RSS Feed

Too Many Vegetables?

Posted on

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.

al-fresco-hoco-062

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.

csa-jan212015-019

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.

csa-and-kitchen-stuff-006

The yellow grits from December. Now, in addition.

csa-and-omelet-011

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.

csa-and-shrimp-016

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.

feb22snow-002

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.

csa-fandf-and-vdweekend-060

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).

robins-109
pileated-woodpecker-010

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.

In Vino Veritas

Spring came to our area last weekend. It doesn’t seem to be leaving anytime soon. It was a perfect weekend for a winery trip, and we didn’t even have to leave the state.

Maryland has over 60 wineries now. When we first got married and interested in local wine, there wasn’t much out there. Byrd, Boordy, Basignani, Fiore, Elk Run, Linganore, and Montbray are the ones I remember. Back then, we were looking to buy a few Maryland wines to have with our wedding anniversary dinners. Knowing that most of the wines weren’t made to age for decades, we focused on whites for the first few years. We also looked for those specially made reds, or dessert wines, to get us through our second decade of marriage. Byrd made decent reds in 1980. So did Elk Run. Not much else. Cabernet Sauvignon wasn’t widely planted in the state. Now, it’s different.

On the Maryland Wine website, I see that we’ve visited 14 of the 68 active wineries. Quite a list to ponder future destinations.

For this “trip”, we went to two of the closest wineries to our home in Central Maryland. Black Ankle and Old Westminster. We have been to these wineries before. I have written about their wines in my local dining challenges, and just in my locavore posts.

Why were we visiting wineries this weekend? Black Ankle, because it was wine club pick up weekend. Old Westminster, because the weather was gorgeous and we hadn’t seen the new tasting room, which opened last year.

If you have good local wineries where you live, you might want to consider their wine clubs. There are many different models. Look into them, you may find one that fits your budget, and your desired types of wine. Also, compare, some clubs are extremely flexible about exchanges and substitutions.

The clubs are very popular. They also give you special events, and small lot wines not available for general purchase. We belong to three in Maryland. Big Cork, Black Ankle, and as of yesterday, Old Westminster.

Why these three? Convenience of pick up, flexibility, and quality/consistency of product. There are quite a few excellent wineries in the state these days. For us, it came down to location coupled with selection. We enjoy the events at the local wineries. We tend to take picnic lunches or dinners with us when we go to get our quarterly allocation.

All three of these wineries allow you to bring in food, and have ample space for you to picnic on their grounds. I finally figured out what drew us to this model. It was simple. Feeling as if we had returned to the days where you could pack a picnic, spread out a blanket, listen to good music, eat good food and drink good wine. We lost that model in our communities and our parks. Restrictions on alcohol, due to liability issues, mostly.

But I digress. We had a lovely weekend around here. It warmed up enough on Friday afternoon for us to take a small cooler with some salads, fruit and yogurt and head out to Mt. Airy. Black Ankle is open from noon until 8:30 PM on Fridays.

black-ankle-008

Every Friday night they have live music, year round. Winters, they are indoors. In good weather, they set up out front and tables, chairs and picnic blankets cover the lawn.

black-ankle-013

Second Saturday nights, every month, are member only music events. After the winery is closed to the general public. Black Ankle has over 2300 wine club members, so there is always a crowd. A much younger crowd than what we used to see at wineries. Which I think is a great thing. A few decades back, we would only encounter people older than us at winery events. Nice to see the resurgence in interest in good wines. Black Ankle’s wines are pricey. But worth it. Consider a Friday night there as a better choice for dinner and music. Yes, the wines begin at $28 a bottle. They are a bargain compared to spending that much in a chain restaurant for a bottle that retails for $6-10. They are also very well made. All of them.

Yesterday, we headed up to Old Westminster to visit that new tasting room.

old-westminster-021

So did many others as seen in the picture taken as we were leaving, just before closing time at 5pm. The building is sleek, clean lined and there is adequate space to host events for the over 1000 club members here. A relative newcomer to the Maryland wine scene, Old Westminster began selling wine less than 5 years ago. They make very, very good sparkling wines. One of only a handful of wineries in our state that make sparklers. It’s the reason we joined their club. Limited numbers of their premium wines.

We will be getting our first trio of wine in March. Looking forward to it. Also interested in food truck Fridays at the winery. They should be fun. Coal fired pizza with wine, anyone?

Stay tuned this spring and summer when we wander the state to see what else is out there.

Simple Indulgences

Just in time for Valentine’s Day. A compilation of some of our latest simple meals. Made with high quality local items and consisting of less than six ingredients (not counting salt and pepper).

