Archive for May, 2009

One Local Summer Kicks Off June 1

Saturday, May 30th, 2009

one local summer

Calling all farmers market fans! Whether you’re an experienced locavore or just curious about whether you could survive cooking with only locally-grown ingredients, you’re invited to join in for a three-month local eating challenge. One Local Summer 2009, hosted by Farm to Philly, begins this Monday, June 1. Participants commit to cooking one entirely local (except for oil, vinegar and spices) meal each week. Here’s a reminder of some of the Chesapeake Bay foodshed meals we enjoyed last year. And I’m pleased to be helping this year as the Southern region coordinator, so if you’re in the Southeast (DC and south of the Potomac) please sign up to join in or just check back to see what your neighbors are cooking up each week. To join, email your name, location and blog url (if you have one) to by Sunday, May 31. 

Artos the Greek Celebration Bread

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

The second bread in the Bread Baker’s Apprentice (BBA) challenge was Artos, a Greek celebration bread typically enjoyed for Christmas or Easter. While I added the fruits found in the Christmas version, I stuck with the basic Artos shape rather than adding the decorative cross design.

The recipe begins with a starter, either a barm or a poolish. I chose the poolish as it was the simplest of the two, and I’d never made either before! The poolish is simply yeast, flour and water allowed to ferment for several hours. You then refrigerate it overnight and then are supposed to pull it out of the fridge an hour before mixing the rest of the bread’s ingredients. I took it out Memorial Day morning thinking I would mix it up before brunch, but of course that didn’t happen. When I returned five hours later (brunch was followed by playground and errands), it had exploded through its plastic wrap, over the top of its jar and oozed all over the place. After scraping off the crusty top, there was just about a cup left in the bottom of the jar which was precisely the amount needed for the bread.

Artos had a pretty long ingredient list, including a number of spices and extracts. I used cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg (no ground cloves). After mixing the dry ingredients, I plopped my gooey poolish-monster into the bowl….

poolish artos baking

… and added the beaten eggs, warm milk and almond extract. I had neither fresh citrus nor extract, so had to do without that. I mixed it in my Kitchen Aid again, but it was so sticky that I sprinkled an extra tablespoon of flour around the sides of the bowl so it would fully pull away from the bowl to knead. I added the organic dried cranberries and sultana raisins for the last two minutes of mixing.

artos bread baking

After kneading, the dough went into an oiled bowl and was left to rise for 90 minutes …

artos bread baking

Yep, more than doubled. I shaped it into a round boule and left it on the baking sheet for another 60 minutes. I was a little concerned that it rose outward at that point, rather than up, but went ahead and put it in the oven after 70 minutes as other BBAers had commented about humongous loaves.

artos bread baking

Sure enough, 43 minutes later this fragrant beauty emerged from the oven … loved the cinnamon fragrance while it baked! And it was a moist, delicious bread.

artos bread baking loaf

  • Note: I haven’t used spray oils in years, but after slathering oil on the Anadama dough by hand I decided I should pay attention to Mr. Reinhart’s instructions. I was happy to find spray grapeseed oil at my organic grocer. They also had organic olive oil spray but the grapeseed was recommended for baking.
  • N.2. My bread shrunk a little while cooling, leaving a few wrinkles in the crust. (Any baking gurus out there know why?)
  • N.3.: I hate to take a bye week so early in the challenge, but we’ll be traveling next week so bagels will be posted the following week, along with bread #4. Come back and see what’s baking!

You can see a (lovely) authentically-shaped Christopsomos loaf at Appoggiatura; or check out the enormous braided version by the Engineer Baker. And be sure to visit the BBA homepage at Pinch My Salt to check out other’s successes, failures and advice as we bake our way through The Bread Baker’s Apprentice.

Celebrate Virginia’s Bounty

Friday, May 22nd, 2009

You know we love our local farms. And you know we love to visit them as often as we can. Now, we have not one but two Summer Solstice dinner parties providing an evening savoring the best of Virginia’s fields and vine under the stars. Preparing the dual feasts are Alexandria’s (the mid-Atlantic’s, really) best chefs, Cathal Armstrong of Restaurant Eve and Anthony Chittum of Vermilion. Armstrong will be cooking at “Gourmet Rappahannock,” coordinated by my friend Sylvie of the Rapphannock Cook, and located at Mount Vernon Farm in Sperryville. Chittum took part in the area’s first “Outstanding in the Field” last year, a traveling road show so to speak of festive dinners on the farm. He is on board for one of the organization’s three Virginia dinners this September, but fans won’t have to wait till then to experience the magic as he will be preparing a Summer Solstice Supper at our CSA farm, Potomac Vegetable Farms in Purcellville. Both dinners take place on Saturday, June 20th, so you’ll have to choose one of the two. Read on for details and reservation information.

Summer Solstice Supper with Chef Anthony Chittum:

Guests are invited to meet and mingle with the folks who farm this very land, including Ellen Polishuk of Potomac Vegetable Farms, Chip and Susan Planck of Wheatland Farms, Rob Moutoux Jr. of Moutoux Orchard, Barbara Lamborne of Greenstone Fields and Georgia O’ Neal and Zach Lester of Tree and Leaf Farm. A relaxed reception in the peach trees with music, horseshoes and hayrides will precede an unforgettable evening of exceptional food and wine outdoors on the farm.

