Tuesday, August 30, 2011


I killed my veggie garden. I mean, I neglected it almost entirely- left it to its own devices. All those tomatoes and peppers and squashes- gone. This is particularly ironic because I am a professional gardener. I mean, I get paid to know better. I even grow food for a living, yet my own garden got put last on my list of things to do. I just recently looked up from my constant trudging and noticed that in the midst of the bare spots, there was still potential to be harnessed. And so, I begged forgiveness from the tomato gods, and I harvested some carrot seed.
I suppose you could plant your carrot seeds now, though I am going to wait until that day in early spring when it is finally warm enough and light enough to play outside again. I am going to scatter those seeds along with some arugula seed, and watch them duke it out as the ground warms. That event seems like a long time from now though. Until that day, I will make do with this experiment with my favorite (read: indestructible) plant- Germander.

Germander thrives with little water, poor soil and varying degrees of light. Among its other charms are that it is used in the manufacture of liqueurs, vermouths, and tonics. It has survived right next to my house for years with (ahem) very little attention. So now, I am going to propagate it to grow along the entire length of the house.

I simply snipped some of the lanky branches from this super low growing evergreen, stripped the bottom leaves, and placed them in water. If roots start to form, (and before they get too tangly) I will pot them up and plant them in the fall. I'll let you know how it goes...

Friday, August 26, 2011

Re-Figuring Figs

So, it's fig season and I am reminded of something my friend Rowan says, "you got-ta move it!" Yes, she's 3 and that's from the movie Madagascar (can you see the dancing lemurs?). Anyway, no truer words have been spoken when it comes to figs. If you want to enjoy your fresh figs beyond the day you obtained them, you got-ta move it!

Make a decision. Eat them on ice cream with a little salt. Throw one down solo. Whatever you do, do something. Otherwise, in a short day or two, you'll have, well, spoiled fruit. You get the picture, time is of the essence here.

Our neighbor brings us figs each year from her aunt's fig tree. The other day we woke up to a bounty of fresh figs on our doorstep. This last harvest was particularly ripe, and so we needed to process them quickly. My husband took the lead on one this by drying them. This is pretty easy and they taste so good on a salad with garlic vinaigrette.

First, wash the figs, cut off the ends, and slice them into 1/4 inch slices. We went from top to bottom. Now comes the fun part! Prior to drying, the fruit needs to soak in ascorbic acid, which is just Vitamin C. So, instead of a trip to the store for this one, we went into our cabinet and got out the Vitamin C and the mortar and pestle.

You'll want to crush one to two Vitamin C tablets, depending on how many figs you have to dry. Give tablets a good pound until you have a nice powder. Once a powder, you are ready to mix with about a quart of water. We did about one teaspoon of acid to one quart of water for about a one quart of figs.

Put your clean-cut figs in the water solution to soak for about 10 mins. Once out of the water then you are ready to move to the dehydrator. Space the figs on the racks so that they aren't touching and they will be happy there for about 12 - 24 hours. In fact, we went as long as 18 hours for our juicer figs.

You'll know they are done when they are leathery, but not brittle. Check on them every few hours - you may find it helpful to move them around as the fruit closer to the bottom will dry faster than those on the top tiers.

Store the dried figs in a sealed container in a cool and dry spot. Well, the rest is up to you. Eat them as a snack. Put them in trail mix or granola. Include them in a yummy baked good. Either way, now you have more than just a few precious days with your figs. Enjoy!

Oh, and hey (!), remember this is just one way to handle figs. Please share with us your favorite recipes and tips for preserving figs! Or maybe you want to show-off your preserving skills (and we think you should) at Yes We Can!

And thank you to Mangia Con Me for the beautiful fig picture found at the top of this post!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

I heart pickles (oh and Yes We Can!)

It is taking all of my energy to not write another post about eggplant. We have had so much of it lately and, much like soup, I have a hard time understanding when it's time to change things up. I came home with visions of pizza (with eggplant, natch!) in my head, but Micah seemed to think that having pizza two days in a row (and for breakfast!) was a bit much. Boo hiss! I stewed briefly until I realized something majorly exciting . . .

Today was the day that my pickles would be ready!!

I have never ever ever tried anything even remotely "canny" and I have always been really in awe of people who do can. Casey made it seem super easy. However, Casey is kind of an effortless chick, so I had low expectations for my own first try. Guess what though?

Her recipe is bombtastic! Super easy! I even found myself making a few changes off the cuff (I cut the sugar in half) and not even being worried about it. This is big for me. I am known to be a very worried little chef! No worries now!

(I even made extras today after tasting my first batch!)

