There is no shortage of seasonal produce available in July in Hampton Roads, but this summer I want to help you expand your backyard barbeque to not only include some fresh, local side dishes, but to showcase some amazing local meats.
If you’re like my family, you don’t need Independence Day as an excuse to be outside grilling. It’s a weekly (or daily!) event for us. There are so many advantages to grilling including just enjoying being outside, keeping the heat out of the kitchen, and simplifying dishes to their most basic and delicious elements. All of us meat eaters understand the simple pleasure of a perfectly grilled steak. But did you know that steak could be coming from a local rancher right here in Hampton Roads?
Several farms across Hampton Roads are raising grass-fed, pastured, free-range and heritage breed cows, chickens, turkeys, pigs, and more. These meats are ethically raised on small, family farms, and most of these farms welcome you to come out and see their animals, hear about their raising methods, and get to know the farmers themselves. We’ve all heard the horror stories about feedlots and animals raised and processed in CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operation). CAFOs feed their livestock unnatural feed, which can lead to diseased animals being constantly treated with antibiotics—all of which remains in the meat until we eat it and experience the harmful effects ourselves.
By comparison, animals which are raised in their natural environments and allowed to roam and eat grass or bugs, produce healthier (and tastier) meat. It’s been proven that grass-fed beef has higher levels of Omega-3’s, as do free-range chicken eggs. And while local meat may cost a little more, eating less meat during the summer months is easy as there are so many delicious fresh vegetables readily available. And even though studies show that meat consumption in the US has dropped slightly, we still eat roughly 270 pounds of meat per person per year. That’s more meat per person than any other country on the planet except Luxemburg. So cutting back meat consumption and purchasing only local, ethically raised meat isn’t such a bad idea.
Most local farms that are raising cattle are in the western Tidewater area in Suffolk, Surry, Ivor, and Isle of Wight, but most of these farms also offer pickup locations around the Southside. Farms such as Full Quiver Farm, Rainbow’s End Farm, Windhaven, Shire Farms, and Holly Grove Farm offer pick up locations or sell through local retailers or co-ops such as Coastal Farms Co-op or Heritage Natural Market. You can also purchase fresh, never frozen chicken from Pleasant Pasture Farm in Virginia Beach. Some of these farms even offer you the option to buy meat quarters or in bulk to save money. Go in with a neighbor or friend and save time and money by buying lots of meat at once, freezing it and using it throughout the year.
Don’t forget to serve your main dish alongside some fresh, local vegetables like my zesty lemon potato salad which is perfect for picnics and cookouts alongside the perfect burger topped with a thick slice of vine-ripened tomato and crisp lettuce. Substitute potato chips with a healthier alternative: marinated cucumbers. These cucumbers are still crunchy and salty and will satisfy your craving without loading you up on calories. After all, it is summer and we’re still trying to fit into our bathing suits, right?
Zesty Lemon Potato Salad
This potato salad is perfect for picnics and cookouts because it doesn’t involve mayonnaise and therefore eliminates the threat of spoiling and botulism.
1 pound small red potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 T. minced fresh parsley
1 T. olive oil
Juice of half a large lemon
Zest of one lemon
1/2 t. salt
Pepper to taste
Place potatoes in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil; cook until tender about 12-15 minutes. Combine the remaining ingredients in a large bowl, whisking until well combined. Drain potatoes and let cool for several minutes, then add to lemon mixture, and toss to coat.
The Perfect Burger
The flavor in this recipe from Whole Foods relies not on fancy ingredients or methods, but in buying the best, high-quality fresh meat you can find.
1 1/2 pounds ground round
Salt and pepper to taste
4 whole grain hamburger buns
Extra virgin olive oil
4 leaves romaine or green leaf lettuce
1 large tomato, sliced
1/4 small red onion, thinly sliced
Prepare the grill. Divide and gently shape the meat into 4 patties. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Grill meat to desired doneness; about 4 to 6 minutes per side over a medium hot fire. Be careful not to overcook, which will dry out the meat. If you’re a cheeseburger fan, add the cheese as soon as you flip to the second side. Meanwhile, brush buns with olive oil and grill just until lightly toasted. Dress burgers with lettuce, tomatoes, and onions and serve.
A sassy version of refrigerator pickles, this cool, refreshing cucumber dish is the perfect thing in summer.
3 cups (medium) thinly sliced cucumbers
1 medium red or green pepper, cut into strips
1/4 c. chopped onion
3/4 c. sugar
1 t. salt
1/2 t. celery seed ( you can also substituted finely chopped celery)
1/2 t. mustard seed
1/2 c. vinegar
In large bowl combine cucumbers, peppers and onion. In small bowl, combine remaining ingredients and blend well. Pour over cucumber mixture; toss to coat well. Cover and refrigerate at least 24 hours, stirring occasionally. May add new cucumbers to the mixture!
*Recipe courtesy of BFBLHR Board Member, Lynn Schultz
For more information about local meats and where to buy them, visit www.buylocalhamptonroads.org and go to “find local foods.”
Rachel Burns is the owner at The Content Chop Shop, a small shop providing content marketing services to small businesses, designers and nonprofits. She is also the co-owner of Burn Both Ends, which develops and presents educational opportunities and resources for small businesses looking to grow. She is a local to Hampton Roads and a vocal spokesperson for all its myriad advantages, her favorites of which is the Atlantic Ocean. She has been published in The Virginian Pilot, Tidewater Women, and AltDaily, among others. She lives in the Hickory section of Chesapeake with her husband, two pugs and several feral cats.