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Monthly Archives: January 2012

Dark Days Week Ten – My Personal Challenge

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This week is the week we are supposed to focus on creating a sweet dish, but I don’t bake or make candies like I did before my metabolism slowed down. Keeping temptation away from me is a good thing. But, I still buy some goodies for my husband who likes ice cream and coffee after dinner. So, his local dessert was seasonal ice cream from South Mountain Creamery.

My challenge this week is to see how many dinners I can make that are almost completely local, and when not local are organic or small family-owned business produced. I will allow myself to add one or two non-challenge items if I need to, but make the vast majority of the meal be local.

Sunday night I started off with only a few exceptions, but most of the meal was local.

The base of the meal was a sprouted whole wheat pasta, made in PA, with Angus beef sausage from MD that was baked using Breezy Willow Farm spaghetti sauce, baby bellos from Kennett Square PA and baby turnips from the Silver Spring market. Italian dried herbs, non-local, seasoned the sauce.

The star of the meal, though, was the salad. Mock’s Greenhouse Bibb lettuce with red onion, Firefly Farms mountain blue cheese, and non-local olives. A homemade vinaigrette from the St. Helena oil and vinegar, with ramp mustard, yogurt and honey.

The dinner was rounded out with a Naked Mountain Vineyard Raptor Red from 1995, the last one in the cellar. Still hanging in there with lots of fruit even though it was 17 years old. Virginia can make excellent wines. You just have to search around and have patience.

Overall, the pasta was a little different. Chewier, even when cooked for the maximum recommended ten minutes. Let’s just say it was an acquired taste. The sausage is so sweet, beef sausage freshly made, is definitely not the same Italian sausage taste that you would get from pork. Breezy Willow’s spaghetti sauce was very tasty, made in a slightly more watery style than commercial sauces bulked up with who knows what.

And the salad was awesome. Mountain Blue is an intense cheese. Red onions and olives added a kick. I also love this homemade vinaigrette, made in a jam jar. I use a 2 to 1 ration of oil to vinegar when adding mustard and yogurt. A tiny squirt of honey takes off the edge. Experimentation in making dressings is easy. Just add a little more of what is missing to your taste preferences and shake again.

I will keep notes and make a few posts this week to see how successful I can be in making more dinners with local ingredients.

Locavore vs Foodie

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Sometimes I am not sure what I am. I do eat quite a bit locally, and I eat more real food than I did when I worked and traveled. I definitely support many local businesses, even if they don’t just sell local foods.

But, I am also a foodie, even though I hate that term. I love making recipes from my old Gourmets, and from my Time Life cookbooks of the World. Doing so requires the use of exotic ingredients. I think I have reconciled myself to use local ingredients as much as I can, and use fresh or organic ingredients for those things that don’t grow in the Mid Atlantic ever. Like citrus, olives, most hard grains, beans (trying to dry beans here can be an exercise in futility due to the humidity).

Yesterday my two avocations collided. What else could justify a same day visit to South Mountain Creamery and Wegman’s?

Off on a day trip with a mission. Get unsalted butter, milk and some cheeses to use for Dark Days Challenges. Take pictures on a perfect day to use in future posts. Stop at Wegman’s on the way home to see what they may have in local items in the winter. I am about equi-distant between Frederick and Columbia. Columbia’s Wegman’s will open in June. Frederick is where we go now to get our exotic food fix. I was looking for salsify. They didn’t have any. But, they do have black truffles for $999.00 a pound! Really! People buy them?

I picked up quite a haul including some Kennett Square PA organic mushrooms, and Mock’s Greenhouse Bibb Lettuce, and some CA olive oil (cheaper than my good olive oil from St Helena). Also, raided the olive bar. And found my favorite Doctor Kracker organic spelt crackers. That’s the highlights from Wegman’s.

As for South Mountain:

Besides the cheeses, milk, yoghurt, ice cream and Firefly Farm chevre, I found the Wild Pea’s Hummous, made in Baltimore, and found some of South Mountain’s chicken and pork. With the goodies safely packed in my coolers, I popped around to photograph the cows and the scenery. The calves get milked every afternoon, and children love the farm. There was one family there Saturday morning having ice cream cones and visiting the cows.