Details: Tickets are $160 per person plus tax. Rain date scheduled for Saturday, June 27. Please visit, call 703.447.1757 or e-mail for reservations and more information.

Gourmet Rappahannock with Chef Cathal Armstrong:

gourmet rappahannock

Lastly, you can meet Virginia’s godfather of sustainable farming Joel Salatin next Tuesday, May 26, at the DC premier of the documentary FRESH at the Avalon. There is a pre-film reception and star-studded panel following the screening. Hope to see you there!

Panel to follow screening:
Renee Catacalos (Moderator),Editor in Chief of Edible Chesapeake
Nora Pouillon, Chef, Nora Restaurant
Kathy Ozer, Executive Director, National Family Farm Coalition
Bernadine (Bernie) Prince, Founder, Co-Director and Treasurer/Secretary of the FRESHFARM Markets
Joel Salatin, Founder, Polyface Farms
Will Allen, Founder, Growing Power
Ana Joanes, Director & Producer of FRESH

At Market: Chive Blossoms and Spring Greens

Thursday, May 21st, 2009

This week’s Market Watch features the hunt for local rhubarb, and read on for a recipe for jazzing up greens to appeal to picky kids (or grown ups).

At the Alexandria & District Markets: While strawberries are in abundance at the Del Ray Farmers Market, the first spring peas from Three Way Farm were snatched up within the first hour. I had hoped for rhubarb from the Riva farmers, but they were missing this week, sending the boy and I into the District Sunday for rhubarb and some of my favorite and more exotic fresh herbs available at the Dupont Circle FreshFarm Market. I was also thrilled to find pesticide-free (Spring Valley) and organic (Next Step) strawberries at Dupont. Spring Valley had the final ramps of the season, too, and their colorful salad green mix studded with edible flowers which inspired the recipe below.

erba stella chive blossoms spring herbs

Next Step Produce, a certified-organic farm in Charles County, MD, is always the source of some interesting new ingredient. This time, I picked up Erba Stella, an Italian herb with a fresh grassy flavor that is full of vitamins A & C. Armed with pretty lavender chive blossoms and crisp Swiss chard from the Farm at Sunnyside (also organic, and my reliable source for rhubarb), I set about to make greens that would appeal to my anti-leafy green toddler. Sometimes, it’s truly amazing the subtle changes that cause a kid to switch from disgust or indifference to devouring a dish — a lesson learned most recently when I sauteed asparagus in butter rather then my usual method of roasting them with olive oil. Suddenly, the boy was devouring the stalks off my plate and demanding seconds! (Nevermind that he called them “string beans,” sometimes taste is more important than terminology.)

For this attempt at jazzing up some colorful Swiss chard, I added a touch of butter to the cooked chard to help counter any bitterness, and let the boy help me sprinkle the “special edible flowers” into the pan. I can’t say this preparation has moved Swiss chard onto his list of favorites, but he did eat two bites before declaring that he needed to save the rest to “share with Daddy.” I’ll call that a success.

Recipe: Swiss Chard with Chive Blossoms

swiss chard chive blossoms


  • 1 bunch Swiss chard
  • 1 handful Erba Stella (optional, could add baby spinach or stick to just chard)
  • 5 chives with blossoms
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon butter
  • sea salt

Instructions: Warm olive oil in saute pan over medium heat. Rinse chard and shake to remove excess water. (Even if you’ve pre-washed your chard, rinse it again as the water is needed to wilt the greens.) Tear into 1-inch strips. Tear Erba Stella and chive stems into smaller pieces, and pinch the base of the chive blossoms to release the buds. Add all ingredients to the pan, cover, and cook for 2 minutes or until chard has just wilted. Add the butter and salt to taste, tossing gently to combine. Makes 4 servings. Enjoy!

Need more ideas for chive blossoms?
Try Asparagus Chive Quiche or Chive Blossom Baked Eggs

Opening Day at New Crystal Farms Market

Thursday, May 14th, 2009

I was thrilled to hear of a new market opening this year in Crystal City — conveniently located on my way home from the office — that takes place on Tuesdays from 3pm – 7pm. Smartly located on the stretch of Crystal Drive closest to the Metro station, the Crystal Farms Market is geared towards office dwellers on their way home and residents returning home from the District. The bright flowers and first May strawberries are a welcome burst of color amidst the concrete high rises.

crystal farms market arlington va

Some familiar favorites — Bigg Riggs of WV, Cherry Glen goat cheeses (MD), Westmoreland Berry Farms (VA), Atwater’s Bakery and Toigo Orchards (PA). New-to-me were Mount Vernon lamb and several other bakeries, including Alexandria’s Great Harvest Bread Co. The dueling charcuterie hawkers advertised as participating (Red Apron and Meatcrafters) were nowhere to be found, but this market had a great selection of vendors for opening day and is sure to be a popular draw as the season progresses.

crystal farms market arlington va

We picked up some lovely shitake mushrooms from Bigg Riggs which went into a fast scramble with eggs and an aged goat cheese (local but not from the market). Yum!