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Monthly Archives: August 2012

Make Mine #vawine

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Hashtags. Trending. Tweetups. Lots of new jargon to learn. When I started blogging and tweeting, I learned quite a bit about using social media. Today is Cabernet Day in the twitter world. So, people are tweeting about drinking Cabernet Sauvignon.

2005 Linden Avenius Red

83% Cabernet. One of the higher percentages of cabernet in a Linden Red. Only 47 cases produced. A massive wine. With mouth filling flavors, predominantly of cherries.

Dark, rich and not even ready to drink after seven years. Cabernet Sauvignon done right will last at least a decade. The best, two or three decades. We paired this wine with a beef dish.

Take Linden wines and add food. It is nirvana on a plate and in a glass. It is why we chose to collect local wines and cellar them. Sometimes they just amaze us.


Cardoons, Horned Melon and Soy! Oh My!

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Week 17 of the CSA. Three new and exciting items. Twelve goodies overall. The haul.

Sandy Spring CSA Week 17

The list.

1 Bunch Lacinato Kale
1 Bunch Cardoons
1 Stalk Edamame (soy beans)
1 Bag Orange Carrots
1 Huge Head of Bok Choy
A Three pound bag of Roma Tomatoes
2 leeks (I swapped cayenne peppers to get these)
1 Butternut Squash
1 African Horned Melon
1 Bag Gold Beets
1 Bunch Italian Parsley
1 Bag Shallots

The horned melon is weird. But, I will try anything once. Here is a picture from our weekly email, of one that is ripe and cut open. Ours isn’t ripe yet.

Horned Melon, Ripe and Cut Open

Cardoons are also new. I found a dozen Mario Batali recipes on the internet, to try. They look like they are related to artichokes. Should be interesting.


I am not even going to attempt to price this out. I have no idea what edamame, horned melon and cardoons cost, if you can find them. The beets, tomatoes and carrots, all organic, make the cost worth it. Stay tuned this week to see what I cook with this basket.


Home Made Tomato Sauce

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One of the pleasures of growing tomatoes. Home made sauces to savor months from now.

Chunky tomato sauce

If you don’t grow tomatoes, you can pick them at Larriland. If you have never tried making tomato sauce, you really need to do it, if only to know how amazingly good a home made sauce will taste. Those of us who grew up in the 50s and 60s are used to smelling that intoxicating mixture of onions and garlic. Our parents made sauce, or gravy for those with Italian roots. Spaghetti with home made sauce was on our plates at least once a week in the summer, when tomatoes were abundant and cheap.

Sauce is easy, just a bit time consuming to get the flavors to develop. Start with the base. In this batch, I used carrots, onions, garlic, red pepper and olive oil. One carrot. One onion. Two cloves garlic. Half a large red pepper. Olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan.

Sauce base

The tomatoes were blanched in another pot. I used about five pounds of tomatoes for this sauce. After blanching, pull off the skins, and squeeze out the seeds. Cool water makes it easier to handle them.

I put them in the sauce one by one and mash them up to get the sauce the way I like it. Add Italian seasoning using herbs like oregano, basil and thyme.

Keep adding tomatoes, then simmer for at least 30 minutes. I then put the sauce in freezer containers, except for a small batch which goes in the refrigerator to use as soon as possible. The rest will be a welcome reminder of summer in the dead of winter.

Oh yeah, I think we are getting more tomatoes tomorrow in the CSA. Time to make more sauce.


“The Chew” Inspired Dinner

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OK, now that I am retired, I tend to watch the noon news. A while back, I started watching The Chew, or at least I had the TV on while I was doing other things. It is The Chew that inspired this dinner.

Green Tomato Pasta and Prosciutto and Melon with Arugula

Pasta based on a Mario Batali recipe, as well as the melon salad, based on an MB carpacchio. Oh, let’s not forget the cocktail. A Michael Symon inspired Meyer Lemon Basil Fizz.

A few days ago I made the green tomato spaghetti. I still have lots of greens, and quite a few tomatoes that fall off the vines before they are fully ripe. They ended up in this dish. I did substitute some organic basil and cheese ravioli tonight, and my pesto is one of those mutt varieties. All sorts of greens. Leftovers, so to speak.

This pesto was made with carrot tops, radish greens, mint, basil, parsley, pistachios, pine nuts, parmesan and garlic. Olive oil drizzled in. I didn’t measure anything. It was all done by taste. Sometimes winging it gives you awesome food.

