Tag Archives: local

Somewhat Weekly Recipe: Smashed Sunchokes

Every so often, we get a vegetable from the CSA that is a little daunting to use.  I’ve been perplexed by Romanesco, celery root, and black radish at first.  There have been vegetables that I’ve been just overwhelmed with when the season and conditions were so perfect for them that they produced in abundance. (See anything I wrote about squash last year, but also I usually get fed up with lettuce and any baby greens by the middle of May)  But even those things were either stored or grated into stir-fries or stews or salads so that nothing went to waste.  The only vegetable that consistently stumped me was the sunchoke.

The knobby, wrinkled oddity that is the Sunchoke.

The knobby, wrinkled oddity that is the sunchoke.

For some reason, when I’ve researched recipes for the sunchoke (also known as Jerusalem Artichoke) I found only old-style techniques that involved peeling it, which was frustrating and wasted lots of the vegetable because of all the deep crevices.  And the recipes were either bland (boiling it and serving with salt and pepper) or seemed intent on disguising its mild flavor completely (gratin and hot sauce). The time and effort just didn’t seem worth the result.  It wasn’t until this week that I learned that peeling is optional (!) which made me far more patient with experimenting with its unique and delicate flavor.  The result is a side dish that’s as comforting as a bowl of creamy mashed potatoes, but with less work, more fiber, and less calories.  I think I’ve found a new vegetable to love…finally.

Smashed Sunchokes

  • Clean equal-ish  amounts of sunchokes and potatoes.  Leave the skins on :) You may need to cube the potatoes if they are large…the pieces of potatoes and sunchokes should be roughly the same size.
A bowl of cleaned sunchokes, skin-on.

A bowl of cleaned sunchokes, skin-on.

  • Fill a large pot with water, salted if you wish, and get those tubers boiling.  Keep them going until fork-tender, then drain.
About the same amount of potatoes, cleaned and skin-on.  Did you know most of the nutrients in potatoes are just under the skin?

About the same amount of potatoes, cleaned and skin-on. Did you know most of the nutrients in potatoes are just under the skin?

  • Put the empty pot back on a low burner.  Toss in some real butter and swizzle around the bottom of the pot.  Then dump the veggies back in, and smash with an old-fashioned potato masher.  The idea is to soften everything into comfort-food consistency, but still have lumps.  Why?  Well, the peels and the sunchokes will not get as smooth as the potatoes.  Don’t even try.  Go for lumps, and celebrate them.  Salt and pepper to taste, and serve warm.
Like so much comfort food, this bowl of Smashed Sunchokes is not particulary pretty.  But your tummy will think they're beautiful.

Like so much comfort food, this bowl of Smashed Sunchokes is not particularly pretty. But your tummy will think they’re beautiful.

I am really happy that I have finally made peace with the sunchoke, as it’s practically the definition of eating locally and seasonally in Anne Arundel County.  They were being cultivated by the Native Americans when the first explorers came here.  The plants, which look like very tall, multi-stemmed sunflowers, grow prolifically in our climate.  They are perennial, so they will come back year after year, with little work on the gardener’s part.  And they are easy to store…just  leave them in the ground until you are hungry!  They will keep until mid-February, when they start to sprout.  Or store them at home however you store your potatoes.  Fresh vegetables all winter long…and no canning or peeling required!

Please share any recipes that you have for sunchokes.  I’m eager to expand my recipe base for these slightly lemon-y, slightly potato-y, low carb vegetable.

 

 

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Somewhat Weekly Recipe: Brown Rice Pasta with Sausage and Kale

Despite the shenanigans of the past week, it seems that nothing is ever so stressful that it puts me off my feed!  Thank goodness for our winter CSA, and relationships with local farmers.  Instead of completely reverting to processed junk food during trying times, I can still make satisfying comfort food using healthful ingredients.  My waistband may not know the difference, but at least my liver should be grateful that I’m pigging out on seasonal and chemical-free food.  This concoction was inspired both by an old stand-by of mine from my misguided high-carb youth, and a recent kale-and-bacon recipe from Things My Belly Likes.

