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00000174-9e19-ddc3-a1fc-bedbd6890000Welcome to WFAEats - a fun adventure where we explore all things tasty and interesting in the Charlotte food scene. We want to share stories, recipes and culinary escapades and hear about yours!

Two Lost Arts: Gardening And Cooking

Downing Street

Listen to Charlotte Talks on Friday morning at 9:00am for a conversation about growing and cooking veggies from your own back yard. Recipes below for Roasted Corn Salsa, Oven "Fried" Okra, Stuffed Poblano Chiles and Buttermilk Ranch Dressing.

Mobility has been great for this country. We can react to economic conditions or take advantage of an employment opportunity and settle wherever we want. Unfortunately, this has meant that the close family- grand parents, parents, and children - don’t live close together any more. Skills that were passed down from generation to generation are often lost. And with the demands from the workplace and parenting, most families don’t have the time to learn on their own.

Credit Lori L. Stalteri / flickr

Two of these skills are gardening and cooking. As a professional gardener I meet scores of families who don’t know how to plant a seed or sucker a tomato. And if they did, they have neither the time nor space to start a garden. I’ve made it my mission to share new approaches to home gardening that are EASY – understanding that no one these days has the time to spend hours each night digging, tilling and weeding a back yard garden. So I focus on ways to eliminate the biggest garden chore – weeding - by building raised beds, and filling them with new soil that’s weedless. Using organic fertilizers means the gardens are healthier, but they also eliminate the digging and tilling, leaving the family with just planting seeds once a season, and watering two or three times a week. Now that’s something even the busiest families can do!

With today’s big houses but tiny yards, a traditional 20 by 20 foot garden just won’t fit, so I share techniques on how to make a tiny garden (about 50 square feet) as productive as a larger one.

But as I have noticed great success with gardening, I realized that many families have no idea how to cook the produce they’re growing! Often the parents were raised on microwave meals or vegetables you can steam in a pouch, or they spend lots of time eating processed foods or dining out at restaurants. The impact on our health has been significant, and the cost of those restaurant meals and prepared foods is considerable!


So I set out to take what I learned about making gardening easy, and applied it to home cooking. I enlisted the help of local chef and educator Megan Lambert from Johnson & Wales University and together we developed an approach to home cooking that is affordable, quick and simple. We start with a list of basic tools that every kitchen should have, without needing expensive gadgets and food processors. We then describe some of the most basic techniques of food preparation, so that most tasks can be done quickly and safely. And finally, we share recipes that free the cook from recipe cards – instead of having to run to the store to pick up the missing ingredient or two, we show you how to use basic recipes to adapt to what you have on hand.

The result is a return to simpler times where families harvest food fresh from their gardens and prepare them quickly and simply at home. Your food is as fresh and as healthy as it can possibly be, and the flavors are incredible.

We’d like to share several of our favorite recipes from the book below. Enjoy!

Don Rosenberg and Megan Lambert are the authors of The Organic Gardener’s Cookbook, Easy Growing Tips and Delicious Recipes for Your Home-Grown Vegetables. Don is also the founder of Instant Organic Garden. Listen to them talk about growing and cooking vegetables from your own garden on Charlotte Talks Friday morning at 9:00am. 

corn salsa.jpg
Credit animakitty / flickr
Roasted Corn Salsa

Roasted Corn Salsa


  • 1 ear fresh corn
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, ¼” dice
  • ½ medium red onion, ¼” dice
  • ¼ cup fresh cilantro or parsley, minced
  • 1 fresh jalapeno chile, (optional), minced
  • ½ fresh lime
  • 2 t. olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Hold the corn up on one end inside a large bowl, and slice the kernels off the cob, from the top to the bottom, all the way around. (The bowl will catch the flying corn kernels!)
  2. Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat and spray with olive oil spray or add a tiny bit of olive oil.
  3. Add the corn kernels and sauté until they begin to brown and caramelize all over, 4-5 minutes. Pour them into a bowl. 
  4. Add the other vegetables and cilantro to the bowl.
  5. Squeeze the lime juice over the salsa, add the olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste.

