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Monthly Archives: September 2013


A tribute to Marcella Hazan. Who inspired me in my pursuit of Italian classic cooking techniques.

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“Really tasty”. An understatement.

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It was Marcella’s cookbooks that taught me to make risotto. Taught me technique. Taught me patience in browning and prepping vegetables. Taught me how to make bolognese.

Saturday I picked up another of her books at the used book store in Glenwood. The next day was the day of her passing. I didn’t buy it because she signed it.

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I bought it because I learn so much from her. I was reading through this new book, new for me at least, yesterday. Then saw that at 89, she left this world.

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Rest in peace, one of the extraordinary Italian home cooks, who gave her knowledge to all of us who love to cook.


Making It Mine

I put together a mostly local dinner this evening. It started by tweaking a favorite recipe and making it the way I like it. After all these years of following recipes, I enjoy changing what is written into my own take, using the preferences that I have, and those of my husband.

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This is Mario Batali’s Spaghetti with Green Tomatoes.

I know. No spaghetti. Not all the tomatoes are green. Where is the parmesan on top?

Even the pesto is different.

Here is what I did. I went into the garden and harvested as much arugula, basil and mint as I could find, to make about 3/4 cup. I came in and snipped off 1/4 cup of the curly parsley from the CSA, including some of the smaller stems. This gave me the cup of greens that I needed. I used 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan. And, 1/3 cup pine nuts, even though they aren’t called for in the recipe. Added a squirt of lemon juice and three roasted garlic cloves to the processor with the greens, parm and pine nuts. A teaspoon of salt. Half teaspoon of white pepper. Mixed it all while adding olive oil until it stopped clumping along the sides of the processor.

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That’s the pesto on the left. On the right, in the pan, about a cup and a half of underripe cherry tomatoes from the farmer’s market. They would have become fully ripe within two or three days. I did have three small green tomatoes from my garden in there too. They were cooked down in a little olive oil, with about four ounces of the hot Italian sausage left over from that grilling of the Breezy Willow sausage a few days ago. And, a handful of scallion tops, sliced.

I added about half a cup of pesto to this mix. And, leftover goat cheese from the appetizer we had earlier. About two ounces of soft goat cheese, melted into the pesto and tomatoes.

I made a cup of small assorted pasta shapes, and added them to the skillet, with a ladle of pasta water to thin the pesto.

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This is the skillet before I added the pasta. It coats the pasta well. I put a loaf of Stone House bread in the oven to warm up.

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Served all of this with a lovely crisp Early Mountain Petit Manseng. We really like this wine. It cuts through the richness of that sauce. We had only tasted late harvest Petit Manseng before trying this one. Early Mountain has a winner with this grape. It has more body than a Pinot Grigio, but isn’t as heavy as a Chardonnay. A perfect dinner wine.

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This dinner was so easy to put together. The pesto takes ten minutes, which included toasting the pine nuts. The pasta takes ten minutes to cook, while you are making the tomatoes in the skillet. Bread warmed in the oven while dinner was cooking.

Great Sunday dinner.


Villa Appalaccia

A week ago today, we headed out on the Blue Ridge Parkway with fog so thick you couldn’t see 100 feet in front of you.

We were on a quest to visit a winery that specializes in Italian varietals. A small place with almost no signs to find it. Signs are prohibited on the Parkway.

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Add to that, the GPS won’t take you to their address. You have to download their directions and wander down some dirt road and when you do, you will be rewarded with excellent wines made with Corvina, Vermentino, Sangiovese, Malvaxia and Primitivo grapes.

Not a bad wine in the tasting. This stop was requested by my husband, who wanted to sample the Italian grapes. We don’t have the experience in drinking Italian style reds, and this marries our locavore/locapour tendencies with our love of discovery in our hobby.

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The day was really dreary so the pictures don’t do it justice. We will have to return.

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We bought a few bottles, and in upcoming weeks, I will be making lamb, venison and pork dishes, to pair with these wines. Tasting notes will be added for each of these local dinners.

I have to admit, this was a very pleasant addition to our itinerary last weekend, and I only wish we could have sat out there admiring the view and sipping a glass of wine with their local cheeses, salumi and a loaf of crusty bread.

Another trip down the Parkway will come in the next few months. This winery is on our list to visit again, maybe when all the spring trees and flowers are blooming.

If you get down towards Roanoke, take the detour over to Floyd (drive the Crooked Road), look for the tiny road just past mile marker 170. You won’t regret it.

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Bocce anyone?

Seventies and Sunny

About four days ago, it was the forecast from Bob Turk, my favorite local weatherman. For days on end, it was to be in the seventies and sunny or partly sunny. Every day. It looks like this weather pattern will go on for almost the entire week ahead of us also.

It does mean I have to water the remaining plants in the garden, but that’s OK. It means lots of nights grilling. Lots of dining on the patio, watching the deer.

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It means, because of the continued lack of rain, that our trees are starting to turn color early.