What could be more comforting during these cold, wet days of winter than a warm meal based on pork, cheese, and pasta?

Brown Rice Pasta with Sausage and Kale

Heat some olive oil in a large skillet, brown 1/2 pound of crumbled Italian sausage.  Add finely sliced onions and diced mushrooms, and 4 cups of cleaned, chopped kale. (No, it’s not too much kale, trust me!)  Add salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste.  Toss together, cover the skillet, and turn the heat to low.

Four cups of kale cooks down and snuggles in with sausage, onions, and mushrooms.

Four cups of kale cooks down and snuggles in with sausage, onions, and mushrooms.

In a medium pot, cook 1/2 package of brown rice spaghetti according to directions.  Meanwhile, grate 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese and thinly slice the green stalks of 4-6 scallions.

The brown rice pasta makes this dish gluten-free.  Feel free to substitute wheat products if you are not sensitive.

The brown rice pasta makes this dish gluten-free. Feel free to substitute wheat products if you are not sensitive.

Drain the cooked pasta, and add a touch more olive oil to coat the bottom of the pot.  Toss the pasta in with the sausage/kale mixture until well-coated.  Add the scallions and Parmesan.  Serve with crushed hot pepper.

There are so many layers of texture and flavor in this two-pot recipe.  So rich and comforting!

There are so many layers of texture and flavor in this two-pot recipe. So rich and comforting!

This makes a main course for two people.  If these two people are extra-hungry, add a fresh salad made of hoop-house greens tossed with oil and vinegar with some finely-chopped fresh winter veggies. If you are really watching your carbs, you could eliminate the pasta entirely, and just add a few more cups of kale to the original skillet (and cut down the housekeeping to just one dirty pot, to boot!)

Enjoy, and stay warm.

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Somewhat Weekly Recipe: Braised Mock Tender

This recipe came out of one of my self-imposed cooking challenges, wherein I have committed to using every cut of beef I can find, at least once.

In one sense, the challenge is even trickier because, at least for us, it requires the services of a butcher, to say nothing of the other hands required to transform a field of grass into a serving of meat for our table. ( And I am dead-set serious about knowing where our food comes from and how the animals lived, and died, to become ingredients for our meal). Luckily, we have crossed paths with some adventurous farmers and butchers during this quest. I don’t even know how many different cuts of beef exist…it seems each cow will offer up a different combination, and I am very appreciative of the knowledge and craftsmanship that is needed to maximize the gifts of each animal.

Cow

Grassfed animals (photo courtesy of Eat Wild)

So, all that being said, what ended up in our cooler last week was a new-to-me cut called ” mock tender“. I researched text and web to get some information, without much success. It seems to be a pretty rare piece of beef ( yes, you can wince now.) The most helpful recipe I found was on Jersey Cook. I adapted it to what is in season and in our pantry now.

This is a very camera-shy recipe. My poor photography skills are familiar to you, but even Jersey Cook commented that she had a hard time taking a good picture. The taste, though, is wonderful. The beef flavor is true, and the slices are tender enough to use a spoon. The mix of colors, textures, and flavors hits all parts of the mouth. And, like all good stews, the leftovers were even better.

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Braised Mock Tender Winter Stew. The flavor is far more vibrant than my picture.

Braised Mock Tender Winter Stew
(I used my largest covered pot throughout this recipe. The slow-cooker would have been great, but it was being used to cook pork for the pets. Priorities, you know.)
Our mock tender came in the form of a roast. It was about 2 pounds, the size and shape of a toy football. If you have the time, you could slice it into steaks up front. I left it as a roast to the end.

