Posts Tagged ‘NoVA Locavore’

Get Fresh! in Alexandria

Thursday, October 8th, 2009

Virginia’s home-grown farming hero Joel Salatin rocked the big screen this summer, appearing in not one but two food blockbusters, Food Inc. and Fresh. Okay, maybe they weren’t blockbusters in the traditional sense of the word, but if you care about what’s on your plate, and where it comes from, they are required viewing. And if you’re in DC/Northern Virginia, you’ve got another chance to see a special screening of Fresh here in Alexandria with local food samples from our town’s best gourmet providers and a panel discussion with Joel Salatin himself. Here are the details, hope to see you there!

Fresh-IconAlexandria Gets “Fresh” On October 20th, Flavor Magazine, a number of local businesses and Councilman Rob Krupicka will host a screening of the movie Fresh. The event will be held at the GW Masonic Memorial.

6-7PM is the “Sample Hour” where we’ll have local food samples from Kingsbury Chocolates, Grape + Bean, Cheesetique, Food Matters, Mom Made Foods, and more.

7-8:15 PM We’ll watch the movie

8:15 – 9:15 We’ll have a panel discussion with Joel Salatin, the owner of Polyface farm, Melissa Harris, the editor of Flavor magazine, Bernie Prince from Fresh Farm Markets, Dr. Ruby Lathon from PCRM, Tom Przystawik from Food Matters and Robert Wiedmaier of Brabo. Councilman Rob will be moderating the discussion. Please come and please invite others to come.

There is a voluntary contribution of $10 that will go to support the Alive Food Bank and to provide it with locally produced, fresh food.

Please RSVP so we can have enough food!  Send RSVP to:  white_tortoise1@msn.com

(Thanks to Jasmine at Knitting 40 Shades of Green for the tip!)

One Local Cherry Spare Ribs and Squash

Monday, July 6th, 2009

one local summer 2009We had a July 4th engagement party/barbecue to attend this year {congrats R & A!}, so the menu was out of our hands. The boy and I did make a cherry cobbler to take, though (recipe coming soon). And then we grilled Sunday night instead, a batch of Cheerwine-marinated spare ribs with eggplant and summer squash.

Cheerwine, for those who’ve never had it, is a cherry soda produced in North Carolina. We enjoyed routine deliveries while my little brother was stationed at Ft. Bragg, but have had it less frequently since he relocated.  While made outside the One Local Summer (OLS) 100ish-mile challenge border, we found it while stopping in a Food Lion on Virginia’s Northern Neck to stock up on another regional favorite, Northern Neck ginger ale. I don’t usually drink soda, let alone douse my dinner in high-fructose corn syrup*, but once a year or so we embrace our adopted Southern home and make Cheerwine ribs. This version used small pork spare ribs that were quickly grilled; lower and slower grilling will produce more tender ribs, but this was just fine for an easy meal to wrap up the long weekend. To up the health/OLS factor, we brushed the ribs with a fresh cherry glaze. I prefer a semi-tart cherry like Rainier or Queen Anne, but be warned that those produce a yellow sauce — so go with classic red cherries if you want that red color.

Recipe: Cheerwine Spare Ribs with Cherry Glaze

cheerwine marinated spare ribsIngredients:

Marinade:

  • 1.5 lb. pork spare ribs
  • sea salt
  • pepper
  • 2 garlic scapes, thinly sliced
  • 1 can Cheerwine (or other cherry cola)

Glaze:

  • 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
  • 1 spring onion, white portion, minced
  • 1 cup cherries, pitted and halved
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar

cherry glazeIngredients: Season spare ribs with salt and pepper and place in shallow glass pan in a single layer. Sprinkle with scapes and pour Cheerwine over. Cover and let sit in refrigerator (turning if Cheerwine does not completely cover ribs) at least one hour, preferably half a day or longer. To make the glaze, put all ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium low heat. Simmer on low until cherries are falling apart, about 20 minutes. Smash cherries with a fork or blend glaze in a food processor or blender until combined.

To cook the ribs, heat the grill to medium high. Reduce to medium and cook ribs for 3 minutes per side. Brush with cherry glaze and cook an additional minute per side. Serve with additional glaze (“cherry ketchup” for dipping if that appeals to your kids.) Serves 4. Enjoy!

cherry glazed ribs and grilled squash

Farms of Origin: Smith Meadows Farm (VA, spare ribs), Kuhn Orchard (PA, Queen Anne cherries), Potomac Vegetable Farms (VA, scapes, spring onion, zucchini), Three Way Farm (VA, eggplant, pattypan squash), VA honey. (*You can find glass-bottled Cheerwine made with the original cane sugar formula, but they’re even harder to come by this far north.)