I will be cooking at home again tomorrow to avoid the overcrowded restaurants. It will be simple also.

You can easily make these at home.

I did parsnip fries the other day. I loved them so much we will be making them tomorrow again.

csa-and-omelet-008

Baked in a 400 degree oven. Just cut the parsnips, lay them on a baking sheet with olive oil, salt, pepper, rosemary. Mix them before putting in the oven. Roast for about 12 minutes. Put them on a paper towel to drain. We had them with a yogurt based dressing for dipping.

I will be making halibut, maybe on the grill like I did these a while back.

grilling-and-ec-market-035

The weather here is going to be close to 50 degrees tomorrow. It’s time to check out the grill and move things back outdoors, as spring isn’t that far away. This grill method is very easy. Minimal seasoning. Brushed with oil. I used some of my pesto cubes from the freezer for this meal, but you can always buy a small jar of good pesto. Or, just whirl some parsley or basil in the processor with olive oil, salt and pepper.

We will have assorted cheeses from my CSA, and do another of our comparison wine flights, like we did here with two local Sauvignon Blancs. These were from Virginia. Glen Manor is made in a New Zealand style. It has that pineapple-y citrus-y taste. It goes well with seafood, and with omelets, and of course, with cheese. The Linden Avenius, made more in a French style, flinty and with a bit more acid on the finish. We served these wines with a mushroom omelet. And with an aged Gruyere cheese.

csa-and-omelet-024

Tomorrow, I am thinking of serving two Viogniers for comparison. More on our final decisions when I post again, after Valentine’s Day.

You may want to try a simple meal at home, instead of going out. Take your time. Dine by candlelight. Make something with just a few ingredients.

Craft-y

Posted on

Ever noticed how many places we use the word craft? Like in beer. Or maybe distillers. Or chocolate. Or, how about the word artisan? Like in cheese. Or bread. Or vinegars, oils. Or jams and jellies. The list goes on.

I have been seeking new sources for foods and beverages. Looking for those small local producers. I considered the post title “Growlers, Bottles and Bars, OH MY!” but thought shorter was the way to go.

Somewhere in our youth we believed bigger was better. Now, not so much. For me, better is better. We spent a bit of time lately seeking artisan sources for foods and beverages.

Like our visit to Lost Ark Distillery. Newly opened right across from my car repair place. And right next to an about to open craft beer brewery. We took the tour. Sampled the rums. Brought home some of them to use in cocktails.

csa-and-cooking-007

Dark and stormies, maybe? Or rum punch?

We also joined the growler community. Buying our first one at The Wine Bin. Roy Pitz “Mind Your P’s and Q’s”. A triple Belgian ale, brewed in Chambersburg PA. P’s and Q’s in the beer world translate to pints and quarts. As in keeping track at the pub of how many pints and quarts of ale were being consumed by customers.

csa-and-cooking-028

Interesting to say the least.

Finally, what about bars? For us, that would mean Salazon chocolate. Locally produced right up the road.

csa-and-kitchen-021

csa-and-kitchen-022

Looking for people who are passionate about their craft. That’s what makes being a locavore such a great thing. Now, I may head off to watch some recorded shows while sipping a glass of red wine, and sharing a chocolate bar.

Parts Unknown

Posted on

OK, I admit it. I am an Anthony Bourdain fan. Love the series of travel/food shows. We tend to record and watch TV shows of interest, in the winter, when we can’t spend time outdoors in the evening.

I record all the past episodes and watch them when we finally collapse after a day of putting our house back together. Last night, one of my favorite countries, France, was highlighted, or should I say, a city we once passed through on our travels.

Marseilles.

Our gateway to a week in Provence. The part of the world that influenced my cooking for the past 15 years. We flew into Marseilles (no customs at arrival, that was something) and boarded a bus to travel to Arles.

dscn0233

Followed by Avignon.

dscn0273

Nice after a night in Monte Carlo, to board a sailboat.

dscn0451

A week sailing the Med. This was a major vacation. One to celebrate my 50th birthday. A life changing trip. Which hooked me on markets. Fresh food. Good wine.

dscn0581

Bourdain’s shows get deeply into culture. Not just a surface look. They make me dig deeper into cuisines. Look for restaurants. Like now, when my husband wants to try the Ethiopian restaurant in Burtonsville.

I didn’t really make any resolutions this year, but maybe I should have. To resolve to travel a bit more. To try to find authentic ethnic fare. To expand my cooking capabilities. After all, I certainly am not getting any younger.

Where do you want to go? What foods inspire you? What cuisines would you like to try, if you could?

Me, I just would love to find a market that features spices, like Arles.

dscn0318