  1. Heat 1 TBL olive oil in a large, heavy pot. Season the beef with salt and pepper, and then brown on all sides. Remove beef from pan for more work space.
  2. Reduce heat to medium and add 3 sliced carrots, 1 large chopped yellow onion, and finely chopped garlic to (garlic powder would work here, too) Stir while heating gently, until the onions are translucent and the carrots soften.
  3. At this point, you need to add an acid to help break down the collagen in the meat during stewing, as well as a liquid to keep everything moist. Red wine and beef stock are usual, but that would have put a too big a dent in our pantry. I used 1/2 cup dry vermouth to deglaze the pan, and then added one can of diced tomatoes. Use what you have, remembering you can always add flavor as you go, but you can’t take it out if it’s overpowering. For seasoning, I keep it simple with thyme (fresh or dried) and bay leaves.
  4. Swizzle everything around, then add the beef back to the pot, add water to cover, put the lid on, and turn down to a low simmer. The roast took 4 hours to get the texture I wanted. If you cut it into mock tender steaks first, the time would be about half.
  5. At least a half hour before serving ( a whole day, in my case) add 3 or 4 cups of fresh spinach ( a bag of frozen spinach is fine). No, it’s not too much greenery…it cooks down, and it’s good for you, anyway. Then fold in 2 cups cooked cannelleni beans ( that’s one can of white beans, drained). Heat everything through, gently.

What you will have is a one-pot meal, and a great way to stretch 2 pounds of an inexpensive cut of meat. The vegetables are seasonal or pantry staples, which is another way to keep grocery bills in check. This is lighter than the standard meat-and-potatoes stew, with loads of fiber and nutrients from all the veggies.

Adapt this to use any tough-but-flavorful cut of beef you have. Let me know if you discover any tips or tweaks to make this even better. Enjoy!

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Somewhat Weekly Recipe: White Pizza, Chesapeake Style

I am almost embarrassed to affix the title “Somewhat Weekly” to this recipe, since it’s been more than a week-or-so since I’ve last shared a kitchen adventure.  I’m hoping that the ‘somewhat’ has given me a generous grace period.  And, in my defense, I’ve been spending a lot of time in recipe development over the past few weeks.  So here’s one of our creations, emphasizing both the seasonal and local aspects of my cooking quests.

I was so fortunate to be exposed to a wide variety of food while growing up, as well as a ‘make-do’ philosophy when it came to cooking and sharing food among the mix of cultures in our city neighborhood.  Techniques and spices seemed to be the key to identifying the ‘cuisine’ rather than the actual ingredients (purchased, foraged, donated or shared)

When I was entrusted, for the first time in 10 years,  to cook the shucked oysters we received as a very generous Christmas gift, I tried to add a little of my own history while still respecting the particular flavor and origin of sweet, fresh Chesapeake oysters.  Here is my creation…New York City meets New Haven meets Southern Maryland waters.  Enjoy!

Chesapeake White Pizza

  1. Chop 1 pint of oysters, and set aside to drain. (Save the liquor for another recipe!).  Preheat your oven to 500 degrees. (“White pies” usually use littleneck clams…enjoy the abundance of your environment)

    DSC04528

    Chopped Chesapeake oysters and shredded Parmesan. The beginning of a beautiful friendship. (photo courtesy of Chesapeake Fish and Beer)

  2. Meanwhile, heat 2TBL of olive oil in a saute pan. Dice a medium-sized yellow onion and some garlic cloves.  (We used about 5 cloves, which may be strong for some, but on the other hand, we have never been bitten by vampires)  If you have access to fresh herbs, grab some fresh oregano and strip the stems.  Dry oregano will work, too….just a pinch. Add all the ingredients in this step into the hot pan, and heat, stirring frequently, until the onions are translucent. Toss in some salt and pepper to taste.  Set aside the onion mixture, and save the oil.

    DSC04526

    Diced onions, garlic, and fresh oregano, in olive oil. (photo courtesy of Chesapeake Fish and Beer)

  3. We use a purchased gluten-free pizza crust, but make or buy whatever crust you prefer.  (Traditionally, a white pizza has a thin and crispy crust.) Brush the crust with the oil from the saute pan.  Leave a bit around the edge dry.