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

Ingredients:

  • 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

At Market: West Virginia Ramp Crepes

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

In typical DC fashion, we jumped from unseasonably cool to 90 degrees this past weekend. Toddler in tow, I made it out to the markets a little earlier this time and successfully obtained my two wishlist items: ramps and asparagus. At the Old Town Alexandria market, the khaki-colored umbrellas of Bigg Riggs farm were a welcome oasis in a sea of dubious-origin produce. Melon, tomatoes and corn in April? Right…. I hope more local vendors will join Bigg Riggs as the season goes on, but unfortunately Old Town continues to disappoint those of us looking for authentic local produce. (Blue Ridge Dairy was there, and local bakers, but this market’s strength is its fresh flower vendors.

ramps wild leeks bigg riggs

Back at the Del Ray Farmers Market, Three Way Farms was rapidly unloading their fresh asparagus, even at the price of $5.50/lb. Fresh spinach was the last of my produce purchases before moving on for yogurt, cheese, ground beef and pasta. The warm weather crowds bode well for the season, though the small market space will quickly become crowded when fresh berries and more produce start rolling in in the next few weeks.

asparagus three way farm va

The West End Farmers Market re-opens this Sunday, May 3rd, in Ben Brenman Park. Tom the Cheese Guy was eager to let us know he’ll be joined there by a Virginia winery, North Gate, though the city forbids sampling their products at the market. At any rate, West End’s more spacious set-up — and wider array of vendors this year — make it great for a more relaxing stroll with meandering kids (or dogs – Lisa will be back with her homemade dog treats, too). The market is on Sundays, 9am-1pm; read more about this year’s vendors here.

Back to my finds… Sunday the toddler was in the early stages of a stomach bug, and requested pancakes for dinner. While he got plain old pancakes with maple syrup (I have a feeling he would have declared the ramps “too spicy!” but will have to test that another time), I used some of my ramps in a scallion pancake-inspired crepe, filled with leftover roast chicken. The quick and simple preparation let the ramps’ pungent garlicky flavor shine through, yum! Served along with simple roasted asparagus, this quick spring meal was perfect for breaking in our picnic table for the season. (Just be sure to stock up on breath mints before enjoying.)

Recipe: Ramp (Wild Leek*) Crepes

Ingredients:

  • 1 handful ramps, rinsed and thinly sliced
    - reserve some of the green portion for garnish
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • pinch ground black pepper
  • 2 cups cooked chicken meat, pulled into chunks
  • butter

Instructions: Beat eggs and milk in mixing bowl. Whisk in flour, salt and pepper until batter is smooth. Stir in ramps and let batter stand while you prepare the filling. Heat crepe pan or skillet over medium high heat. Melt a pat of butter in the pan. Pour crepe batter in a quick swirl to make a circular shape. Cook until just set and flip; cook just a minute or two more and remove from pan. Watch closely to keep crepes from browning. Fold in half and place on warm plate while you cook the remaining batter. Spoon warm cooked chicken (tossed with vinaigrette if desired) into crepes and serve. Makes a dozen or so 3-inch crepes.

* What’s a Ramp? Also called a wild leek, these delicate-looking little plants pack the flavor of a more potent spring onion and stench of fresh garlic. Use the whole thing, bulbs and leaves. They grow in the wild at elevations above 2000 feet, only in the mid-Atlantic region for a few weeks in early spring. For more ramp inspiration, visit Tiffany over at The Garden Apartment.

At Market: Chesapeake Oysters and Arugula

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

This past week finally saw some beautiful spring weather, and market hopping was a lesson in patience and perseverance as the spring crops are only just beginning to roll in. At Penn Quarter last Thursday, morels had sold out within an hour, so I settled for black trumpet mushrooms. Another customer snatched the last two bundles of baby beets at Sunnyside, so it was Harukei turnips for me. The turnips and their greens found themselves sautéed with garlic, salt pork (from Cibola Farms) and the mushrooms.

A beautiful Saturday morning drew a huge crowd to the Del Ray market, a drastic improvement from the rainy washout the week before. Three Way Farm of Warsaw, Va., was back with spring onions, greens and a limited stock of asparagus that sold out early. They assured us there will be plenty more asparagus the next couple weeks, and mentioned that strawberries are just two weeks away. The herbs and seedlings folks were doing a brisk business as people snatched up tomato, chard and other plants for their own gardens. St. Elmo’s was back serving coffee to accompany the plethora of baked goods from Bonaparte, Marcela’s and Vera’s. The most popular items – asparagus, Tom’s cave-aged cheddar, Smith Meadow’s fresh pastas – sold out before 11am. Clearly demand for fresh, local produce continues despite the economy.

at the markets

The quest for asparagus drove me to Dupont Circle’s FreshFarm market on Sunday, but I was too late once again. (Didn’t score any ramps, either.) There I consoled myself with one final pint of Buster’s Chesapeake oysters, the last until fall. Those were pan-fried and served atop chives and arugula (for me), on their own as “oyster nuggets” for the toddler. I tend to prefer oysters from further north, as I like a strong briny flavor, but I was pleasantly surprised the first time I tasted Buster’s local oysters. They are large, sweet and meaty, with a more subtle saltiness, a blend of flavors that transports you to a dockside perch on a warm summer day. (And you know, they help clean up the Bay.)

Recipe: Chesapeake Bay Oysters on Arugula

Ingredients:

  • 1 dozen raw oysters, drained
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup corn meal
  • 1 tablespoon Old Bay seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 bunch arugula, rinsed
  • several sprigs chives, chopped
  • raspberry vinaigrette
  • lemon wedges

Instructions:

Heat oil in skillet over medium high heat. Combine flour, corn meal and Old Bay in a small bowl. Gently roll oysters in mixture to coat, place in pan and fry until golden brain. Drain on paper towels. Toss arugula and chives with vinaigrette and place on plate. Top with oysters and serve with lemon wedges. Enjoy!