Anyway, all this leads me to a very exciting announcement. Richmond Food Collective is hosting a food swap! We will include all things canned, preserved, dried . . . heck, even frozen! This is really going to be exciting. We sure hope you will register to be a part of the pantry-stocking fun!!

Yes We Can! Details
November 5, 2011
3 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Location TBA
And it's all free! You just have to bring something to swap!
Register by email: richmondfoodcollective@gmail.com
Send your name, your products and about how much you will be bringing

We have a lot of cool people involved and some fun "extras" that we are super excited about. We sure hope you will join in as well!

Some of us RFC gals have been canning for awhile (in fact, maybe everyone except me? yikes!), and others of us are happily learning now. Either way, sharing the bounty seems so grand to us and we cannot wait to host this fabulous event.

What about you guys? Do you can? Are you psyched to get together with other "food putter-uppers" (got tired of using the word "can" so much) and do some good old-fashioned trading? Let us know! Register via email. Location will be disclosed only to registrants (intriguing, yes?). Bring your food to share, and take some home to eat!

I, for one, can't wait to eat your food!!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Peach Frozen Yogurt

Before peach season is over (sadness!) I wanted to share this recipe for peach frozen yogurt with you, but not before I tell you my tale of woe on how it came about.

I wanted to take something special over to my dad's house for Sunday supper last weekend, and I knew if I made a pie, I would still need to make ice cream. (You cannot have pie without ice cream!) In either case, I had the peaches, but needed needed cream.

I adore Homestead Creamery milk and cream. I haven't seen the cream around lately, but the sign is still out on the Kroger shelf, so I hadn't given up hope that one day I'd catch it. Not this time, however. There was no big brand organic cream available either, so I stopped a manager, who thought that the HC cream might have been discontinued. NOOO! (I am planning on calling the HC to see what is up- will let you know what I find out.)

Anyway, I will admit to not being willing to buy regular heavy cream, so I headed to another store. (I never do that, but I was feeling kind of compulsive about my ice cream idea.) Alas, there was no organic cream at Martin's that day either! So, my eye wandered to the yogurt, and I decided to try my hand at frozen yogurt.

So here you go- it went well, though I think that maybe I could have used a tad more Pernod. Swap Pernod with vanilla, or almond- or nothing. Straight up peach- yum!
But oh, lovely grocery stores, please bring back the cream!

Peach Frozen Yogurt
Makes one quart
  • 5 peaches, peeled, pitted and coarsely chopped (I used a mix of yellow and white)
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 TBS Pernod
Bring to a simmer over medium heat for about 10 minutes or until peaches are soft.
  • 1/2 Cup honey
  • pinch of salt
Let cool.
  • blend with 1 cup of whole milk yogurt
Freeze in ice cream maker.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Summer's Perfect Moment- What's in Season

 Here I go again.... It's one of those perfect seasonal moments where worlds collide and culinary possibilities seem endless.   All at once we not only have literal tons of tomatoes,  piles of peppers, summer sweet corn and endless eggplant,  but also pears, apples, figs, and other flavors some may associate strictly with fall.  Fall may be just around the corner, but now is the time when nearly everything seems at hand. 


Serve up some pizzas: one with pears, red onion and blue cheese and one with tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella.  Greens are finally showing themselves again as well so toss together a salad.  Make a quick fresh tomato and pesto pasta, or some chilled butternut squash and pear soup. How about some scalloped potatoes and chicken with plum sauce. Perhaps some fresh peach pie for dessert!
Have fun and enjoy... this is the time!

Here is a quick run down of some of the best produce our gardens and markets have to offer right now.


Butternut Squash
Sweet Potatoes
 Asain Pears
Honey Crisp Apples
(and a handful of others)
 Peppers of all kinds
 Summer Squash
Green Beans 
Long Beans
 Shelling Beans

Figgy Fantastic

My friend Laura came into a large box of figs last week and was kind enough to share.  The figs from family owned trees are a yearly staple for her so in addition to the figs themselves she also shared one of her favorite ways to serve them.  These appetizeresque beauties could not be simpler.    Just slice some good bread, ( I went with Norwood Cottages Bellevue Baguette) lightly toast in the oven or on the grill, add Goat Cheese, sliced figs, and finish off with a drizzle of honey and balsamic vinegar.

The plate pictured above was the second round for a small group gathered poolside last week.  Some folks who had never tried figs, and are not ones to go for goat cheese or balsamic vinegar tried one to be polite and loved them so much they went for more.  I ran out of goat cheese towards the end and used some extra sharp cheddar in its place.  It overwhelmed the fig, but was supper tasty just the same.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

To Richmond With Love: A Local Wedding

In thinking about community and food, it is not long before my thoughts turn to my own wedding. Though my husband and I met in my hometown (Blacksburg, VA), we built our lives together in Richmond and married here. Our wedding was a celebration of our life, and Richmond was a key part of the equation. We wanted show off our city!