    DSC04530

    Gluten-free pizza crust, brushed with seasoned olive oil and festooned with real mozzerella (photo courtesy of Chesapeake Fish and Beer)

  4. Layer the oiled crust with some real mozzerella cheese.  Not the pre-shredded kind with additives…it won’t work.  (Plus, it’s just nasty.  No need for chemicals in cheese…use real food!) We are fortunate to know someone who makes mozzerella weekly.  You can make your own, or get some from the market if you don’t know a cheesemaker.  When the pie bakes, the seasoned oil and mozzerella mix together, and form the white sauce.  This is key to the white pizza experience, so no cheating on the cheese! Now add some finely-grated Parmesan.  I love good cheese.

    DSC04531

    This just gets better and better! Now the finely-grated Parmesan has joined the fun. You can even see that the oven is really set all the way to 500 degrees, too. (photo courtesy of Chespeake Fish and Beer)

  5. Now toss the drained oysters with the onion mixture from Step 2. Gently spread this over the cheese-covered pizza crust, keeping a dry edge.

    DSC04532

    Oysters and onions on board! (photo courtesy of Chesapeake Fish and Beer)

  6. Bake at 500 degrees, checking after 10 minutes until done.  You are looking for the formation of white sauce under the oysters, for one.  If you are going with the traditional style, you will also be looking for the bottom of the crust to be brown and crispy.
  7. Sprinkle with fresh parsley, if you have it.  If you don’t have it, skip this step.  Dried parsley has no place on this pizza.

    DSC04533

    Pizza perfect! Using local herbs, vegetables, and oysters for a new spin on a classic recipe (photo courtesy of Chesapeake Fish and Beer)

This is a messy pizza, so let it cool a bit before slicing.  We sprinkle ours with crushed hot pepper, too, but that is one of my multi-cultural quirks.

I know this seafood-and-cheese combo is strange for many people…but trust me (and millions of other pizza lovers in the North East)  This combo is fantastic, and the oysters truly do make a lovely complement to the other flavors.  We plan on making this again, and sharing it with the folks that provide our oysters.

If there’s a theme to this recipe, it would be, “honor your history, and embrace your present”. Or just, “eat what you’ve got”!

 

 

 

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Still Shopping? I’m Listening.

I wish I had the resources to grab my displays and put on a full-out trunk show for everyone who is asking about Angel’s Share fused glass. What a fun whirlwind that would be! And the appreciation and support is really heart-warming.

My glass-making skills outstrip my photography skills.  Still, you may get a glimpse of the deep color and glow of these handmade gems.

My glass-making skills outstrip my photography skills. Still, you may get a glimpse of the deep color and glow of these handmade gems.

Alas, once again I am constrained by both the laws of physics and my own physical limitations. So for those of you in Anne Arundel County and neighboring areas, who are still looking for last-minute gifts, and would love something made locally and by hand, by a real person with a face and a name, I’ve added links to the right sidebar  where my work can be found. Hopefully, that list will grow, as each outlet has its own vibe, and they’ve chosen different styles to showcase.

Lillie Pad Studios features my Artifact line, with raw edges and mixed materials.

The Angel's Share Artifact series is always changing, depending on what materials I've foraged. These three pieces include salvaged window glass, copper mesh, electrical wiring, steel cable, and ground glass powder, as a start.

The Angel’s Share Artifact series is always changing, depending on what materials I’ve foraged. These three pieces include salvaged window glass, copper mesh, electrical wiring, steel cable, and ground glass powder, for a start.

There’s a lot of repurposed inclusions in these pieces, scavenged from houses undergoing renovation. And owner Michelle Lillie is an amazing glass-blower, with a great variety of her work available as well. The upstairs Gallery features work by several local fine artists, including paintings and sculptures. For a really unforgettable gift, package a pair of Angel’s Share earrings with a voucher for one of the glass-blowing or ceramics classes offered at the Studio.

Ridgely Retreat in West Annapolis is showcasing my Angel Stacks this winter.

I try to nudge the colors for the Angel Stacks, but really, the outcome is up to the whim of the kin gods.  Yeah,  I know there's science in there too, but I prefer to believe in magic.

