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Author Archives: AnnieRie

Fifty is Nifty

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If you are a city, that is. Even though people think that 50 years is a long time, it certainly isn’t when it comes to cities. The place I lived the longest, Columbia MD, turns 50 this summer. The celebration started last weekend.

The storytelling event this Friday night at the Owen Brown Interfaith Center will feature many long time residents. Who may remember the tiny little town of the 1960s and 70s. When there were just two lane roads, and not all that many traffic signals.

It was an interesting place to live, but it certainly isn’t old, even now. Heck, I might have a pair of boots or two older than Columbia.

I grew up in Baltimore, in a house built in 1920. I considered it really old when it was only 50 years. Back when I started college. I couldn’t wait to graduate and move to the New Town. The one with the cool people tree.

And the even cooler downtown, that included a lake, instead of high rises and congestion.

I remember ice skating on that lake. Spreading blankets on the grass before the fireworks. Making reservations at The Tomato Palace, to have dinner and watch the fireworks (in the years after I made enough money to do that).

Still, it isn’t really old. Sitting out here with a next door neighbor in a renovated farmhouse that was built in 1894, I have a different perspective.

No matter what. It’s been my home county for 42 years. Columbia was the town I lived in for 30 years, so there are lots of memories.

You bet I will be enjoying the storytelling events. And many of the other events celebrating the occasion.

I think I’ve even gotten used to this no longer being the Rouse Building.

Telling Tales

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Storytellers. A couple of dozen of them. A dozen at each of two very special evenings here in Howard County.

Did you know Columbia MD turns 50 years old this year? And, many of its long time residents are telling tales, so to speak, at the first of two events sponsored by the Howard County Conservancy, the Howard County Recreation and Parks Department, and the Columbia 50th Birthday Celebration Inc.

You can register at the Conservancy website, for tickets to one or both of the storytelling events. And, for those wanting to learn how to better their skills at telling tales, either spoken or written, you can sign up for a day long workshop, too.

Last year was the second time the Conservancy sponsored a storytelling event. The first time for a workshop. The event was an overwhelming success. Standing room only. So, for those of us who love to hear all about the past from our friends and neighbors, signing up early is the way to get a seat.

Down Home Cooking

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Maryland. My home state. Not really north or south. Depending on where you live, we can be dismissed as being the opposite.

New Englanders call us Southern, for being south of the Mason Dixon Line. Those from the deep south call us Yankees.

For me, I think it means we can embrace the best of the cuisines from both sides of that imaginary line.

My family is German. We can do the whole scrapple, sauerbraten, head cheese, wurst thing, no problem. Still, we also love distinctly Southern tastes. Smithfield ham. Hominy (not far from grits). Biscuits. Fried chicken. Oysters. Shrimp. Blue crab.

Finding a cookbook that celebrates the South. In a good way. No, beyond that. In a celebratory way. That would be a great thing to add to my capabilities. I am truly enjoying cooking from Deep Run Roots. My kind of Southern cooking and more. Not drowning in butter, but using those fresh ingredients that grow so well in the temperate climate.

I am also discovering just how much my Amish (Pennsylvania Dutch) CSA has embraced and delivered the better heirlooms from the Southern food world. Things like collards, sweet potatoes, grits, cornmeal, okra, turnips.

I have made some interesting meals from this book. Mostly using what I get from my CSA. North meeting South.

Garlic confit to use in many meals. Sweet potato yogurt (OK, this stuff is awesome, I could put it on cardboard and eat it). Squash and onions that ended up as a hummus substitute.

I have also learned how to perfect my grits. Using a double boiler method.

A few other things, too. More on those in the future. If you want to try something new with your spring CSA, you might want to download Deep Run Roots. I can highly recommend it. And nobody is paying me to say that.

If you want to make something awesome, try the sweet potato yogurt.

Roast a few sweet potatoes. Scrape them out of their skins. Equal part of a Greek style yogurt. Honey, lemon juice and salt, to taste. Whirl it all together. Slather it on anything. Sprinkle a little cayenne on it to spice it up. Vivian’s recipe puts it under Collard Green dolmades, made with homemade sausage. I will probably make the dolmades some day, using Boarman’s sausage, but that picture above, with the Merguez sausage from Evermore Farm, that shows you how this base of taste can tame the spice and bring intense flavor to your dinner.

CookBook Club

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Did you ever belong to a book club? You know. Where you read a book and then get together to drink wine and discuss the book.

I have done a few book clubs in my life, but never a cookbook club. One where you cook from a book. There are real life cooking clubs where people meet and eat from a chosen book, or a chosen cuisine. Food52 talks about how to do that.

For me, though, I am talking about virtual clubs. On line clubs. Facebook, actually. I stumbled upon the Food52 club page and became a member recently. Why? Because I miss the on line challenges to make me cook outside my normal rotation of recipes and ingredients.

An on line challenge that keeps me interested in expanding my capabilities. So, I found myself downloading a brand new eBook last week.