But, only three years ago creating a local wedding was a challenge. I’d say seasonal and local and someone would hand me an asparagus (it was an October wedding). People talk about fighting with family over wedding plans; I didn’t have one fight with a family member over my wedding. Instead, initially, I fought with vendors.

You see, the local option isn’t necessarily in the “package” or pricing structure used by wedding vendors. But, with the internet, an amazing Mom, and the seeds of a locally-focused Richmond already established, I found my way to locally owned and operated businesses that understood my vision. What follows are locally-sourced highlights from our wedding.

Each of these vendors helped make our day beautiful, the local way. These folks were dialed and we remain appreciative of what they did for us. Ricepaper Photography snapped these lovely shots of the local vendors and products we used. So, Richmond, this is to say, we think you're pretty great. Thanks for everything.

We were married at the Poe Museum with a
pre-ceremony cocktail hour prepared by Mosaic Catering.

Rob's suit was purchased at Franco's.
My dress was purchased locally, but not from a locally owned business.

Our flowers were from Amelia County.

That's my baby brother.

We had a local string trio play at the ceremony.

Our rings were made at Dransfield.
That's my Dad in the center; he married us.

Instead of party favors, we hired a local artist to do silhouettes of our guests.

Overwhelmed by the idea of a wedding cake, we said yes to cannolis from 8 1/2. I mean, right?!

Our reception was held at the Old City Bar which is in walking distance from the Poe Museum, in fact we walked there. Dinner highlight for me was the Virginia rockfish and local wine.

We left the Old City Bar and stayed the night at the Museum District B & B. The host served us breakfast goodies from Can Can.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

veggie cookdown

Oh, how I didn’t want to make anything tonight. I couldn’t even look at Micah because I was afraid I’d be like: “Hey, you’ve had a hard day. Why don’t I run out and pick something up?”

But then I remembered the eggplant . . . and the squash . . . and that tomato that wasn’t quite ready but that we had already sliced so we had to use. Is that called being inspired? I like to think of it as “culinary acceptance” as in “Okay, I’m not going to order anything. I’m going to make something delicious.” For some reason, certain nights it is harder for me to get going cooking-wise. But always, seriously always, I am so happy once I get started.

Anyway, once I realized how much stuff we had, I started to get pretty excited. The peppers that were almost gone (I kept meaning to use them but, um, I forgot), some amazing chocolate cherry tomatoes, a few more tomatoes from my mom’s house, a shallot from Rachel’s yard, and garlic from our’s. This was turning out to be quite the local feast.

So here’s how it went down. I started with:

  • one eggplant
  • one yellow squash
  • a couple cloves of garlic
  • half a shallot
  • one long green chile pepper (seeds removed)
  • hodge-podge of tomatoes (about three in all, I used various sizes)
  • four canned black olives (what? they would have gone to waste and I wanted to use the juice! Note that this is four olives NOT four cans!!)
  • a little bit of boxed red wine for the sauce . . .cuz I’m classy
  • a bit of coconut amino acids because I had them – easily skippable
  • pasta of choice

Writing the ingredient list was, literally, harder than making this dinner. I love this because it is so adaptable (you can easily change the amount of eggplant, squash and tomatoes) and you do it all in one pan.

  • Chop up the garlic, onion, pepper, eggplant, squash, and tomatoes. I like to do what I call a “fat dice” on the eggplant and squash because I like them to be kind of chunky, but you cannot do it wrong.
  • Sauté the garlic and onion until the onions start to get a little soft.
  • Put all the stuff in (except the pasta) and cook the heck out of it (that is, cook on medium heat for at least 10 minutes, maybe 20).
  • Now you can get your pasta water going and throw the pasta in once it starts a-boiling.
  • Keep an eye on the food and give it a good stir every once in a while so everything gets a chance at the heat. You can add more liquid if you need it.

I start to taste after about 10 minutes (once the eggplant is done, you are good to go). Tonight, I turned mine down a bit to do dishes and it was ready in about 30 minutes.

It was so good. And the bonus is that I feel so relieved that I didn’t waste those veggies by waiting too long to use them. Plus, I have leftovers for lunches. Not too shabby!

Love for Belmont Food Shop

I have to admit to a little foodie crush on the gentlemen at the Belmont Food Shop. We have been working together at the St. Stephen's Farmers Market this season, and while I have been impressed with their conscious effort to source ingredients locally, when I got to watch and listen as Mike described his (life changing) baked ricotta this weekend, it was all over. I wanted to know more- and to get to eat more of their amazing food!