I try to nudge the colors for the Angel Stacks, but really, the outcome is up to the whim of the kiln gods. Yeah, I know there’s science in there too, but I prefer to believe in magic.

Tailored in shape, yet full of fire and color, these pieces will bring a sparkle to the grayest of days. Ridgely Retreat is such a warm and peaceful place, consider it a gift to yourself just to drop by and enjoy a cup of herbal tea while you shop. And in the spirit of loving-kindness, couple an Angel’s Share pendant with a certificate for a massage or a yoga class offered on site.

And both locations have abundant, free parking! How’s that for taking the stress out of last-minute shopping?

Happy Holidays, and wishes for the most wonderful of New Year’s.

This sign from an Annapolis shop says it all. (photo courtesy of South Jersey Locavore)

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Somewhat Weekly Recipe: Brown Sugar Scrub

Let’s think outside of the box now that the holidays are approaching. Recipes don’t have to be just about food…although this luscious face scrub is definitely edible. Make up a full batch for yourself ( it works great as an all-over body scrub in the shower, too). And be sure to make some extra to package in pretty canning jars to give as gifts. This smells heavenly and is very luxurious, so you’ll want to share the joy!

As with any cooking endeavor, make sure that the tools are super-clean before starting. A pinch of Vitamin C or a few drops of Grapefruit Seed Extract will help preserve the concoction for a few weeks. Of course, anything kept in a warm, moist bathroom is prone to spoilage after a while. But this recipe is so easy, it’s all the more reason to indulge in a facial often, and mix up some more of this gentle, hydrating scrub whenever supplies get low.

Brown Sugar Scrub

Mix 1 cup brown sugar with 8 tablespoons of good-quality oil (such as jojoba, avocado, or even olive) until evenly coated.

There are so many carrier oils that are perfect for this scrub, so you can tailor the recipe to your own skin’s needs.

Optional: for soothing sensitive skin, grind 3 Tablespoons of oatmeal to a fine powder and add to the mixture. If more fragrance is desired, you can add up to 20 drops of essential oil. (Cinnamon, orange, and bergamot are especially nice with the scent of brown sugar, but have fun experimenting with your own combinations.)

That’s right…plain old oatmeal is a great ingredient for soothing itchy winter skin.

Store in a clean, air-tight container. Apply in gentle circles to wet skin. For extra moisturizing, let the scrub sit for 5 minutes before rinsing.

So simple to make, Homemade Brown Sugar Scrub will be your go-to solution for glowing skin.

Yup, that’s all there is to it!

I get my carrier oils and essential oils from Mountain Rose Herbs (click on the icon to the left on the home page, just above the calendar, to let them know you heard about them here.)  I get my jars from Cape True Value, or Graul’s.

No more spending $20 for a small jar of manufactured “natural” product filled with unpronounceable ingredients from questionable sources. You’ll get fabulous results, and soft clean skin for just pennies per use. And you’ll know exactly what’s gone into making this artisan scrub. Cooking up cosmetics in your very own kitchen…you can’t get much more “homemade” than that!

 

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Next Saturday, Support Local Business

Next Saturday, November 24, is the Third National Small Business Saturday.

The most courageous shoppers fight the crowds at the large retailers on Black Friday. Turkey-stuffed office workers hit the online vendors on Cyber Monday. But during the weekend in between is a shopping day that we can all support, and, to paraphrase Charles Dickens,  ”honor…and try to keep it all the year.”

According to research by American Express, last year over 100 million people came out to support independently-owned businesses on the second annual Small Business Saturday. And studies have shown that for every $100 spent at a locally-owned business, $68 goes back to the local economy, versus $43 from national chain store.

Support local businesses, in Annapolis, Severna Park, Glen Burnie, Pasadena…and all the other towns in Anne Arundel County. We’d miss them if they were gone!

Does this quote from Jeff Milchen ring true?

