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Monthly Archives: April 2014

Market Season Opening Thursday

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The East Columbia Farmers Market opens May 1st. 2-6 pm at the East Columbia branch of the Howard County Library.

Independent now, since the market was dropped by the Howard County Farmers Market Association, they worked through all the paperwork necessary to keep the longest running farmers market in the county alive.

I know from their facebook page that three of the vendors will be there. Ungers Fruit, Orchard Country Produce and Tomatoes Etc. Tomorrow we will find out who else will join them.

I will be there sometime to browse through the many varieties of herb plants that Tomatoes Etc. always has. It is where I get quite a bit of what grows in my herb gardens.

Spread the word, that there will be a market in East Columbia this year again, on Thursdays. As well as the market on Sundays at Oakland Mills.

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Other markets opening soon include Miller Library next Wednesday, HoCo Hospital on Friday, and Ellicott City Market which will open May 10th.

Add to those the Sunday market in Burtonsville, Saturday market in Silver Spring and at White Oak School in Silver Spring. The Wednesday and Sunday markets in Catonsville open soon too.

Yes, it is spring and the farmers markets are back. Head out to your old favorites or visit a few new ones.

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Won’t be long before Larriland and Gorman open their stands and have strawberries to pick.

CSAs start in the next two weeks. Hallelujah! Winter is over. Now, just make it stop raining.


Out and About Again: Petit Louis Bistro

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Not the one in Roland Park. The new one on the lake in Columbia.

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Last Thursday we had the privilege of participating in the opening of the patio on the lake at PLB, as it is known for short. A really lovely addition to the community and to the people who already enjoy Cindy Wolf and Tony Foreman’s other restaurants in the area (like my favorite celebration restaurant, Charleston).

Exquisite tastings were offered.

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Besides these beet and chevre bites, there were cheese pastries and a game bird terrine. Inside, four wines were being sampled.

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My favorite was the rose from Provence. Probably the place on earth I would most like to live. If only my spoken French was better than it is.

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Meet Will Napier. Will is the sommelier at PLB. Two seconds after meeting him, my husband found out he once worked at our favorite Virginia winery, Linden. Of course, the winery that makes wines in the French tradition. Small world, isn’t it?

And, Le Comptoir. That little side venue where you can indulge in brunch, or lunch, or maybe a petit dejeuner.

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There will be a petit dejeuner in our future.

As it was, we made a reservation to stay and dine. Dinner, excellent. I did refrain from being geeky and taking pictures. Truite aux amandes was my choice. Saumon grille was my husband’s. Followed by a cheese plate, French press coffee and a pastis.

I almost felt that I was back in Provence.

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With markets that would make this locavore one very happy person.

Thanks again, Petit Louis Bistro for hosting such an enjoyable event.


The End of the Venison

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Finally, roughly a year after getting a few dozen packages of venison, courtesy of our neighbor, we grilled the last package. Tenderloin chops.

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Served with naan, bread cheese and a very tasty strawberry sauce, made using some of our IQF (individual quick frozen) strawberries from Friends and Farms.

This dinner was a mix of old and new, near and far.

And, thanks to Iron Bridge we had one absolutely perfect wine to drink with it.

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Isabel Mondavi Deep Rose, made with Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley. I have to admit. I really like this wine, even thought it is big, bold and must be served with food, unlike many rose wines.

I bought some Carr Valley bread cheese at Wegmans a few weeks back. Picked up some naan. A container that included roasted peppers and sundried tomatoes at the olive bar. All the makings of an easy to grill meal.

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The bread cheese reminds me of halloumi. That Greek cheese perfect for sautéing or grilling. Alongside the venison it was a good pairing for a fairly simple dinner.

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The venison was marinated in a mix of blended strawberries and red wine. With a few basic seasonings like salt and pepper and garlic powder. The biggest strawberries were set aside to heat up on the grill and use for garnish. Tricky to keep them from falling into the grill. But, I managed to only lose two.

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Venison tenderloin. Grilled until it is medium rare to medium. Served with strawberries. A fitting way to end the adventure of a freezer full of venison.

Final thoughts on venison. Love the roasts. The tenderloins. The ground venison. Not a fan of the steaks. If we get another opportunity to pay for processing and get more, I will maximize the ground meat, for chili. And only take the shoulder roasts, neck roasts and tenderloin. Glad we did this, to see how flavorful it can be, and how different it is, when compared to the fattiness of beef.


This Week’s Basket

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You know, I almost forgot to post about the goodies we got in this week’s Friends and Farms basket Thursday. That would be a result of having so many activities going on, and not getting around to it.

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I did get the big picture up there the other night, but that wide angle shot doesn’t do it justice.

Some highlights.

