The Dish: Vivian Howard of Chef & the Farmer

Chef Vivian Howard grew up in small-town North Carolina and dreamed of moving somewhere with more dining options such as takeout Chinese. She realized that dream in New York City. After a failed try in advertising, she turned to cooking.

She worked with some of the stars of the culinary world, including Wylie Dufresne, Sam Mason and Jean-Georges Vongerichten.

Then Howard took what she had learned and went home to North Carolina where she opened a ground-breaking, farm-to-fork restaurant, Chef & the Farmer.

Later she launched "A Chef's Life," the award-winning PBS reality show.

Here's how to make some of Howard's signature recipes:

Okra oven fries with creamy scallion dip

Serves 4

1 pound okra, split or quartered lengthwise

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons ground coriander

1 teaspoon salt

12 turns black pepper

Scallion Dip

makes 1 1/2 cups

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup Greek yogurt

1/4 cup buttermilk

1/4 cup minced scallions, green part only

1/2 cup grated Parmigianno Reggiano, on a microplane

20 turns black pepper

Zest of 1 lemon

2 teaspoons lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon salt

Make the dressing: Whisk everything together in a medium bowl and let it marry for at least 30 minutes before serving. The dressing will keep up to 1 week sealed in the refrigerator.

Cook the okra: Preheat your oven to 400. In a medium bowl, toss the okra with the olive oil, coriander, salt and black pepper. Spread the okra onto your largest baking pan or two pans if necessary. What's important is that the okra touch and overlap very little. If they are all piled on top of each other, they will steam, not roast.

Slide the pan onto the middle rack of your oven. After 10 minutes, toss the okra gently with a spatula and rotate your pans if you are using 2. Cook an additional 10-15 minutes. When the okra is done, it will be brown and crispy in a lot of places but shouldn't smell burned. Serve warm or at room temperature as a starter or snack with something creamy like Scallion Dip.

Brussels sprout and pear salad with pomegranate with blue cheese honey vinaigrette

Serves 6

3 medium Bartlett or Anjou pears

12-16 large Brussels sprouts

4 radishes, cut into eights

3 tablespoons thinly sliced scallion

2 tablespoons torn mint

1/2 cup pomegranate seeds

Juice of 1 lemon

1 1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup blue cheese honey vinaigrette

Blue Cheese Vinaigrette

1/2 cup high quality blue cheese such as Maytag, broken into crumbles

3 tablespoons lemon juice

3 tablespoons cider vinegar

3 tablespoons honey

1 teaspoon salt

10 turns of the pepper mill or 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 cup grape seed or sunflower oil

Make the vinaigrette: In a medium bowl whisk together the cheese, lemon juice, vinegar, honey, salt and pepper until the blue cheese is broken up and the liquid appears creamy. Then slowly add the oil and set aside. Just before pouring the dressing over the salad, give it another whisk. This will keep in a sealed container in the fridge up to 5 days.

Assemble the salad: Slice the stem end off the Brussels sprouts and separate the sprouts into individual leaves. Set aside. Just before building the salad, dice the pears and toss them with the lemon juice. To the pears add the radishes, Brussels sprouts, scallion, salt and 3/4 cup dressing.

Let the salad sit for at least 10 minutes and up to 30 before serving. Just before you do, top with the pomegranate seeds, the mint and another drizzle of dressing.

Double cut bone-in pork chop with sweet and sour beets and their greens

Serves 4

Note: If you want to brine your pork chops, and trust me you do, make sure the chops you buy haven't been pumped with a sodium solution to facilitate moist meat. Much of the pork in an average grocery store has been, so check labels and ask questions. Otherwise you may end up with super salty chops.

Brined Pork Chops

Makes 4 chops

4 bone-in, 16 ounce pork chops

2 quarts water

3/4 cup brown sugar

2/3 cup + 1 teaspoon salt, divided

1/4 cup smooth dijon mustard

1 tablespoon black peppercorns

3 sprigs rosemary

4 sprigs sage

6 garlic cloves, smashed

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 teaspoon salt

Black pepper

Sweet and Sour Beets

1 1/2 cup roasted beets, cut into 1/2 inch wedges or 1/2 inch dice

Zest of 1 orange, removed with a microplane

Juice of 2 oranges

1/3 cup red wine vinegar

3 tablespoons honey

1/2 teaspoon chili flakes

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons cold butter

water if needed

Beet Greens with Garlic

8-12 ounces beet greens or the greens from one bunch

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

3-4 cloves of garlic, sliced thin

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon white wine

For the Pork Chops: In a medium saucepan, combine the water, sugar, 2/3 cup salt, dijon, peppercorns, rosemary, sage and garlic cloves. Bring that up to a boil and let it boil 1 minute. Remove it from the heat and cool to room temperature. Once it's completely chilled down, pour the brine over the pork chops, making sure they are completely submerged. Brine them for 3 hours. Remove the chops from the brine and let them rest a minimum of 1 hour before cooking.

Take the chops out of the fridge 30 minutes before you plan to cook them, and preheat your oven to 350. Season the chops on both sides with the remaining salt and a couple turns of the pepper mill. Meanwhile, in a 12 inch heavy skillet, heat the vegetable oil until just smoking. Brown the chops, two by two, on both sides taking care to also kiss the fatty lips of each chop in the hot oil.

Squeeze all 4 chops in a single layer in the skillet and slide that skillet in the oven. Cook until an instant read thermometer reads 130, about 12 minutes for chops that are 1 1/2 inches thick. Let the chops rest 10 minutes before serving.

To serve, spoon 1/2 cup sweet potato butter on the bottom of a plate. Nestle the pork chop on top of that, and spoon the pickled peanut salad over the pork.

