Archive for September, 2010

Know Your Farmer: Rappahannock County Farm Tour This Weekend

Friday, September 24th, 2010

Do you know where your food comes from? Sure, you go to the market, exchange a few pleasantries with the farmer as you shell out cash for those locally-grown carrots or free-range eggs, but do you really know where they come from? This weekend is the first of several fall farm tours around the DC area — the perfect opportunity to take the kids out to see where their food comes from, up close and personal.

Virginia’s Rappahannock County Farm Tour takes place Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 25-26. Participating farms include Mount Vernon Farm and the Farm at Sunnyside, two farms whose names might be familiar if you’ve dined at any of DC’s farm-to- table restaurants. Farms are naturally kid-friendly, and this tour promises baby calves, sheep-herding demonstrations and more. Visit the website for more information.

The Loudoun County Fall Color Farm Tour takes place October 15-16, mark your calendar!

{Savoring September} Nectarine Gelato

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

I wasn’t kidding about squeezing every last bit of summer out of the month. Today may be the first day of fall, but don’t pack up the ice cream maker just yet. It’s supposed to reach 90 degrees in DC again today, and you can still find sweet white nectarines at the farmers market. So I implore you, take some home and make a batch of this sweet summer gelato before it’s too late. (Or, save it for some of those peaches you froze for winter. Ice cream is a year-round food, in my opinion.)

Recipe: Nectarine Gelato

Ingredients:

  • 5 medium-sized nectarines
  • 5 egg yolks (preferably from your local egg farmer)
  • 2 cups cream-top whole milk (or just whole milk)
  • 1 cup organic cane sugar, divided
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla paste (or extract)
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Instructions: Coarsely chop nectarines (no need to peel) and place them in a non-reactive saucepan. Combine with 1/2 cup sugar, lemon juice, vanilla, almond extract and nutmeg and bring to a simmer over medium low heat. Simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until fruit is soft and you can mash it with the back of the spoon. Let cool, then puree in a blender or food processor.

In a heavy-bottomed pot, warm milk and the other 1/2 cup of sugar over medium heat just until bubbles begin to appear and sugar is dissolved, stirring occasionally.

In a mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolks well for about a minute. Ladle the warm milk into the egg yolks, whisking continuously, one spoonful at a time until you’ve incorporated about half the milk into the eggs. Then pour the eggs/milk back into the remaining milk in the pot. Cook, stirring frequently, over medium low heat until the mixture thickens slightly and coats the back of your spoon. Remove from heat, stir in the nectarine purée and let cool. Transfer to a bowl or pitcher, cover, and chill overnight or for at least 8 hours in the refrigerator.

Process the chilled mixture according to your ice cream maker’s instructions. I have the KitchenAid ice cream maker and mix it on medium low for about 12 minutes. Transfer to a tupperware container and freeze until firm, about 4 more hours. Makes 1 quart. Enjoy!

Note: You can adjust the sugar in the nectarines according to the sweetness of your fruit.

In the Bag: Baked Ratatouille

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

It’s been a while since I’ve shared what we’ve been getting in our CSA bag, from Potomac Vegetable Farms. Of course tomatoes were the star over the past month or so, along with lots of beans, onions and garlic. Oddly, we went for three weeks without a zucchini, only to get two small ones last week. And of course now that my own, once-prolific basil succumbed in our last crushing heat wave, we aren’t getting it from the CSA either. As summer winds down, we continue to get peppers and squash (though summer squash is giving way to butternut), and eggplant.

Now I find eggplant quite lovely to look out, but they’ve been piling up in my fridge as I lacked the motivation to make something with them. I finally decided to try a ratatouille and searched the food blogs for inspiration. I came across this one from Smitten Kitchen, inspired by the movie. Well, duh. If a rat could make something delicious out of it, surely I could. Unfortunately the movie endorsement didn’t hold much sway with the boy, who declared that “only rats eat ratatouille!” I happened to find it quite delicious, with the addition of some cherry tomatoes from our garden and freshly-grated parmesan cheese. And aside from slicing the vegetables (which you can do earlier in the day, if you have time), it’s relatively fast as you simply arrange the sliced squash, peppers and eggplant in the baking dish, season, and toss in the oven. Make a side salad while it cooks and voila, a simple meatless supper to savor the waning days of summer. Enjoy!