So, maybe I am not conflicted about what drives my cooking. I think it’s just a love of good food.

Winter CSA Week Five

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Friday came and went quickly. The delivery was placed on the porch about 4 PM. Egg week, and beef sausage again. Hopefully, now that we have made up for the huge turkey the first week, we will get something larger next week. The meat share averages $10 a week, but the half turkey at Christmas was close to 15 pounds of free range turkey. Hence, the smaller deliveries these past weeks. I am hoping to see pork or chicken soon.

Here is what we got:
four sweet winter carrots
a bag of Yukon gold potatoes
a large red onion
two large “heads” of collard greens
a bag of spinach
four tangelos from the FL farmer

Getting vegetables that are picked the day before you eat them is what makes being a CSA member so satisfying. The broccoli from last week was so much better than what you see in the stores. This week’s spinach went directly into a salad Friday night, and two of the potatoes were used in dinner as well.

Eating Relatively Locally

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Over the past years, we have been migrating much of our food choices to those locally produced, where we can find them. Beyond that, we have also committed to buy from small or local businesses when possible. Since 1980, we have also supported MD, PA and VA wineries, as well as those in the Finger Lakes. We pick our own fruit when we can, and have begun freezing and canning.

In 2006, we took one of my favorite vacations. Ten days renting a home in Sonoma, in order to experience wine country in a unique way. We bought at farmer’s markets and food stands, purchased local wines and cooked dinners on the grill, using the freshest and finest ingredients. I envy those who live there, as Sonoma County is a perfect climate for year round production.

We also bought and loved the local olive oils from the area, and to this day we order California olive oil and grapeseed oil and have it delivered once a year. Beats getting oil from Europe in terms of carbon footprint. We add a half gallon of balsamic in order to support the small business, even though I know it comes from Europe. Can’t get everything in our back yards, but we at least think about it.

St. Helena Olive Oil Co., owned by Peggy O’Kelly, is a truly wonderful source of goodies. I have had no regrets in continuing to support them and love their products, even though they are expensive, they are worth every penny. These are my salad dressing olive oils, not for cooking. Their grapeseed oil I use in baking and cooking, when I have my best meats and seafood to make.

Now, my vinaigrettes are made with products I love, and they taste so much fresher than any store bought dressings.

Baugher’s Market and Restaurant

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We had to run errands today, and needed to check out cell phone coverage before changing our carrier and buying a new phone. Not a thrilling day, but what made it better was the opportunity to stop at my favorite local market and restaurant, Baugher’s.

We only wanted apples for us and feed corn for the squirrels, but my husband is lured into purchasing pumpkin ice cream.

The farm has their apples year round. They also have cider and pine wreaths and firewood, and some mostly local root veggies. We bought two massive white sweet potatoes.

Their restaurant is also a throwback to another era. I love their tuna melts, their subs, their hot turkey sandwiches, and I love their ice cream cones. We split an orange pineapple one today. Homemade goodness, from the same family for 108 years.

Dark Days The Ninety Percent Solution

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Today was miserable.

It was definitely a soup day.

So, I took out the leftover brisket from yesterday and added it to the leftover greens and potatoes from a dark days meal two weeks ago. Added some beef broth from the freezer and let it simmer. Added a can of organic tomatoes, not local. Brisket from Boarman’s market. Slow cooked the other day.

I made a salad with the Mock’s greenhouse Bibb lettuce, arugula, tomatoes and CSA microgreens. Added South Mountain Creamery cheese. Made a vinaigrette from my newly delivered oil and vinegar from St. Helena Olive Oil Co. mixed with ramp mustard from my farmer’s market trip.

Opened a 1998 Allegro Cadenza. May John and Tim Crouch (RIP) know that they made exceptional wines in PA. Sliced an olive loaf from Atwater’s bakery.

Voila, Dinner. With a few non-local ingredients, but not many.

Winter CSA Week 4

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Almost forgot to post the CSA delivery, since so much is going on and then of course, it snowed.

