By Donna Cornelius
Journal features writer
Urban Cookhouse is expanding in more ways than one.
With a recent new location in Crestline, Urban Cookhouse now owns and operates three stores in the Birmingham area. Other restaurants are in downtown Homewood and at The Summit.
Urban Cookhouse also has recently established new relationships and signed agreements with more local farmers.
This year, Urban Cookhouse has increased the amount of produce it’s buying locally through its direct relationships with farms including Southern Oaks Farm.
Relationships with local buyers have also increased through Urban Cookhouse’s growing agreement with Urban Food Project, which includes Southern Oaks Farm, Hamm Farm, Hunter Organic Farm, Witt Farm, WE Community Gardens and Dede Garfrerick’s Farm, Vanzandt Farm, Smith Heritage Farm and Harvest Farm.
In addition, Urban Cookhouse purchased 1,000 gallons of Harvest Farm strawberries this year in order to meet the growing consumer demands the restaurant has year round for its specialty strawberry lemonade.
“We have changed the way we farm because of the way we have implemented new techniques that allow year-round farming,” Randy Melvin of Southern Oaks Farm said. “We have gone from being seasonal to now year round with the help of Urban Cookhouse and enjoy being part of the Urban Cookhouse Family.”
Ruthanne Atkinson, Urban Cookhouse’s food and beverage manager, said the restaurant is standing behind its slogan—Buy Local. Eat Urban—on “a much broader scale now.”
“It makes my job as a restaurant manager very rewarding to be able to have a real impact helping local farms,” Atkinson said.
Throughout the summer, each Urban Cookhouse location will showcase local vendor partners at its weekly farmers markets. The Homewood market in SoHo Square is open on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon. The Summit market is open on Thursdays from 2-6 p.m. The Crestline market is open on Wednesdays from 4-8 p.m.
Urban Cookhouse shared its recipe for a veggie quesadilla, a dish that takes advantage of fresh ingredients available locally.
2 slices provolone cheese
2 slices pepper jack cheese
1/8 cup black beans
1/8 cup corn
2 oz. grilled onions (sautéed in 1 tbsp. butter, salt and pepper to taste)
1/2 cup chopped roasted vegetables: carrots, squash, zucchini, eggplant, red onion, mushrooms recommended. Make vegetable proportions according to taste.
Lemon Oil Ingredients:
1 ½ cup olive oil
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 tbsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. finely chopped garlic
1. Blend lemon oil ingredients.
2. Marinate chopped vegetables in approximately 1/4 cup lemon oil on baking sheet.
3. Pre-cook vegetables by baking them in 350 degree oven for 10 minutes.
4. Remove vegetables from oven.
5. Grill vegetables in pan or on flat top for 2 minutes or until desired doneness. Drizzle vegetables with lemon oil (approximately 1 ounce) once while grilling. Remove from heat.
6. In a separate pan heated on stovetop at medium heat, lay out 12-inch whole wheat tortilla.
7. Place pepper jack cheese on top half of tortilla.
8. Place provolone cheese on bottom half of tortilla.
9. Spread corn, black beans and grilled onions on top of pepper jack cheese.
10. Spread vegetables on top of other ingredients.
11. Grill for about 1 minute on each side or until quesadilla is hot and crispy.
12. Fold tortilla in half.
13. Slice quesadilla into three triangular pieces.
14. Serve with avocado, sour cream, and salsa (optional)
1 ½ cup tomato sauce
½ cup chopped tomatoes
1/4 of one jalapeño, finely chopped
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1/4 of one onion, chopped
pinch granulated garlic
pinch chili powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. white vinegar
Blend salsa ingredients. Makes 2 cups.