Sunday, July 31, 2011

Cool down with local cider

While waiting for a train during her recent European travels, Rachel whipped up a post about a local cider she and her husband enjoyed prior to their trip. A Ragged Mountain cider sounds perfect right about now, doesn't it?

When the Virginia summer sun starts to crank up the heat, my household looks for ways to cool off. If need be, we gather in the screened- in porch with a cool beverage. On a recent trip to Ellwood's we picked up a Virginia apple cider from Albemarle Cider Works. Albemarle County is just 75 miles outside of Richmond. This time we tried their Ragged Mountain cider. This is a semi-dry low-alcohol cider, and will cool you off with its bright taste and bubbles. Plus, what a fun way to show off Virginia fruit! We had the cider solo, but it could certainly be enjoyed with food. The producer recommends pairing with spicy foods, fruit, or a sharp cheese. Their product is available at the following Richmond locations: Ellwood's, Urban Farmhouse, River City Cellars, and Corks & Kegs. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Casey's Refrigerator Pickles

Casey pickled beans, cucumbers and cabbage for the Farm Table event we did a couple of weeks ago. They were amazing! Here is her recipe- enjoy!

Brine for refrigerator pickles:

2 cups water
2 cups rice wine vinegar
3/4 cup sugar
tablespoon (or more) peppercorns
1/2 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds
1/2 tablespoon dill seeds

Add dill flowers for beauty if you like.

Makes enough for 3-4 jars, simply pour over vegetables and refrigerate. Ready to eat in about 3 days.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Recipes from Tricycle Gardens event

We loved cooking for the Tricycle Gardens crew last week! They provided plenty of veggies from their farm, which we turned into appetizers for cocktail hour outside- ie. food that required no utensils.

I'll let Shannon tell you about her very popular fare, and I'll let you know about the appetizers I made. I got the babaganoush recipe here, (after googling the 'best babaganoush recipe'- why risk it?) which was really good, albeit not quite pretty enough for a photo. You probably know babaganoush. It is a bit gray. Delicious, but gray.

On the other hand, my salsa verde lent itself more toward the photogenic- as many green things can be. Also, it was pretty tasty- great with chips and as an addition to many subsequent dishes.

It all starts with tomatillos.

Salsa Verde
Toast 1 TBS each, whole cumin and coriander seed in an cast iron skillet until aromatic- 45 seconds- 1 minute. Grind in mortar and pestle.

Take the skins off of several (10-15) tomatillos and put them in the cast iron skillet over medium heat.
Add 1 large or 2 small cloves of garlic- skin on
and 4 hot peppers, serranos or jalapenos (keeping the seeds in will result in hotter salsa)
1 small onion

Heat everything until the tomatillos soften and and the chiles are a little charred on each side. (15 minutes? I will test again soon) Peel the garlic and blend everything in the food processor with salt and a handful of cilantro and juice of one lime (or to taste) and salt. Blend until smooth.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The RFC at Tricycle Garden's Urban Farm

This is how it goes, more often than you would think. We were all set to roll to Anne and Stacy's fundraiser for Tricycle Gardens, and then Shannon mentioned the herbed ricotta appetizer that she was going to make, but hadn't had time. After she described it, (ricotta cheese, blended with basil, chives, and oregano, on a sliced baguette with a delicate round of summer squash on top) I knew we had to make it, even though it meant we'd be cutting the timing pretty close. Distracted by food again.

So, we whipped those up, (so worth it) and headed over to meet Cat and the Tricycle Gardens folks for a lovely evening at the urban farm. We had quite the summer feast of picnic foods with veggies straight from the farm. Baba ganoush, zucchini fritters with Shannon's basil dressing, as well as red and green salsa. Recipes to come.

Anne and Stacy made fancy drinks for the event. Spa water, cranberry vodka and white wine spritzers with cucumber and basil. Anne calls these 'Petty Fizzes', after Tom Petty, but that is a whole other story.

And, LOL Richmond set up a photo booth in front of the barn. Oh, boy- was that fun!