Week Four brought us Angus ground beef, celery, large spanish onion, four sweet potatoes, a bag of microgreens, baby beets and two crowns of broccoli. The beef is from Pleasantville Beef, just like the last two weeks. Hoping we will get pork soon, or chicken.

Thankfully the snow and ice came Saturday and not Friday the delivery day. I cleaned the greens, and they are ready to use. Lopped off the tops of the beets and roasted the beets for salad. Put the tops of the celery in the freezer to use for a stock later next week, had a sweet potato for dinner last night, and will use the onion in my brisket today.

It is so nice not to have to run to the store to make dinner.

The Silver Spring Winter Market

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I am so grateful to the farmers and artisans that support the Silver Spring Saturday year round market, particularly in weather like this. It snowed last night. Then it turned to freezing rain. I was tempted to skip the market and hit the store tomorrow or Monday but plans changed.

My husband had to teach this morning. Then he forgot a connector, so called me. Since I now had to drive all the way down to Columbia, I figured I might as well keep going and hit the market at 11 AM. I am pleased to report that I had to stand in lines at two of the vendors, as I wasn’t the only brave soul out there freezing my little fingers and toes.

I bought from at least five vendors.

Here is my haul of goodies.

I found olive bread and Dark and Stormy cake at Atwater’s bakery; baking apples and tomato sauce at Quaker Valley; carrots, chard and ramp mustard at Spring Valley; baby turnips at a new vendor; chorizo at Evensong; and heirloom cherry tomatoes, arugula and a lovely bibb lettuce at Mock’s Greenhouse.

Mock’s Greenhouse in Berkeley Springs WV keeps adding greenhouses and expanding what they sell. Their cherry tomatoes still have an incredible sweetness that you usually only find in the summer tomatoes.

The market is open 10 am until 1 pm in the winter. There were at least ten vendors there today, with a few missing probably because of the treacherous roads. I did miss the presence of Blue Ridge Dairy, Firefly Farm Cheese and Groff’s Content who sells lamb. Hope they are back soon.

And Then There Were Bluebirds

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The bluebirds have been around, I know, but we rarely see them. Those who told me that having a heated bird bath would increase the numbers and types of visitors were certainly correct.

I haven’t seen two of them here for almost a year and a half. Mama and papa came in for a drink this morning, flitted back and forth more than once, and then wandered off down to the meadow. We moved here in January seven years ago, and have always been amazed at the variety of birds, bees, and the richness of the soil, giving us lots of worms and bugs. Sometimes the grass is blanketed in robins pulling worms out of the ground.

We are indeed lucky to have found this little haven not far from the city, yet peaceful.

One more shot of mama on her way out to feed. If you want lots of visitors, invest in a bladder with a thermostat that keeps the water from freezing.

Dark Days One Pot Meal Challenge

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So this week we are challenged to make a one pot dinner using local ingredients. I decided to make a frittata, since I have too many eggs at the moment.

The ingredients are ready to go.

The first step was to get the onion, collard and beet greens, all from my Zahradka farms CSA delivery, wilted down in the Trickling Springs butter, in the heated cast iron skillet.

I mixed six eggs from the CSA together with salt and pepper, to add to the pan after I added half the container of Bacon Jam from Virginia Lamb and Meats to give it a lovely bacony flavor. I bought the jam at the Dupont Circle farmer’s market in December and really needed to use it. I also grated some Baby Swiss from South Mountain Creamery over the top before adding the eggs and tomato.

Poured the eggs around it all, and arranged on top of it all a locally grown Hummingbird Farms hydroponic heirloom tomato I picked up at Roots Market during a recent visit down to Columbia.

After it cooked for a while on the stove top, I placed it under the broiler to finish the top and brown it off.

The finished product being plated. The only non-local items in the meal were salt, pepper, and parsley. The parsley was organic, and came from Roots. Not local though. Dinner also included a 2010 Sauvignon Blanc from Glen Manor Vineyard, from our visit earlier this month.

A very satisfying and tasty Sunday night dinner, with the earthiness of the greens, the brightness of the tomato, and the unmistakable melting bacon jam adding the right touch to the dish. Another successful venture into cooking with foods from 100 miles or less from our doorstep.