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It also means I will be heading out to Larriland this weekend to get a few things. Like some crisp fall apples. Some tiny greenish tomatoes, to make my “famous” green tomato pesto pasta (recipe courtesy of Mario Batali). I don’t have any small tomatoes left. Just a handful of large slicing tomatoes out there.

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This was my recipe post for that pasta. I love it, early in the fall with the last of the tomatoes.

I found a great recipe for green tomato chili, thanks to Kirsten. My leftover tomatoes will go into that chili (well, once the weather cools down). It doesn’t seem like chili weather yet.

By the way, pumpkin picking is all over the county. Larriland acquired a new farm just for picking pumpkins. They also have tons of activities on the weekend for the little ones.

So, tomorrow morning, visit to Breezy Willow to get a few dairy items, and some ground beef for the chili, followed by a trip out to Larriland for apples and green(ish) tomatoes. Need to remember to pack the cooler, or to go to Larriland first, followed by Breezy Willow. Their farm store is open, 10-2 on Saturdays.

The weather will be lovely, that’s for sure.


The Fourth Quarter

Of the CSA. This is week 19 of 24. The final six deliveries of the summer CSA.

I can’t believe how summer just flew by. We are now getting quite a bit of fall veggies in the box.

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This is what we got.

1 Spaghetti Squash – Elm Tree Organics
1 bag White Sweet Potatoes – Sunrise Ridge Organics
1 bag Red Potatoes – Rodale Institute
1 bunch Leeks – Rodale Institute
1 bag Hungarian Hot Wax Peppers – Healthy Choices Organics
1 bag Garlic – Friends Road Organics
1 bag Baby Sweet Stuffing Peppers – Organic Willow Acres
1 bunch Blue Radishes – Millwood Springs Organics
1 bunch Lacinato Kale – Farmdale Organics
1 bag Baby Mixed Mustard Greens – Organic Willow Acres
2 heads Green Leaf Lettuce – Green Valley Organics
1 bunch Curly Parsley – Noble Herbs

I thought it was interesting that Rodale is now part of our non profit cooperative. They are in Kutztown, not far from most of our Amish suppliers. They do massive amounts of research. It is where I researched spelt. One of our ancient local grains.

This week I love those baby sweet peppers.

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I am considering stuffing them with goat cheese, and some habanero jelly, and grilling them. Tonight, though, we just grilled them with a Breezy Willow sausage and the rest of the okra from last week.

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I am seriously enjoying that grilled okra. Love it all charred and smoky.

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Working on some good recipes for the weekend. The weather will be lovely. Time to really utilize the grill.


Of Gardens and Wineries

Or, a garden at a winery that inspired me to try new things next year.

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This is Barboursville’s garden. I am definitely trying out the trellis method next year. I even bought a few seeds to try things.

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I am going to plant that trellis of Malibar Spinach, and I am going to conquer that dislike of cardoons. It seems I didn’t do them the right way when I got them in the CSA last year.

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You really need to peel that woody outer layer away. And I didn’t.

So, come March there will be cardoon and Malabar spinach seeds in pots on our windowsill.

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Really love this spinach trellis.

Oh yeah, this is a winery I know. We are no strangers to Barboursville. We have enjoyed numerous lunches at Palladio, their restaurant that reaps the benefits of this garden. Have been drinking Octagon since 2000.

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This was the 1998 release that we bought on our first trip there for my husband’s 50th birthday. We have many of them in our collection.

Barboursville can be crowded, so go during the week. The property is beautiful and you can picnic on the grounds, or check out the ruins.

For us, there will be combined trips to visit Early Mountain and Barboursville, as they aren’t that far apart.


Ankida Ridge … With a Local Dinner

Pinot Noir. One of our favorite red wines. Not readily available from local wineries. Only a few in MD, PA and VA make it. Chaddsford in PA. Black Ankle in MD. Ankida Ridge and Loudoun Valley in VA.

If there are others, I would like to know. Except, we really were bowled over by Ankida Ridge. Even in 2011, a difficult year due to the Hurricane and the Tropical Storm.

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This is a stellar red wine, no matter where it originates. Thank you, Early Mountain, for featuring it in your tastings, and for bringing wine from a very small vineyard to a larger audience. On TWO acres of vineyards.

Sustainable practices. Eco-friendly. A winery that offers what we look for when it comes to food, and gives it to us in wine.

I thought it was fitting to pour the Pinot Noir with grilled lamb. Local lamb. From England Acres.

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We grilled a foreshank roast. Added some CSA potatoes. Pesto made with sorrel, parsley, pine nuts and Parmesan.

And, we grilled that pesky little okra.

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It all tasted wonderful. I like grilled okra. The lamb went perfectly with the Pinot Noir. Other than a few supporting ingredients, this was a completely locally sourced meal.

So nice to find one of our favorite varietals just a few hours down the road.

Ankida Ridge makes Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from their grapes. They also make a white and a red from grapes bought near their farm, and they call it the Voyager series.

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The white, made in a vinho verde style, is a combination of vidal blanc and pinot noir. Interesting combination for a white wine. Not sweet at all. Many vidals can be way too sweet, but this isn’t.