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There were pork chops and chicken legs in the basket. The legs, along with a couple of chicken breasts from a previous basket, are happily marinating in a buttermilk brine. Soon to become oven roasted buttermilk chicken. They need another day though. The pork chops will make it in the oven early next week.

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Turkey sausage. A favorite to keep around for when I make lasagna, or tomato sauce. It went in the freezer for a while. If I dig around in the basement freezer I will find some peeled tomatoes to make a sauce.

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The rosemary was a nice touch. It will get used, just don’t know where yet. Love the apple cider. Perfect for use in the pork chop department. Or, straight up with lunch. The black cherry yogurt keeps disappearing at breakfast. With some granola mixed in.

Those hydroponic tomatoes from Hummingbird Farms. One with dinner tonight, over the greens (not pictured above). This week we got a Breadery baguette. Already almost gone. There was garlic bread with pasta last night. Green beans. Will be served with the pork chops, or maybe the chicken. Who knows?

Eggs. A few breakfast dishes. Some egg salad maybe. The grapefruit. In a salad or two. I like that refreshing hit from the citrus in salads. The portabellas. Definitely will be made later this week with a couple of Boarmans’ crab cakes spread over them.

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As for the mother of all Napa cabbages I have ever encountered, I have no idea at the moment. I usually do a slaw, but this one would feed our zip code.

Parsnips. I love them. An underappreciated vegetable. Thinking of a riff on colcannon using some greens, parsnips and a few potatoes that are left.

I really enjoy this challenge. I feel I have wandered onto the set of Chopped, on Food Network.

And, next week. Looks even better.

I just need to stop going out. We seem to be doing that often this month.


Too Tired to Post

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That would be a strange occurrence for me, but after just downloading 90 photos and editing them, I realized how much we had done in just a few days. The camera had pictures from:

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Grilling the last of the venison.

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Finishing the tilling and pathway construction of the garden.

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Picking up the Friends and Farms basket.

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And, socializing and dining at Petit Louis Bistro.

There will be individual posts on each of these topics coming up, but in closing tonight, before I collapse on the sofa to watch Elementary, a reminder that Lake Kittamaqundi is a special place. Go enjoy lunch or dinner there, or stop by Le Comptoir for breakfast.

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I may have left Columbia nine years ago, but the lakefront is special.

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Somewhere, not far from the People Tree is our brick, celebrating that move to Columbia almost forty years ago.


Busy Season at the Conservancy

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Just about everyone who reads my blog knows I spend way too much time (just kidding) at my volunteer “job” at the Howard County Conservancy. April and May are two of the busiest months. But, they are chock full of fun things to do, and in a location that just takes away all the stress in my life the minute I enter the driveway.

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How can you resist the lure of this view?

Here is the upcoming calendar.
APR 26- Saturday 8am-1pm Earth Day: Make a Difference!

Start with a bird walk. Grab some gardening tools and pitch in and plant trees. Or, clean out some invasive species. Buy some native plants at the plant sale.

APR 28- Monday 9-12am Home School Day

This field trip is one of my favorites. Home school families will come to the Conservancy. A handful of us will be manning stations to teach them. And, they have some large group activities as well. Always a great interactive day with people who are passionate about teaching their children.

MAY 4 – Sunday 3- 6 pm Belmont Preview Event

The Conservancy is officially kicking off their management of the Belmont Mansion site. With an open house. If you have never been to Belmont you should check out this event.

MAY 10- Saturday 10am Mothers’ Day Special- Tea, Scones & Gardens

This year I am making scones for this Mother’s Day party. The local garden clubs who maintain the various gardens on the property will be on hand to show off the spring finery, and there will be tea and scones.

MAY 29- Thursday 5-8pm 8th Annual Wine in the Garden

The annual major fund raiser for the Conservancy. And, a wonderful night in the honors garden. With silent auction. Many caterers providing small bites (enough altogether to make a light fancy feast). Numerous wines, some local. This year the event is after Memorial Day, so an easier night to attend without interfering with holiday plans.

Check out the upcoming events page. Come join us, for one or more of them, or just come visit. Spring is busting out all over.

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The weather. The garden. The grilling.

All came together to make one perfect day out here. We spent part of the day tilling, and came home to grill a good dinner.

68° and sun and breeze and no humidity. Why we live here. Spring is my favorite season.

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Tomorrow, Sharp’s Farm opens and we will be there picking out tomatoes for the garden. If you want a huge selection of vegetables, flowers, and herbs to plant, try and get out to the greenhouses. They are open Tuesdays through Saturdays for picking out plants.

It may rain tomorrow night but the rest of the week should give us more perfection.

Crank up the grill. Plant some herbs, or lettuce.

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Find some flower seeds to sprinkle in the ground. Tomorrow is Earth Day. And, come join us for a bird walk and some projects at the Conservancy this Saturday to celebrate.