Then, I took those tomatoes that fell off the vines in the storms Sunday night. Sauteed them in olive oil with scallions. Added only salt and pepper.

The pasta was from David’s. A basil based organic ravioli. The salad. Made with arugula, melon and prosciutto. Mario Batali had a melon carpacchio the other day. I don’t have salami around, but had prosciutto. Clean and fresh. You can build layers of flavors using four simple ingredients. Cantaloupe. Prosciutto. Arugula. Pepper.

Melon prosciutto salad

The wine. One of our favorite New Zealand style Sauvignon Blancs from Glen Manor in Virginia. Cuts through that richness of the pesto. I had enough pesto left to keep for another meal. There will be more green tomatoes.


Eating Locally In Style: RdV Volt Dinner

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Eating Locally In Style: RdV Volt Dinner.

Eating Locally In Style: RdV Volt Dinner

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OK, I had to drive over 100 miles round trip to eat food from Frederick. It was so worth it. My foodie and locavore worlds collided, as well as my VA wine addiction. For our anniversary this month, we treated ourselves to dinner at RdV, in Delaplane, prepared by Bryan Voltaggio of VOLT in Frederick. The food and the wines did not disappoint.


We first met Rutger de Vink when he was an apprentice at our favorite VA winery, Linden. In 2002, he was pouring wine at the barrel tasting of the wonderful 2001 vintage. We lost touch with what he was doing, only finding out that he found his place on a hillside in Delaplane where he planted grapes and started his own winery. Rutger’s mission was to use terroir to the extreme. Granite deep into the ground.

The granite in the cave walls

His first vintage, 2008, sold out quickly to the Ambassadors, his wine club members who took the tour and drank wonderful reds from three year old vines. His 2009 wines, a good year in VA, are stellar. Big, in your face, yet balanced reds. Two of them. Getting there is hard. Make a reservation for a tour. Taste the wines. Buy in. Be guaranteed to buy every year. These wines aren’t available in stores. Only a few restaurants sell them. They are, simply, awesome reds.

2009 Rendezvous, the red we drank last night

The winery holds chef dinners periodically. We were lucky, as two of the 40 people in attendance to have a celebration of local foods with Bryan Voltaggio, paired with wines whose grapes shared that same granite terroir. We had a Loire white, an Alsatian white, a Morgon Gamay and 2009 Rendezvous, with appetizers and dinner. The menu for dinner.

dinner menu, RdV and Volt

The appetizers were served in the upper level of the winery, below that lovely silo. Trout roe with pork skins and arugula cream, clams casino, an incredible sausage on a delicate cracker, all paired with a Muscadet Sevre et Maine sur lie. Then, we descended into the fermentation cellar to be seated and treated to an amazing dinner prepared by the chef. I only have good pictures of the lamb and the dessert. Here are the stars of the dinner.

Lamb, head to hoof

Berries and cream, vanilla shortbread and goat cheese ricotta

Bryan and Rutger enjoying the appreciation after the meal.

So how was the Rendezvous? Exquisite. A baby. Deep, rich, a perfect match for the lamb. This is a wine with the ability to last for years. RdV is certainly raising the bar when it comes to making big reds in Virginia. He learned quite a bit from Jim Law. It will be fun in October to see them go head to head at L’Auberge Provencale. Think of it. Hardscrabble versus Lost Mountain. Terroir squared. I am happy to see Virginia winemakers pushing to elevate their reds to that level of excellence found in Bordeaux. Last night was a magical evening. As we left late in the night, the silhouette of the winery framed the skyline.

Markets and Farms

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I had intended to do a mid summer look at what is happening at local markets and farms, but somehow the month of August got away from me. We are two thirds of the way through the Howard County market season, which will wind down the end of October. I have visited three of the five producer only markets in the county, with most of my visits to Miller Library and HCGH. The other location is Glenwood on Saturdays. Not living near East Columbia, I haven’t been to Cradlerock or Oakland Mills. Many of the vendors go to multiple markets, so with the exception of only five, I have seen the rest.

I like our markets, even though they aren’t huge. They are producer only, and you can get a good assortment of veggies and fruits, bread, meat, coffee, cheese, baked goods, flowers and plants, by visiting them. Their prices are reasonable as well. I try to hit one of them each week, for the things I don’t get in the CSA. Our CSA is almost exclusively veggies, so I have lots of other goodies to buy at the markets. Things like bread from The Breadery.