All in all, these wines were a real find on our vacation weekend. Worth seeking out if you want to support small locally owned vineyards.


Lunch At Early Mountain

Friday’s visit to Early Mountain was one of the highlights of this trip. We had never driven the three hours down to the winery, which reopened in 2012 after extensive remodeling and the change of ownership.

I kept seeing references to the winery, because of its unique “Best of Virginia” partnership program.

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The chance to sample their wines, alongside wines from other prominent (and some not so prominent, but promising) vineyards, paired with excellent food, is what intrigued us.

Madison VA is not far above Charlottesville. Easy to access. The welcoming entrance sets the stage that this is someplace special, where you can relax, enjoy, linger and not feel as if you are drowning in hordes of people winery hopping (something that makes many wineries in Northern VA unpopular with us).

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The inviting entrance area, full of sofas, a few tables, and lots of places to unwind, is what sets this winery apart.

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Add to that, the back terrace, with its huge fireplace. Makes al fresco dining a joy.

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I could have lunch here almost every week of the year and be happy. I like the changing menu and the changing wine pairings.

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We started with a mixed sampler. Two cheeses and two meats. We each picked a different four wine sample. Love how you can mix, and match, the wines with food.

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But, if truth be told, we went there specifically to try and buy Ankida Ridge Pinot Noir. Yep, Pinot Noir from Virginia. Ankida Ridge is really small. Their wines, though, are absolutely luscious.

We did buy some Early Mountain whites, as well as those Ankida Ridge goodies. We had a sneak preview of the 2012 Chardonnay. Elegant, really promising. A good year for white wine in VA, and this one is beautifully balanced. I purchased their dry Petite Manseng, their Pinot Gris, 2011 Chardonnay and their dessert wine for now. Nice wines.

Believe me, we will be heading back down when that lovely 2012 Chardonnay is released.

Anyone wanting to take an overnight from up here in Maryland, to the wine country around Charlottesville has to come here. It is worth the trip.


The Fall Wine Trip

Every few years we take a winery hopping trip somewhere in the US. We just came home from an extended weekend in Southwestern Virginia, where we visited three new wineries, one old favorite, and stopped today to break up our drive home, at Linden.

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The new wineries. Early Mountain, Villa Appalachia and Valhalla. I will be writing individual posts about each visit. The old favorite, Barboursville. More on them later this week, too.

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We now limit ourselves to two wineries a day, max, in order to enjoy the visits, and not feel like we are rushing from place to place. Lunch on a terrace, like the one at Early Mountain, for example.

We also have become selective about what we buy, as we now aren’t buying to age wine, but to sample a few interesting new varietals, or to pick up some for family functions.

Everyone who reads my blog know that I am a locavour. Most also know that I fully support the wineries in MD and VA, as they are becoming better, and a few are pushing the local industry into making very good wine. Wine that can stand up to the established vinicultural areas in the US, and even beyond.

We had debated driving to Long Island to sample their wines, but decided not to tempt fate. This time last year they were preparing for Hurricane Sandy. We didn’t want to make plans too far in advance, in case we were all hunkering down to protect ourselves in this QUOTE prolific UNQUOTE hurricane season. Obviously, the forecasts were off. We have seen a calmer year than any of the past couple of years.

We just figure that a trip to the North Fork will happen in a different season, like maybe spring or early summer.

So, we headed off to VA, spending one night outside of Charlottesville and one outside of Roanoke. Of course, both places were awash in football fans. I really need to plan trips around home games. At least UVA and VATech both won, making for happy fans during our travels.

We may have to drive a bit more than we did when visiting Napa and Sonoma, and when we went to the Finger Lakes a few years back, but we can find some real gems in the VA mountains.

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I wish the weather had cooperated this weekend so we could have enjoyed the outdoors more, but all in all, a good trip. Now, I need to put away those wines we purchased.

They will be featured in some of my winter locavore dinners. Tomorrow, I will have a long review of Early Mountain, with many pictures we took there. It was a great beginning to the weekend.

Anyone living in the Mid Atlantic should consider putting together a short trip using the Blue Ridge Parkway, and/or Skyline Drive, down to the gorgeous mountains, for the views, the food, and the wine.

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Garden Transitions

The garden is moving into its fall mode. My lone Thelma Sanders squash is getting bigger, but it hasn’t been joined by any others.

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There are blossoms all around it, but no other squash. Could be a real bust.

I have a few dozen green tomatoes left out there.

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Since it will still be warm for a while, I am hoping they ripen. Otherwise, green tomato pesto pasta, or maybe that green tomato bacon jam.

The basil has continued to flourish, even as I keep cutting it.

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The African blue basil is putting out new growth.

The fall greens have started to spread in their boxes. I have chard and arugula out there.

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This is the ruby chard. I may mix it with the French sorrel from the CSA box and make a quiche. It may be getting close to October but there is quite a bit left to harvest, on these lovely crisp days. We do need rain, though. I have been watering things again.