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Out and About: Gadsby’s Bar American

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What a great way to spend a Thursday evening. Watching a master of mixology (aka Beverage Mercenary) create craft cocktails for a small group of local bloggers.

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The venue. Gadsby’s Bar American in the northeast corner where Columbia meets Ellicott City. A little difficult to find, but very convenient right off Route 100. I like individually owned restaurants where the food is made from scratch, and there are many local ingredients, wines and beers on the menu. Gadsby’s delivers in this respect.

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Chad Spangler, who obviously loves his craft, and excels at it (he makes one very tasty Sazerac as well as the five craft cocktails he made for us. All while explaining the art surrounding his craft. Right down to making their own tonic syrup for their Gin and Tonic. Their own simple syrups. A lavender foam. Yes, you read it right. Creating the foam using a stabilizer, like lecithin. Science in cooking. What isn’t there to like about it?

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This was our introduction to a restaurant where we will return, as the menu looks very tempting. As does the wine list. I was happy to see Herman Wiemer’s wines on the menu. One of our long time favorite Finger Lakes producers, of dry Riesling and Cabernet Franc.

Other little goodies are enticing as well. Just take a look at the tasting trays they put out for us.

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Thanks to Chef Gadsby (you were robbed in Iron Chef America), Chad Spangler, and Michael the bartender, and to Jessie Newburn, our hocoblogs den mother who arranged this demonstration.

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If you live around here and want a new place to try that isn’t a boring chain restaurant, check out Gadsby’s. And order their seasonal cocktails, made with rhubarb.

Or, if you like your Manhattan a bit smoky, this one is a treat.

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Not Your Mama’s Catfish

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These were some kind of catfish.

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Carolina Classics Catfish. Delivered in this week’s Friends and Farms basket. Two lovely 10 ounce filets. Perfect for pan frying and serving with those grits also in the basket. Red grits, as a matter of fact. I loosely followed the recipe for the grits on the highlighted web site, but did a little substitution.

As for the basket this week, it was clearly a Southern thing.

Sweet potatoes. Turnip greens. Catfish. Grits. What can I say?

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Some of the usual stuff was in the basket. The dozen eggs. The bread. Apples.

Along With some green peppers. An eye of round roast. Carrots. Spinach. Frozen squash and corn. I have been loving the corn in soups and with black beans for a savory dish.

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Oh, and a killer pepper jack cheese. An “in your face” cheese. Also pictured was a special sitting in their office. Rhubarb strawberry jam. We bought a jar, to have on toast.

As for tonight’s dinner. It consisted of catfish and grits.

The catfish. Pan fried in grapeseed oil. With a dusting of paprika, garlic powder, pepper and oregano. No, I didn’t measure it. I was heavy on the garlic and the paprika. A sweet paprika.

The grits. A slight modification of the recipe on the Plated website linked above. I did use the 1/2 cup of grits, and the two cup liquid mix. I used a couple of ounces of tomato paste and some chicken base in the mix, as called for. I used the spinach from the basket.

I did not have smoked paprika so used sweet paprika with two drops of liquid smoke.

You have to try this red grits recipe if you can get your hands on good grits. This was one awesome grits dish.

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My suggestion, though, is to increase the salt and pepper a bit. They were just a touch too bland.

As for the catfish, use equal amounts (1 tbsp. each) of sweet paprika and of garlic powder. Use a very healthy pinch of pepper. A touch of oregano. I sort of played around with the recipe on the Plated site, but knew I wanted pepper to be more assertive. And much more garlic.

This was good stuff. We will be ordering these catfish from the Friends and Farms website, as we really were impressed with how great they are.


Making It Taste Good

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The mantra of those of us who cook with the thought of providing delicious healthy meals to our families.

We all know it’s sometimes hard to get people to like greens. I am talking about hearty greens, like collards, kale, chard, arugula, escarole, spinach and greens from root veggies, like turnips, beets, radishes, carrots, and kohlrabi.

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The types of veggies we find in our CSA baskets. Like the turnip greens we are getting tomorrow from Friends and Farms. Or those collards from last week.

Interesting that we are real fans of leafy greens. Love the strange lettuce varieties we find. We have learned to stir fry or sauté all sorts of greens. A little garlic. Some balsamic maybe. Or soy sauce.

Make a frittata. Or omelet. Add them to soups and stews. Drop some amazingly good short ribs on top. Put them on pizza.

The possibilities are endless.

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We are about to enter serious greens season. With the markets. The CSAs.

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What could be better than freshly prepared, nutrient rich veggies as part of two meals a day. Salads at lunch. Accents at dinner.

Don’t forget to get your greens wherever you can find them. Popeye would be proud of you.