Cook the greens: Cut the bottom 2 inches off the stem of the greens and discard. Then cut the remaining stem without greens into 1/4 inch pieces. Set those aside. Then roughly chop the leaves.

In a 10-12 inch sauté pan, heat the oil, garlic, and chopped stems over medium heat. Once it starts to sizzle, let it go for about 30 seconds or just until the garlic begins to brown slightly. Then add the greens. Top the greens with the salt and turn them over with a pair of tongs a few times to get everything all mixed in. Add the wine and cook about 5 minutes. The greens will release some liquid and become limp. Continue to toss from time to time so that things cook evenly.

If I were eating these all on their own, I might add a knob of butter and a squirt of lemon juice just before serving, but because I'm pairing them with the awesome stuff above, I let them just be themselves here.

Glaze the beets: Just as you get ready to take the pork chops out of the oven, combine all of the ingredients except for the butter and water in an 8-10 inch sauté pan. Bring it up to a quick simmer and let it cook down to a glaze consistency or until the liquid coats the back of a spoon. Give them a stir from time to time during this process to make sure there are no lonely glaze-less beets. This will take about 8 minutes.

If you let it go too far and the glaze becomes sticky, just whisk in a tablespoon of water to bring it back where it needs to be. Just before serving, off the heat, swirl the butter into very hot beets. At this point you could also adjust the consistency with a little water and heat. It's surprisingly forgiving.

Dirty farro

Makes 5 cups

2 teaspoons olive oil, divided

1 cup farro

1 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided

1 teaspoon vegetable oil

1/2 pound sausage

½ cup chicken livers, finely chopped

2/3 cup small diced onion

2/3 cup small diced celery

2 teaspoons minced garlic

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon cayenne

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup water

1/3 cup thinly sliced scallion, green part only

1/2 cup celery leaves picked

Cook the farro: In a 3 quart saucepan, heat 1 teaspoon olive oil over medium heat. Stir in the farro and toast for 1 minute. Add 2 1/2 cups water. Cover and cook 10 minutes. Uncover, add 1 teaspoon salt and cook an additional 2-3 minutes or just until al dente. Drain and cool.

Make it dirty: In a 12 inch skillet or cast iron pan, brown the sausage over medium high heat in the remaining 1 teaspoon olive oil. Once it's nicely browned on one side, add the livers and cook 30 seconds. Stir in the onion, celery, garlic, spices and salt. Saute for 2 minutes. Add the water, and simmer, uncovered, for about 2 minutes or until a little over half the liquid has evaporated. Stir in the faro and continue cooking until all the liquid has evaporated. Just before serving, stir in the sliced scallions.

Bourbon cocktail "Bold Fashioned"

1.5 o Bookers (barrel strength bourbon)

0.5 oz cherry brandy

0.5 oz orange syrup (simple syrup steeped with orange peels)

2 dash aromatic bitters

2 dash orange bitters

orange pith for garnish

In a stirring glass, combine the bourbon, brandy, orange syrup and bitters. Stir until chilled. Strain over large cube in double old fashioned glass. Squeeze a thick orange pith over a flame towards the drink to toast the citrus oils. Run the pith over the entire rim and drop in glass.

Old timey applejacks

Makes 12 hand pies

2 cups lard or shortening for frying

2 teaspoons finely chopped rosemary

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon salt


2 cups roughly chopped dried apple slices.

2 cups apple cider

2 cups water

1/4 cup granulated sugar

Zest of 1 lemon, removed with a microplane

3 tablespoons lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon salt


2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling out the dough

1/3 cup lard or shortening

2/3 cup hot water

Make the Filling: In a 10 inch saute pan or skillet, combine the apples, cider, water, sugar, salt and lemon zest over medium heat. Bring it up to a boil and cook until the apples have soaked up all the liquid and the pan is nearly dry. Stir in the lemon juice, and transfer the apple filling to the refrigerator to cool before assembling. The filling can be made up to 5 days in advance.

Make the Dough: Mound the flour in the center of a large bowl. Make a little well in the center and drop the lard in the well. Pour about 2/3 of the hot water over the lard, and using your hand, work together the lard and the water until its all sludgy and homogenous.

Pour the remaining water into the lard and begin working in the flour by moving the lard mass around, accumulating flour as you go. Continue until a soft, tender dough forms. You will use nearly all the flour in the bowl. The dough will be quite pliable and tender, but should not be sticky. Cover the dough with a damp paper towel until you're ready to make the pies.

Make the Pies: Pinch off a golf ball sized piece of dough and flour your work surface. Dust the golf ball as well as your rolling pin with a little flour since this dough tends to be pretty wet. Roll the dough into a super thin circle. I'm talking thin like you can just about see through it. Trim up the edges, and place 2 tablespoons filling on the center of each round. Using the back of your spoon, flatten the filling slightly so the dough doesn't have to when you fold it over.

Using a pastry brush or your finger, dampen half the circle's edge. Fold the dough over to make a half moon and crimp the edges with a fork. Store the hand pies on a floured baking sheet, covered with a damp paper towel till you're ready to fry.

Fry and Serve: Combine the rosemary, sugar and salt in the bowl of your food processor. Pulse a few times. Transfer the compound sugar to a bowl, and set aside.

Heat half the lard in a 12 inch cast iron skillet over medium heat. Ms. Barwich tests the lard by dropping a pinch of flour in it. If it goes to sizzling right away, she starts frying the jacks. If not, she lets it preheat a bit longer.

In a 12 inch skillet you should be able to fry 4-5 at a time. The lard should come up a little over half way on the jacks. They should not be completely submerged. Cook till they are golden brown on one side and carefully turn them over and brown on the other side. Drain the cooked jacks on paper towels and sprinkle with the rosemary sugar on both sides while they're still hot. Follow up with the remaining jacks, adding more lard if you need it.

Serve warm or at room temperature.