What a good time! If you have never had a chance to see the Urban Farm, or any of Tricycle Garden's community gardens, look for opportunities on their website. These folks are working hard to make Richmond more green and definitely more beautiful. Thanks, y'all!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Farm Table event

Casey and I had so much fun with the members and administrators of the Farm Table last weekend. The RFC was invited to do a cooking demo at their member event, (at the beautiful Grayhaven Winery) creating the challenge for us to help folks see summer food in a new way. What could we make that these cooks have not seen a thousand times before?
Well, you should have seen the boxes of produce the Farm Table folks delivered for the demo- they were overflowing with cukes and melons and tomatoes and peppers! We decided to look at melon with new eyes, and Casey created so many gorgeous dishes, including:

A Savory Melon Salad

1/8 cantalope
1 tomato
1 cucumber, peeled and de-seeded

Juice from 1 lime
chop the fruits into bit sized pieces
Squeeze lime over everything- salt and serve immediately.

Another take on that is:
Corn and Melon Salsa

3 ears of corn, parboiled
Combine with
Finely chopped:
1/4 cup melon
1 tomato
1 jalapeno
lime juice

But, the star of the show was this gorgeous rustic fruit tart. People came over to the table like moths to a flame, just to ask us about this creation. Can you blame them?
Casey is an artist, so you know everything she does will be beautiful. Still- it was a stunning dish.
1 piece of Basic, no knead dough (yes, the very same dough used for 4th of July pizza):
Lay out:
thinly sliced peaches
Fold the edges of the dough over the fruit and brush with butter, cinnamon and sugar

bake at @400 degrees for 20 minutes
Eat for breakfast or for dessert.

Casey also made refrigerator pickles, sauerkraut and dilly beans with the veggies in the Garden Box from the Farm Table. Look for those recipes soon, as we experiment with preserving the harvest!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Double Chocolate Cherry Brownies: Recipes from the 4th

 This year I promised to make a couple of things for the July 4th get together, and one of those was brownies.  I don't often bake much to the chagrin of my husband, but I  love a really moist,  rich, brownie. Made from scratch they couldn't be easier or more delicious.  The first time I made brownies from scratch I was astounded by the simplicity.  How did anyone ever convince us that we needed brownies from a box?!

I wanted to try something that felt a little like summer, and would be perfect for the Fourth of July.  My mind went strait to the pint of fresh sweet cherries from Agriberry sitting on my counter.  Now's the time for cherries. Cherries and chocolate go great together, and there's that whole thing with George Washington and the  tree chopping so it seemed perfect way to honor the General himself.

For these brownies I used a basic brownie recipe, increased the amount of chocolate,  added cardamom, ginger, and  nutmeg, and added  fresh pitted cherries to cover the top.
 Here they are about half way done.  The thing about the fresh cherries, and the extra chocolate.... extra gooey and the cooking time had to be nearly doubled.  I used an 8X7" white ceramic baking dish so they could be nice and thick as well.

After the initial 35 minutes in the oven, and numerous rechecks followed with 10 more minutes, 10 more minutes... they were finally done.  In  end the end I wouldn't have changed a thing!  The sweet cherry juices and the added bittersweet chocolate made  for a wonderfully rich and moist brownie.  They turned out  to be so good.  The downside here is that the cook time is not worked out perfectly as I lost track of just how many times I hit that 10 minute timer.  So  they'll require some extra attention after the first 40 minutes for your first try ! .  Hopefully I'll bake more soon and report back.  In the mean time, while the cherries are around  here's what I did....

Double Chocolate Cherry Brownies with Cardamom and Ginger
What You'll need...

4 1/2 oz.  bittersweet chocolate chips ( I used Ghirardelli)  
1 Stick (8oz) butter + more for pan
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. cardamom
1/4 tsp. course salt
1/2 tsp. powdered ginger
1/4 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
2/3 cup all purpose flower
1 cup sugar.
2 large eggs 
1/2 tsp. Vanilla Extract
Parchment Paper  for baking dish