When asked to name our favorite restaurant, cafe, or shop, we almost always cite a unique local business (look at the results in any “Best of” polls as proof). We embrace the idea of distinctive businesses with local character, but often forget their survival depends on our patronage. (The Benefits of Doing Business Locally)

So next Saturday, if you do need to purchase something, show your support for the community by shopping local. Visit a nearby business that you’ve been meaning to check out. Return to an old favorite shop or eatery. Small businesses are what give each town it’s unique charm. Patronizing them supports our neighbors, and builds our neighborhoods. 20121117-074915.jpg

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New Local Art Gallery, and Shameless Self-Promotion

Michelle Lillie at Lillie Pad Studios has been busy creating and teaching blown glass, silversmithing, and ceramics in her tricked-out barn in Millersville.

Michelle Lillie guiding a first-time glass student.

I took an introductory hot glass class with her this week, and, although this technique is clearly not my forte, she managed to calmly help me coax a semi-recognizable flower from my clunky blob of molten glass.

This…this…is a flower that I made in my first hot glass session at Lillie Pad Studios. I was going for stark realism, so the beetle-ravaged look is entirely intentional. I swear.

 Other students’ work is much more impressive.

I try not to seethe with jealousy.

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That first-time student pictured above is a natural! Look at this gorgeous swirl of glass!

Michelle’s own work is stunning, and deserves to be appreciated.
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Michelle Lillie. Those balloons are actually blown glass!

In very welcome news, she is opening a stand-alone gallery that will showcase her creations as well as other local artists in a variety of mediums. Lillie Pad Gallery is having a grand opening this Saturday, October 27, all day and into the night. There will be food and drink (of course!) as well as artist demonstrations, hands-on activities, and a raffle for artwork.

Action shot of an artist at work.

If you are out and about Anne Arundel County on Saturday, make a point to drop by. Lillie Pad Gallery has art at a wide variety of price points, so you may even find a piece for yourself or for Holiday giving.

To make this even more exciting, work from my very own Angel’s Share Studio will be on display!

Angel’s Share Studio fused glass jewelry.

I’ll be offering my kiln-fired glass through the Gallery. For those of you that have been asking where to find my pieces, here’s a great (and convenient) venue. I’m showing my one-of-kind fused glass jewelry at this time, with prices that are friendly for collectors (meaning, you can indulge yourself when it is hard to decide on just one).

So please visit Lillie Pad Studio and Gallery.  Support local business.  Support local artists.  And have a great weekend!

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Random Harvest

(Ok, maybe the title is a bit dramatic, but I recently heard a reference to Greer Garson, and have Google-overload.)

In any case, we had an unexpected crop of Scarlet Runner Beans this weekend when we started pulling down the vines in the Three Sisters Garden.

Scarlet Runner Beans mid-summer, scrambling up a twine trellis.

After all the storms and the draught and the heat wave…after the White Pattypan plants yielded exactly two squash…after the corn in this bed failed to bear anything of consequence…we pretty much chalked up the bean plants as compost fodder.

These Scarlet Runner Bean blossoms were a great hummingbird attractant!

The blossoms were lovely, to be sure, and the vines definitely warmed up the otherwise forbidding privacy wall between units.

Even as they thin out in October, the Scarlet Runner Bean vines add a pleasing touch of green to this privacy fence.

But there were no beans in sight before we went out of town 10 days ago, and our fall cleanup plan involved tearing down the vines and rethinking our planting strategy for that dark area.

Lo and behold, once we started demolition, there were treasures to be found. (Kind of a running motif in my life, isn’t it?)

Pail of Scarlet Runner Beans…most are about 8 inches long. Even the pail was rescued from a demo project!

About two quarts of big fat beans, as a matter of fact.

Just enough to dry beans for one pot of soup, later in the winter.

And some to use fresh for a quick dice-and-sauté with leftover rabbit stew tonight.

So crisp and sweet, just a few of these giant Scarlet Runner Bean pods are enough for a side dish.

With a handful left over to plant again, somewhere, next spring.

Beautiful dried Scarlet Runner Beans, perfect for eating or planting. (photo courtesy of Zursun Heirloom Beans)

How are things going in your garden? Any fall surprises? Please share!

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