Variations on salsa: Instead of or in addition to the corn, you can add tomatoes (of course!), peaches, cooked and rinsed black beans, mango or pineapple (though I’m pretty sure you didn’t grow those yourself!). The key to great salsa, is making sure to cut tiny ¼” dice, so you don’t get big hunks of onion or jalapeno! 

Credit bengarland / flickr
Oven "Fried" Okra

Megan’s Baked "Fried" Okra


  • 10-12 fresh okra pods, cut into 1/2” pieces
  • 1/2 - 1 c. buttermilk
  • 1/2 c. cornmeal
  • 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1 t. baking powder
  • 2 T. Cajun seasoning
  • Olive oil spray


  1. Preheat the oven to 400°.
  2. Mix the cut pieces of okra with the buttermilk. There should be enough buttermilk to cover the okra completely. Place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  3. Mix together the cornmeal, whole wheat flour, baking powder, and Cajun seasoning in a medium to large bowl.
  4. Drain the okra in a strainer, and place the strainer over the bowl the okra was in, to prevent dripping.
  5. Drop the okra, a few pieces at a time, into the flour mixture and toss them around to coat.
  6. Place the okra onto a sheet pan lined with aluminum foil and spray with olive oil spray.
  7. Bake the okra until they are crisp and golden brown, about 15 minutes.
  8. Serve while still hot!

Megan’s Poblano Chiles stuffed with Quinoa, Mushrooms, and Goat Cheese


  • 6 poblano chiles
  • 1 ½ c. quinoa
  • 3 c. water, or vegetable or chicken stock
  • 2 t. olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, mashed
  • 6 oz. chevre-fresh goat cheese
  • 6 oz. shiitake mushrooms, wiped clean, stems removed, caps sliced
  • 1 bunch spinach, Swiss chard, or kale
  • 1/4 c. fresh cilantro or parsley, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 c. vegetable or chicken stock, or water
  • 1 ½ oz. grated Parmesan or cotija cheese


  1. Preheat the oven to 375°.
  2. Using a paring knife, carefully cut a T in one side of your fresh poblano chiles, and cut through the top of the seeded core to remove it through the T. Take care not to break the chile or cut through the back.
  3. Cook the quinoa (with 2 2/3 cups water or stock) by bringing it to a boil. Cook for 10 minutes until quinoa is soft and stock is absorbed. Set aside.
  4. Heat a medium skillet over medium heat, and add the olive oil. 
  5. Sauté the onion in the olive oil, caramelizing it to a golden brown.
  6. Add the sliced mushrooms and sauté until they begin to brown, about 4-5 minutes.
  7. Add the spinach, Swiss chard, or kale, and cook until it is wilted, about 2 minutes.
  8. Add the garlic and cook for one minute.
  9. Remove from the heat and add the quinoa, chevre, and cilantro or parsley.
  10. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
  11. Carefully stuff the chiles with the quinoa mixture. Try not to break them!
  12. Place the chiles into a baking dish, and add the ½ c. of stock or water. Cover the dish tightly with foil.
  13. Bake until the chiles are tender, about 25 minutes. Remove the foil, sprinkle with Parmesan or cotija cheese, and allow the chiles to brown on top, about 5-10 minutes.
Credit I Believe I Can Fry / flickr
Homemade Buttermilk Ranch Dressing

Buttermilk Ranch Dressing
Kids love baby carrots, sweet red bell peppers, and cucumbers dipped in ranch dressing! They can easily help you whisk up the dressing. 
(TIP: Put the ingredients into a very large bowl so that they can whisk with wild abandon, and you won’t have to clean up any ranch dressing splashed all over your tabletop. Once it’s whisked together, pour it into a smaller bowl for dipping.)


  • ½ c. Greek yogurt, light sour cream, or light mayonnaise
  • ½ c. buttermilk
  • 1 clove garlic
  • ¼ t. Salt
  • ¼ t. freshly ground pepper
  • 2 T. fresh parsley
  • 2 T. fresh chives


  1. Mince the parsley and chives finely.
  2. Mash the garlic with your garlic press.
  3. Whisk all the ingredients together.
  4. Dressing will keep, refrigerated, for 3 or 4 days.

Variation: for smoky ranch dressing add 1 t. of smoked paprika to the ranch dressing.