Deep Run Roots. The massive (600 page) cookbook from Public TV chef star Vivian Howard. Southern food. Simple to complex. Traditional to fusion. I am really enjoying the challenge. To cook outside my comfort zone. Like trying this pork in curried watermelon.

I haven’t tried this one yet. I will in watermelon season.

Now, I just began. With lamb and beet tzatziki.

To make it local, I used lamb from Evermore Farms in Westminster (I used ground lamb and made meatballs instead of kebabs). Chiogga beets from my CSA, which meant my tzatziki wasn’t neon pink.

What is fun about this on line cookbook club. Seeing what everyone else is making from the cookbook this month, and getting ideas for cooking.

Me, I want to try her shrimp and grits, using the grits from my CSA.

Heirloom grits. Cornmeal. Heavily featured in her book. Today, I stopped at Boarman’s to get shrimp. Such a good deal on big, Gulf Shrimp.

This week, shrimp. Next week, oysters. Can’t wait to try all these new ideas.

Too Many Vegetables?

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I am still trying to wrap my head around that statement.

My CSA site host went to a conference last week, to meet with CSA management and talk with the dozens of local site hosts in the DC metropolitan area. Our CSA, Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative, has thousands of members in seven states and the District. Using over a hundred local small farmers to offer us vegetables, fruit, meat, dairy, eggs, flowers, herbs, bread, “farm”aceuticals. You name it. Mix and match. Customize the size. Everything but home delivery and choose your own, like you would at a market.

They brought back the small share. Four items. Because people thought 7-8 items for $23 a week was too much produce. Really? Are we still putting 8-12 ounces of meat on a plate and saying we only want a couple of ounces of vegetables on that plate? I thought we were getting away from meat-centric meals.

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Obviously, we aren’t. Many of my local farming friends are seeing a decline in membership, and in purchases at markets. Companies like Blue Apron are replacing CSA shares. According to the CSA management, briefing the site hosts, people want recipes. They don’t know what to do with the vegetables they get.

Never mind the fact that our CSA has a huge web site devoted to providing that information. We seem to have created a generation of people who want to be spoon fed. Tell me every week what to do with corn. With cauliflower. With fennel. With leeks. Etcetera. Etcetera.

I know. I am whining here. I just really don’t get it. We have so many choices around here, and yet, people aren’t staying on as members, with many of our local farm CSA options. Membership is declining. Friends and Farms folded. The Glenwood Market isn’t opening this year.

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I hope we have our CSA again this summer. We can’t seem to find 30 people in a town as big as Columbia who want inexpensive very fresh organic food. From people who care about what we eat.

Crossing my fingers and hoping our local sources remain.

Well, Kiss My Grits

Channeling old movies on Oscar Night. Who remembers “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore”? I got another bag of grits a few weeks ago from our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) delivery and it reminded me I still have half a bag from December.

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The yellow grits from December. Now, in addition.

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A brand new bag of heirloom Bloody Butcher Red grits. Not your ordinary grits. I want to make these soon but need to finish that bag of yellow grits from December. Tonight, I made another large pot to serve with shrimp.

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Grits are definitely not fast food. But they certainly starred in tonight’s dinner, even if they took 40 minutes to cook. This was a truly simple meal, yet time consuming to make. A pound of Gulf Shrimp. Steamed after marinating in Old Bay, Secolari flavored vinegar, and sesame oil. Roasted radishes from the CSA, that were made earlier this week and heated in a very hot oven, after drizzling in honey and sprinkling with Old Bay.

The grits. Half milk, half water. Salt. Pepper. Boiled. Add grits. Three to one ratio of liquid to grits.

Cook forever. Stir almost that much. Add parmesan and butter. Stir again. Serve.

Whither Winter?

To paraphrase the Elvis quote, “winter has left the building”, or has it? Rumor has it that we will get another Arctic Clipper blast a week from tomorrow. Hopefully, that won’t be the case, but it certainly doesn’t feel like winter anymore around here. I had the French doors open all day today, and it is T-shirt weather.

I seriously considered heading up to the community gardens and clearing up the asparagus beds. I almost took the tomato seedlings out of their warm spot in the laundry room and moved them out for fresh air.

I went back in my old photos to check out the four previous February files. I found quite a bit of bad weather this week.

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Two years ago, on the 22nd. Frantic birds chowing down on the hastily thrown seeds on the patio. It was too deep to get to the feeders.

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Last year, the day after Valentine’s Day.

Other years I also had the mad rush for fresh water from the cedar waxwings, and the pileated woodpecker working on a possible new home (or food source in my dying tree).

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I think the birds tell me when the seasons are changing. That means right now, since the juncos are still here, that winter has not left the building. Spring will be here when they leave and the hummingbirds show up.

Now, if only we don’t get weather that is too harsh, because the daffodils are coming up and the tulips are just popping through the soil. I hope the dogwoods and the cherry trees don’t suffer from too much cold. They look to be close to budding.

Climate variance. Around here, we measure things like bud break. Soil temperatures. The farmers can tell you all about weather and climate variance. They have large amounts of data tracking the weather. It’s the only way to know when to plant.