The Breadery’s lemon rosemary loaf

And, flowers from Greenway Farms.


Plus, for me, eggs and meat are an important purchase. Currently, only TLV farm sells meat at our markets, and they sell eggs. Breezy willow also has eggs.

TLV smoked bacon

The markets aren’t my only source of farm fresh goodness. I have been going to England Acres regularly for chicken, eggs, dairy and cheese. When I am there, I do find other bargains like I did today. Peaches, roma tomatoes, gala apples, all $1 a pound. Check out the white peaches. Four peaches. They weighed 3.7 pounds total. One of them weighed a pound. The others just a bit under. One of these lovely peaches will be grilled Monday night, and served with balsamic.

huge white peaches

England Acres is fun, for families there is lots to do. Feed the chickens. Check out the goats. Today, you could pick corn, or dig potatoes. They are five miles west of Mt. Airy, so if you live in West County, they aren’t far at all. I take a cooler and buy meat and dairy. I also hand pick my eggs, still with hay on them, from the basket. This week I got all large eggs. I will be saving them for a week or so, to use for some deviled eggs.

fresh eggs from England Acres chickens

Besides England Acres, we also head out to Larriland when they have new UPick items. We have done blackberries. Blueberries. Strawberries. I will be heading out to get peaches and apples this week. In the fall I will harvest greens to blanch and freeze.

strawberry picking at Larriland

I haven’t made it to Gorman yet, but I hope to get there. For me, this time of year is awesome. All these wonderful good veggies and fruits there for us to enjoy. In the fall I also will go out to Sharp’s Farm for some specialty pumpkins and fall squash. TLV farms also allows you to pick your own pumpkins.

Don’t let the summer and fall get by without experiencing our local farmers. Hit a local farm stand, one where they grow it themselves. Come to the markets. Take the family out to a farm to see the animals and see food right out of the ground. The goats at England Acres would love to see them.


Essential CSA Items

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A CSA is only a great deal when you can use the items without them going bad before you eat them. Having read lots of comments across the internet about a reason not to join a CSA, the “I don’t eat enough produce to make it worth it”, I can see where it doesn’t work due to lack of time, space or family food preferences.

I just read a few posts on the I Want the Columbia MD Wegmans Facebook page about produce going bad quickly when bought in stores. The freshest produce is obviously just picked produce. The CSAs get you produce within one or two days of harvest. Anything trucked to stores is subject to storage variation, transportation problems and who knows what else. That is why so much is packaged, processed and full of preservatives.

Organic eliminates some of that, but is costly. A CSA with organic produce is a bargain. But not if the produce sits too long and goes bad. I have a few essential items that help me prolong the life of the produce, and use up my CSA.

One essential item is a salad spinner. Two, if you have room for them. I will be getting a second one before the fall CSA and the deluge of greens begins again.

No greens in it then. It had radishes and the last of a month old red cabbage, still crisp and still good to use in salads. Last night the arugula from David’s joined it. The arugula will be used in that pesto, and in a melon carpacchio recipe I want to try.

The second essential item in my storage drawer is my cache of “green” bags. They are indispensable when the crisper drawers are full. These you do need to change occasionally, since some really fresh veggies continue to give off moisture even if they look dry when they go into the bags. I keep beans for up to two weeks without them going bad or getting slimy. It extends my useful period for veggies when one week you don’t get something you like to use with others.

The other cute little gimmicky items that work well are my citrus and onion keepers. I use so much citrus in dressings and marinades, and always seem to need part of an onion. These really do keep the onion smell out of the fridge, and keep lemons or limes fresh after you only used half, or had zested them.

My most indispensable CSA saving item is the new chest freezer. A good deal at Costco. Seven cubic feet. It is already half full of simple frozen items to be used all winter long. Even if you are canning challenged, blanching, peeling and freezing tomatoes, charring and peeling peppers, making frozen berries for smoothies, or using ice cube trays to make syrups or pestos, you can use up excess fruits and veggies and herbs and have good food all winter.

It makes the cost of the CSA definitely worth it, with taking the time to pack and store it. Also worth it to go to local UPick farms, like Larriland. Some of my projects this summer are here. We picked six pounds of strawberries, froze some whole, some sliced and some pureed.