1. Prep:  Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees. Pit and halve/ quarter enough cherries to loosely cover the top of the brownies. Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl and set aside.  Butter the sides and the bottom of a 8X7 ceramic baking dish.  Cover bottom of baking dish with a sheet of parchment paper long enough to hang a couple inches over the sides of the dish.  Butter the top and sides of the parchment paper. ( This is a handy trick I learned from Martha Stewart.) Set aside.   
2. Melt: To a sauce pan over low heat add the butter and the chocolate chips.  Mix steadily until they are completely melted together and smooth.  (This happens quickly, and you can remove the pan from the heat and continue stirring near the end of the process to keep the chocolate from burning.)  
3. Mix:   As soon as the chocolate and butter are melted, remove from heat and add all the rest of ingredients mixing in the dry ingredients, the vanilla, and the eggs just with a fork until fully combined. 
4. Bake:  Smooth out into your prepared baking dish. Place the pitted cherries cut side down across the top of the spread out brownie batter. Bake for about 1 hour, checking periodically after the first 40minutes.
Once a tooth pick inserted into the center comes out clean, and the center looks fully set they are done.  These brownies might try to trick you with a clean pick, but a center that is still too soft.  The surface color and texture should be consistent across the top when they are done.  Allow to cool for 20 minutes on a wire rack before removing from pan.  Lift edges of parchment to remove from pan.    (**Note: This recipe is for fresh cherries not dried. If you try to use dried cherries they should reduce the required cook time, and should be mixed into the batter, not left on top.)  
5: Enjoy!  I plated mine, and covered the uncut batch with foil for Casey's house.  An airtight container would be best, but I just ate the one remaining foil wrapped, refrigerated brownie with my lunch yesterday... six days later, and it was still super good!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Fourth of July Feast, A Summer Thanksgiving

The Freemans give a such a gorgeous party every Fourth of July, that we have started calling it our summer Thanksgiving. Casey wrote about the grilled pizza they made- a delicious way to feed a crowd.

What better time to gather together and share in summers bounty? The Fourth of July really is all about the food. This year, the spectacular (albeit rainy) fireworks from the Richmond Diamond took a backseat to the real show, the food! An amazing array of summer salads with plenty of corn, tomatoes, green beans, basil, squash, zucchini and cucumbers represented. Also watermelon and plenty of sweets...hopefully more about the brownies later from Shannon.
And the star of the show, a crowd favorite, grilled pizza. Although it does involve a bit of prep, pizza can make for an easy and delicious party entree. One trip to St. Stephen's Farmers Market on Saturday supplied most of the toppings which included fresh tomatoes, grilled eggplant, squash and onions (a house favorite) mushrooms, tomatillo. We even sought out a beautiful melt in your mouth Nostrano Salami from Belmont Butchery.
There are a lot of ways to make pizza dough, but the standby recipe at our house is a very simple adaptation from the basic No Knead Bread Dough recipe. We also use this dough to make everyday loaf bread, cinnamon rolls and rustic fruit tarts. Once you get into the rhythm of making it, the possibilities are endless.

Basic No Knead Dough

5 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons yeast
3 cups warm water

Measure flour and salt into a bowl. Pour warm (but not hot) water into the bowl of a stand mixer (or into a separate bowl.) Add yeast to water and let it sit for a minute or so. Gradually add flour to the water and yeast mixture. I usually do with with the dough hook attachment on my stand mixer but a regular bowl and wooden spoon work as well. Mix together until the flour and water some together to form a dough ball, not too sticky or too dry, you may need to add a little extra water to get it the proper consistency.

After it is mixed, put it in a large plastic container, it will double in size so find something big to store it in. Let it sit on the counter loosely covered until the dough doubles in volume and then settles on the top. Cover and refrigerate for up to 10 days.

When you are ready to cook, preheat oven to 450 degrees. Then take the amount you need out of the fridge and make your dough ball (about the size of a large grapefruit) or pat out your pizza dough on a metal baking sheet (use a little olive oil under the dough to keep it from sticking.) Let the dough rest for about 30 min, pizza dough doesn't need so long but it's good to bring down to room temperature.

Top you pizza and bake it for about 10 min. If you are making bread, slash the top with a knife to allow it to expand and bake it for 30 min.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Edible Revolution lives!

Tricycle Gardens will host their 2nd annual Edible Revolution garden tour on Saturday, July 16 from 3-7pm. Both community and home kitchen gardens will be on the tour, so if you want ideas or advice or just an opportunity give some fellow gardeners admiration for their work, come on! There will also be a family friendly cookout after the tour in the Chimborazo Community Garden for all tour attendees and volunteers.

For more info about the tour, and how to get your tickets, click here.