Recipe: Baked Ratatouille
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients:

  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 eggplant
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 cup crushed tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 tablespoon dried oregano (unless you have fresh on hand)
  • sea salt
  • pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil (plus more to oil baking dish)

Instructions: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Brush shallow baking dish with olive oil. Thinly slice the zucchini, eggplant and pepper. In the baking dish, spread tomato sauce on the bottom. Add garlic, and a pinch of salt. Over the sauce, arrange alternating slices of zucchini, pepper and eggplant in rows across the dish. Season with another pinch of salt and pepper.

Sprinkle oregano over vegetables, then tuck cherry tomato halves in between the rows. Drizzle olive oil over the top. Cover with a piece of parchment paper, trimmed to fit inside the pan. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until vegetables are tender when pricked with a fork. Remove from oven and sprinkle parmesan cheese over top. Serve warm or cold. Makes 4 servings.


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Savoring September

Tuesday, September 7th, 2010

I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels a sense of dread and anxiety when the “back to school” displays appear in stores each summer. With a mid-August birthday, my birthday gift was often a new back-to-school wardrobe. While shopping for fall clothes is still a favorite activity, I still can’t help but panic at the thought of summer winding down as Labor Day approaches.

But then I take a deep breath and remember that fall is my favorite season. Sure, I’ll always wish we had eaten outside more and spent more time at the beach, but in reality, July and August are just too muggy and buggy to spend much time outside around here. Warm temperatures linger into September or October, the humidity fades, and there’s no reason we can’t still picnic and grill well into autumn. In fact, while the Foodie Tot began Pre-K this past week (after turning four last weekend, as pictured above), this is the last year we won’t be dealing with the back-to-school scramble for, well, many years. So why not take advantage of it? Sure, we didn’t make it to the Pacific Northwest this summer, but we are headed to Florida later this month to celebrate my niece’s fifth birthday — and there will be much beach time then.

So rather than lament the time that’s passed, we’re savoring the overlap of seasons. At the farmers market Friday morning, I spotted peaches intermingled with fall’s first Honeycrisp apples and pears. Watermelon and acorn squash side by side. There’s no reason to give up summer just because fall is creeping in.

Here’s my “extended summer” to-do list. What’s on yours?

  • make homemade lemonade
  • eat outside — on a weeknight
  • eat carnitas on homemade tortillas
  • picnic by the riverthis is something the boy and I used to do when my husband had softball games after work. with the baby, we never got to it this summer.
  • watch the sunset at the beachfortunately my sister lives on the west coast of Florida
  • crab picking one last time at Quarterdeck – did you know Chesapeake crabs are in season until Columbus Day? and that fall crabs are meatier?

the Foodie Tot with Nama, Uncle J, and a crab

Spitting Encouraged

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

When was the last time your kids participated in a spitting contest? No, not spitting at each other — spitting watermelon seeds?

One summer when I was growing up, our local library’s summer reading contest culminated in a summer festival. I remember the highlight was, not the free books we’d earned, but facing off against my little brother in a seed-spitting contest. My son has a while to wait before he can challenge his little sister to a contest, but he does know to spit out the black seeds when eating watermelon. But with the rise of seedless watermelons in the grocery store, will that lesson become irrelevant?

The Washington Post‘s Jane Black examines the issue in today’s paper. I won’t give away my stance on seeds vs. seedless, though loyal readers will likely guess … but read the article to see what I and others had to say. (And that lovely seeded melon pictured above? From our CSA farm.)

What’s your stance? Pro-spitting? Or are seeds too much hassle for today’s busy children? ;-)

(This is actually the second time I’ve been quoted in the Post talking about watermelon. I guess that makes me a melon expert, right? If you’ve got a fresh melon around this holiday weekend, you might enjoy my Watermelon Gazpacho and/or Slushie recipes.)