Where do our ingredients come from?

So this will be our last week just blindly buying ingredients from markets and grocery stores based on nothing more than a first impression. Long gone are the days when we would just willy nilly chose a tomato or a jar of honey with out hours of investigating and photographing. And smelling. And chatting with the farmers. And tasting. And soaking in the whole “farm to our mouth” process. Why? What a great question, my fellow gastronome! Let me start at the beginning.

After our paella and tapas tasting a couple of weeks ago and hearing many of y’all’s feedback, we did indeed decide that there is a love of Spanish food here in the Lowcountry and an opportunity to show off the best of Spain. Charleston is ready. We have a few housekeeping things that we need to get done before we can officially start popping up for full service meals, but after that: All Paella All The Time! Well maybe not ALL the time.

With so many quality local farmers, butchers, fish mongers, and craftspeople it is very hard for us to sort through all of our favorite ingredients and choose which we would like to use for our pop-ups. So, while I compiled a list and set out to begin research I thought, “There has got to be a more interesting way to do this.” From that, the idea to turn my ingredient search in to a feature series for the blog was born.

I believe in highlighting a community’s assets and there is no bigger asset to the Charleston community than our food makers, whatever their job title may be. With those goals in mind I contacted local farms, butchers, and fish mongers and asked if we could feature them on the blog. The ingredients must be shining bright this year because there are lots of people willing to indulge me and show off their goods! Beginning next week and for the following two weeks we will be rising with the chickens and heading out to local businesses to interview these palate pleasers and photograph their farms, shops, goods, and faces.

I’ve never been so excited to wake up so early.

While I was setting up all the visits last week, we also planned a little feast for Memorial Day. We of course celebrated on Tuesday because food and bev life. Tacos aren’t the most traditional Memorial Day meal, but we used the grill so we still get some ‘murica points, right?

corn and roasted red pepper (not featured on the taco- just for my pleasure)
corn and roasted red pepper (not featured on the taco- just for my pleasure)
STEAK: It deserves capital letters.
STEAK: It deserves capital letters.
grilled corn
grilled corn

I don’t think you can go wrong with beef on tortillas, but the grilled corn salsa (made with local corn that I will certainly know more about next week) really gave it the needed “umph”.

de-cobbing it
de-cobbing it

As always, I love tex-mex food because I can eat the leftovers about 5 billion different ways and never get bored.

We made a day of it. We shucked corn. We annoyed neighbors with too much Marc Anthony. We grilled meat. And we finally ate tacos around 6pm. Good thing cheese plates exist.

Citrus Grilled Beef Tacos


1lb (1 piece) sirloin steak

marinade (see recipe that follows)

lettuce, julienned

corn salsa (see recipe that follows)

1 avocado, sliced

1 T minced cilantro

small corn tortillas, warmed

refried beans, optional

shredded cheese, optional

Add the steak to the marinade, reserving 1/4 cup before adding the steak. Let the steak marinade for 3-24 hours. Pre-heat a grill or a cast iron pan to high heat. Salt and pepper each side of the steak. Add the steak to the heated surface, lower the heat to medium-high and do not move for 4-5 minutes.  Flip the steak and cook until internal temp is 135°F. Remove from heat and let rest slightly covered for 5-10 minutes. Slice the steak in thin pieces.

Place two corn tortillas together and top first with refried beans and cheese, if using. Then, add a pinch of lettuce, 2-3 strips of beef, 1 slice of avocado, and a spoonful of the corn salsa.

Citrus Marinade

zest of 1 lemon

zest of 1 orange

1/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice

1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice

1/2 extra virgin olive oil

2 garlic cloves

1/2 bunch of cilantro

3/4 t cumin

3/4 t pepper

1 t red pepper flakes

1 T honey

Combine all ingredients with an immersion blender. It can be a chucky or smooth as you like. Reserve 1/4 aside for the corn salsa.

Grilled Corn Salsa


1 ear of corn, grilled and kernels cut off

1 tomato, small diced

1/4 red onion, small diced

1/2 jalepeño, seeded and minced

1/4 large bunch of cilantro, minced

1 garlic clove, minced

1/2 t salt

1/2 t pepper

1/4 cup of beef marinade (this should not have touched the raw beef)

Combine all of the ingredients and let the flavors meld together in the refrigerator 10-15 minutes.

After we ate Alfonso fell in to a FIFA computer game stupor and I started thinking about all the extra oranges we had. We had just the right ingredients for vanilla cake, so I mulled those things around a little bit and came up with orange cake.

Orange Cake
Orange Cake

We used a basic vanilla cake recipe from Alfonso’s school book and added orange in the form of juice and zest. It was just the fresh little sweetie that I needed.

fresh little sweetie
fresh little sweetie

However, after I ate the cake I couldn’t stop thinking that candied walnuts should have been involved. And a glaze. Yes. A GLAAAZZZZZE! (Cue scary thunder and lightning)

candied walnuts
candied walnuts

So, this morning I candied some walnuts, made a glaze, and got on with my life.

Candied Walnut Orange Cake with an orange glaze


In addition to a basic vanilla cake recipe for a 9in pan you will need:

1 T orange zest

sea salt

For the glaze

1 cup powdered sugar

orange juice

For the candied walnuts

3/4 cup walnuts

scant 1/4 cup white sugar

3/4 T butter

Follow the instructions for the vanilla cake. We used a basic one from Alfonso’s culinary school book. Replace half the liquid in the recipe with orange juice and add the orange zest. Bake the cake. Let the cake completely cool.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Add the walnuts and sugar and cook over medium heat until completely melted and all the walnuts are coated. Quickly, so they don’t stick together, lay the nuts out on a piece of parchment paper, separating them as you go.

For the glaze: Add the orange juice to the powdered sugar 1 T at a time until desired consistency is reached.

When everything is cool, drizzle the glaze on top of the cake and top with the walnuts and orange slices to decorate. Sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt.


We will be back with the first of the farm visits next week, but in the mean time fill up on tacos and cake!