels they use to grow tomatoes and other organic veggies, and the unorthodox use of rain gutters as a vessel for planting seeds in the passive solar greenhouse.
And I could go on and on, but you should go on yourself! Farm tours are a delightful way to see first hand the efforts it takes to bring good food to our tables. And, it's educational!

Be sensible. It's going to be hot, so wear protective clothing, a hat, and sunscreen. Take along some water, too.
Wear sensible shoes. Flip flops are not very good to walk in fields or rocky paths.
Mind your manners, and keep kids under control.
Note the visiting hours - two to six. Don't go early, and don't stay late. These are tired, working folks who may have been up since dawn to do the farmers market, or tend to animals.
Take some cash, and a cooler, to take home some of the wholesome, home grown food you'll find available at most farms. You can't get much fresher than that!
Tickets are available at each of the farms, or at The Mast General Store in Valle Crucis, Stick Boy Bakery or Earth Fare in Boone, and a few other retail outlets. For questions, call 828 264-3061 or email at

Here's a favorite from THE NEW BLUE RIDGE COOKBOOK, by Elizabeth Wiegand, 2010, Globe Pequot Press, (c) contributed by Shiloh Avery of Tumbling Shoals Farm. It's perfect for this hot weather, requiring little heating up of the kitchen!


As consumers, we are admonished to get to know who grows our food. Shiloh says that works both ways. “Real people with real faces and lives make me the farmer care about what I’m feeding them!” she writes in a monthly newsletter.

2 tablespoons butter

6 to 8 cloves garlic, minced or pressed

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

3 cups sungold tomatoes, cut in half

2/3 cup heavy cream

1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined (optional)

½ cup (packed) fresh basil, chopped

fettuccine pasta

Romano or Parmesan cheese to taste

1. Boil water for pasta. Add fettuccine when a rapid boil is reached. Cook and drain

2. Heat butter in a large pan. Sauté the garlic, being careful not to burn.

3. Add salt, pepper and halved tomatoes, allowing the tomatoes to “wilt” for a few minutes.

4. Add cream and cook gently, allowing the sauce to thicken.

5. When sauce is to your liking, add peeled shrimp directly to the simmering cream sauce. The shrimp will cook fast, so wait until the end to add them.

6. Add basil.

7. Mix with drained pasta, serve in bowls, and top with freshly grated Romano or Parmesan.

YIELD: 4 servings