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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.

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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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Interesting to say the least.

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

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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

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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.

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Followed by Avignon.

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

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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.

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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.

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Updates

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I promised myself I would try and blog at least once a week, but life keeps getting in the way of writing. This week I finally sat down and cleaned up all my pages. Some of them hadn’t been touched in two years, but now, hopefully, no broken links and no outdated information.

What is new? I visited a new to me farm in Carroll County. Evermore Farm. According to the owner, Ginger Myers, the farm was once part of the vast Charles Carroll’s holdings, established in 1783.

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Their farm store is located on the property, which is just southwest of Baugher’s Restaurant and Market, off of Rte. 31. I went up there specifically to get Rheb’s Candy for Christmas presents.

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I saw a video of the store. I bought some eggs and lamb while there. A good source for grass fed beef, too. And Freedom Ranger chicken. Heritage pork. If you want to fill your freezer, they sell many varieties of packages. I am partial to their lamb package.

Head out Main Street in Westminster and keep going west on Uniontown Rd to Rockland, a left turn to the farm. I am seriously considering using their CSA program for meat, chicken and eggs.

As for other updates around here, I added some services and changed some restaurant information on my HoCoBiz page. I want to commend Chandler’s Collision Center in Columbia for the outstanding work they did on my car, which was a casualty of a hit and run in a parking lot. Who knew that a daytime running light assembly cost more than my first car? Yep, someone backed into my car while it was parked at Royal Farms, and left my light assembly smashed. A new assembly and a paint job on the scratched bumper, and it looks like new. Chandler fixed our old Jeep twice, after front end damage. They are absolutely the nicest people and their work is guaranteed for “life”. Right now, they are so swamped they are only taking insurance work and the backup time is at least two weeks. We were lucky that our car wasn’t damaged enough to make it undriveable, so we just waited 10 days to put it in there. They told us they are seeing a very large amount of deer-car damage. It’s one of the main causes of the body damage they are repairing. We know to be careful out here, but it is almost inevitable that an encounter will happen to most of us living here. If you need your car repaired, contact Chandler.

Other than car repairs, house painting, and bird watching, we seem to be rather settled in for winter. Anyone want to guess whether our new resident hawk will bother the cardinals in the yard?

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Oh, and as usual, I am still cooking like crazy. Just trying to make it work around all the changes in the kitchen.

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Lamb shanks with spelt berries, parsnips and carrots. It may not be pretty but it definitely tasted great.