2013 PRESS RELEASES
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June 4, 2013
ADVICE FOR THOSE OF US WHO SPEND FATHER’S DAY AT THE GRILL, START WITH FRESH, LOCAL PRODUCTS
By Matthew J. Lohr, Commissioner, Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
Contact: Elaine J. Lidholm, 804.786.7686
Whether I’m tending a fire in the pit or a sophisticated gas or charcoal grill, nothing pleases my taste buds better than something hot off the fire. It could be a freshly-caught fish sizzling over an open fire at the campsite or a marinated roast turning on the rotisserie. Either way, there’s something primal about cooking in the great outdoors over actual flames. I’d say it’s a guy thing, but many women also enjoy cooking over the grill (and are better at it than I am) . . . so I won’t go there.
If your Father’s Day celebration involves a meal cooked on the grill, here at VDACS we have plenty of suggestions. And all of them feature locally-available products that support Virginia’s 46,000+ farmers.
As the father of two, I hope I’ve learned a little something about the intricacies of grilling. Whether I throw a couple of quick burgers or some hot dogs on the grill or prepare my specialty, a ribeye, my kids love anything that’s cooked over a flame. One of these years, I’m going to celebrate Father’s Day by turning the spatula over to my daughter or son and share with them my secrets of great grilling. I will not share one secret, however. Often I get them to eat their vegetables by cooking them in a special way on the grill. They love sweet corn roasted in their husks or baby vegetables strung on skewers kabob style.
I always begin with Virginia grown or raised products. We have such a great diversity of products in Virginia, and I have tried to instill in my children the importance of buying local. Of course, sometimes the beef or the sweet corn is so local that we produce it on our own farm. Caroline and Carson love going to the field to pick sweet corn and sometimes they’ll even help remove the husks and silks.
If going to your fields or freezer isn’t an option for Virginian grown products, here are some of my suggestions on how to find the freshest, tastiest and the most close-by products ever:
- Begin your search for local products at VirginiaGrown.com. This interactive website allows you to search by area (county or zip code), by venue (farmers’ markets, farms, specialty products) or by product. You’ll find page after page of sources for local beef, pork, chicken, lamb, turkey, seafood, tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet corn or even okra and eggplant.
- Use your phone. A free Virginia Grown app is available for Windows Phones 7 here.
- Always ask for local meats, fruits, vegetables and more. Many grocery stores and big box stores identify locally-grown products, but if they don’t, ask. Managers want to supply what people want, and if you ask for local products, there’s a good chance you’ll get them.
- Be creative.
- Hamburgers are great, but there are many other cuts and types of meat available in Virginia. Beef could be a roast, some steaks, filet mignon or a stuffed flank steak. Besides being a favorite selection for the grill, beef is naturally nutrient-rich, giving consumers a large amount of nutritional bang per calorie. Beef has eight times more vitamin B12, six times more zinc and two and a half times more iron than a skinless chicken breast. Plus, 20 of the 29 lean beef cuts have, on average, only one more gram of saturated fat than a 3-ounce serving of skinless chicken breast.
- Speaking of chicken, it’s a perennial favorite that packs a powerful protein punch for few calories. Chicken has an estimated glycemic load of zero and an inflammatory rating of minus 29. With no carbs, no sugars and 43 grams of protein per serving, chickens is not only good but good for you. Try a whole bird roasted over the grill or bar-b-cue cut-up pieces. Create jerk chicken wings or make tacos. If you’re feeling ambitious, go to seriouseats.com for a recipe for Grilled Chicken under a Brick with Lemon, Garlic and Rosemary.
- Here in Virginia, we love our pork - bar-b-cued, pulled, roasted or as kabobs. Think gingered pork tenderloin, grilled tenderloin satay, honey-mustard pork chops or sausages with green peppers and onions. Heat a ham steak in a foil pouch, whip up a batch or ribs with a spicy sauce or grill a center-cut ham slice. A serving of pork loin offers 84 grams of protein and provides 58 percent of the RDA of Vitamin C and a whopping 369 percent RDA of iron.
- Lamb is growing in popularity for the grill and Virginia lamb is sweet and succulent. Caroline has raised lams for three years now as her 4-H project, but she still enjoys it fresh off the grill. It’s a great source of Vitamin A (1676 percent of RDA), iron (155 percent RDA) and Vitamin C (22 percent) with 103 grams of protein per serving. Lamb chops, grilled butterflied leg of lamb or the perfect lamb rib are great ways to treat this mild, slightly sweet meat. Or you can go Greek and roast a whole young lamb on a spit for a special treat.
- The nutritional benefits of fish and seafood are well known: low fat, good protein and a good source of iron and calcium, not to mention that famous fish oil. On a fishing trip, a trout or bass cooked over an open fire is hard to beat. In the backyard, most types of seafood benefit from the quick cooking and the smoky flavor of grilling. Grilled fish tacos or plank grilled salmon are ways to make sure your family gets enough fish in their diets. Scallops and steak make great Surf and Turf Kabobs, and if shucking clams is intimidating, try putting whole clams directly on the grill and letting them open naturally. (The kids love to watch them open.) Prepare your favorite butter sauce, then stand by until the clams open. Transfer them with tongs to a bowl, pour the butter sauce over them and add a few snipped chives. In less than five minutes, you’ve got an appetizer or main course fit for royalty.
- Don’t forget the vegetables. Corn on the cob and potato salad are perennial favorites. Try cheese-topped tomatoes heated on the grill for something different, or line up dishes with all sorts of vegetables for a DIY kabob cafeteria. Onions, mushrooms, peppers of all colors, zucchini, cherry tomatoes, quartered potatoes and squash are good choices. Grill some with vegetables only or add meat or seafood to others for a main dish.
- To top it all off, try grilled fruits such as fresh peaches. Virginia black berries, blueberries or raspberries are great plain, in cobblers or pies or as toppings for ice cream.
Father’s Day is probably second only to the 4th of July as one of America’s greatest grilling holiday, and I encourage every Virginian to head to a farmers’ market, roadside stand, pick-your-own farm, clam shack or orchard to buy Virginia grown products for a special meal for Dad this year. I also invite the readers from other states to wander into Virginia and look for some of our famous products just right for grilling. Oh, and if my kids are reading, hey, guys, I could use a new bar-b-cue apron this year for Father’s Day.