Frozen pureed strawberries

Garlic scape pesto is another great ice cube tray project. About ten minutes to throw everything in the blender, then pour and freeze. I no longer follow a recipe, I just use up the scapes I have, adding nuts, parm, and olive oil. Salt and pepper.

Garlic scape pesto

Oven drying tomatoes. I make tiny plastic containers of these all summer. They are heaven on pasta in February. Cut them in half. Sometimes I seed them, sometimes I don’t. Sprinkle a little sugar, salt and pepper on them. Drizzle olive oil. Bake at a low temp, like 200 degrees, for a few hours. I usually do this on a day I am doing laundry or a home project and can ignore them.

Oven dried cherry tomatoes

My final essential item is my crock pot. My use up the CSA stews give us two or three meals, and sometimes I do freeze one portion of what I made, since leftovers get tiring after the second dinner. A layer of sauce, a layer of veggies, some sausage or chicken or beef. Easy to throw in, even with frozen meat, and come home hours later to dinner. Like chicken soup. I added frozen stock and a frozen chicken to these veggies and had three meals from it.

Vegetable base for chicken soup

If you aren’t a CSA type person, try the farmers markets and look for bargains, like slightly bruised peaches. They can be cut up and frozen, for smoothies all winter. Or, apples. Or, like right now. Blackberries at Larriland. I froze whole berries and made syrup.

Now, excuse me while I go blanch a boatload of tomatoes to freeze. Eight pounds of canning tomatoes yesterday.


Summer CSA Week Sixteen

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Sixteen down. Nine to go. Then, eight more weeks in the fall. All told, we spend 33 weeks with this CSA. They were piloting a winter pantry program but I don’t know if they will expand it to our area. What did we get this week?

Sandy Spring CSA Week Sixteen 2012

The list includes:

1 Bag Jalapeno Peppers
1 Bag Red/Yellow Tomatoes
1 Bunch Purple Carrots
1 Bag French Green Beans
1 Bag Mixed Onions
2 Red Bell Peppers
1 Bag Red Roma Tomatoes
1 Bag Mixed Garlic
1 Bag Purple Majesty Potatoes
1 Sweet Dumpling Squash
1 Bunch Italian Parsley

You will notice I again swapped herbs for tomatoes. Interesting, while talking to our host at the house, she told me lots of people swapped the romas, as they don’t can or freeze them. But then, six members took advantage of the $25 box of romas for 25 pounds. There were six big boxes of tomatoes there with names on them.

I stopped at David’s on the way home to get greens, particularly arugula to use in the green tomato pasta I linked to a few posts back. I made it last night, with almost but not quite ripe tomatoes from my garden. It is a keeper and I will be doing it again, now that I have the arugula.

Looks good, doesn’t it?

Cooking slightly underripe tomatoes for Mario’s pasta

The tomatoes were sliced and sauteed in olive oil with a clove of garlic, thinly sliced. The pesto was made with a cup of mixed herbs and greens, equal parts of mint, basil, parsley and I used scallion tops because yesterday I didn’t have arugula. Added a 1/4 cup of parmesan, a garlic clove, and a 1/4 cup pine nuts, and drizzled in olive oil. Salt and pepper. I didn’t follow the recipe because I was missing arugula, and had some pine nuts left in the fridge. Any simple pesto will work here, but the mint really kicks up the flavor.

Pesto for green tomato pasta

The finished product looked like this. Add the pesto and the cooked spaghetti to the pan, then dish it out. Add a little parmesan on top.

Pesto spagehetti with underripe tomatoes (Can be made with large green tomatoes as well)

Since we got some slightly underripe tomatoes today, and I have all the necessary ingredients here, this will be on the menu again, it is that good.


Simple Pleasures

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Like simple lunch recipes. Three items, and seasoning. Not fresh, but things right out of the pantry.

Tuna, cannellini bean and onion salad

Served with a side of my tomatoes. Olives and feta to garnish. I found this recipe years ago in one of my Williams Sonoma cookbooks.

I love the description used as an introduction. If you want an excellent source for Tuscan recipes, this is the book for you.

Description of this recipe – credit to Williams Sonoma Savoring Tuscany

I made it with the canned tuna and the canned beans. Use organic beans if you can find them. Drain and rinse. Use a can of good tuna packed in olive oil. Dice a small sweet onion. I used Vidalia. Salt, pepper, olive oil to taste.

Tuscany on a plate.