In their own words, "Belmont Food Shop has been working on our Back- to- Basics approach to food and cooking, by responsibly sourcing our ingredients, and using a 'feed your friends' mentality to support our community. We buy ingredients and craft food to insure product integrity and consistency."

How can you not love that?

Belmont Food Shop is located at 27 North Belmont Ave in the Museum District (and at the St. Stephen's Market every Saturday with quiche, tamarind tea and their famous truffles). They sell 'lunch boxes' and Sunday night take out from their shop. I adore the idea of feeding people on Sunday evening- such a wonderful time to be with family and friends. You can find out the latest menus on their facebook page. Last week's special was roast chicken with sweet-and-sour eggplant and peppers, though they have assured me that they will make a vegetarian special on request. Love!

Mike was generous enough to share his recipe and technique for baked ricotta, so in the name of that kind of generosity, I will try to do it justice here. It was so wonderful and versatile, I will be making it for salads, sandwiches and cocktail snacks. All the time.
  • Toasted spices (he used fennel seed, black pepper and coriander, but experimenting would be fun), ground (see the beautiful brass mortar and pestle?)
  • 1 cup of ricotta
  • 3 eggs, beaten in one at a time
  • about a quarter of a cup fontina cheese
Bake in 200 degree oven for 60-90 minutes, until edges are just beginning to brown and center has just set. Let cool and slice to add to salads or sandwiches.

You are gonna love it too!

Saturday, August 13, 2011


Ohh! So THAT is why they call it an EGG plant!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Collective: Characteristic of Individuals Acting in Cooperation

Thanks to Rachel for this lovely post on the new developments in the RFC. We are so glad you are all with us on this journey!

 There are five women in the RFC and we all eat differently. Have we told you that? Yep. We make different choices for the food we purchase and prepare in our homes. We've got it all: vegan, meat-eater, former vegan, former vegetarian, and vegetarian. And there are just five of us!

So, you might guess, we live differently as well. Some of us are moms, some aren’t. Some of us work an offices downtown, some don’t. Some of us feed a family, some don’t. Come to think of it, among us we manage an impressive to-do list! Combined, the RFC organizes households, full-time jobs, children, part-time jobs, and family-owned businesses. Woofty, we are a busy bunch of women, but we make time for food! Once a week we sit down to a meal together in one of our homes.We cook together; we
eat together; we talk food

What’s the secret? We all have something in common – collectively. We share a love for fresh food that is available locally. Hey, we love food (have we mentioned that before?)! With love and some curiosity, you can make anything. So this post is not about one recipe or another. But, instead, is about how rewarding to learn from others – to share food and ideas.

As a new RFC member, I found immediate gratification from our weekly dinners. I was instantly welcomed to the table. The kindness and hospitality was met equally by a rich exchange of ideas, techniques, and resources. We have become mentors and friends.

At our dinners we talk about what were learning, trying, and testing out. We talk about the successes and failures (maybe someday I’ll you about the time I made purple shrimp – eep!).
So, be curious! Go down the street and talk to your neighbors, call a friend, call a relative, next time you want to know how to make something. Another great local resource is to *talk* to the people at your farmers’ market. Ask them, “How would you prepare this?” We bet you’ll be energized by what you find.
Hey, I’ll do you one better. I’ll take the challenge myself. I’ll go to the market this Wednesday and I’ll ask the question. Of course, I’ll let you know what I find – please do the same! Cheers from the RFC!
RFC extends a big, thank you to Vanessa Rees for the great shots of an RFC dinner at Erin’s house! And, of course, heaps of thanks from Casey, Cat, and myself to Erin and Shannon for starting RFC and so graciously welcoming us to the table.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Zucchini : Fritters with Creamy Basil Dressing , and Herbed Ricotta Toastets

Not too long ago the RFC provided the food for a Tricycle Gardens Urban Farm event. It was such fun! All the produce used was grown by the fantastic staff and volunteers at Tricycle's Urban Farm. Our challenge was to provide utensil free hors d'oeuvres that were affordable, time friendly, and delicious.
Here are the recipes for the two things I made for the event. My apologies to all those who have been waiting for these!

Creamy Basil Dressing
The fritters were pretty good, but this dressing is what folks were really after. My husband thinks I should keep the recipe secret and make my fortune off this stuff... it's that good. The real secret though is the freshness and quality of the ingredients, a hem, Dukes included of course. I can't remember what I first made this dressing for, something involving tomatoes I'm sure. It's great with the fritters, but it's also lovely spooned over fresh summer produce, or added to a sandwich.

2 Cups Packed Fresh Chopped Basil
3 Heaping spoon fulls Dukes Mayo (approx 4 tbsp)
5 tsp. Lemon Juice
2 tsp. White Wine Vinegar
1 tsp. Kosher Salt
1/2 tsp. Fresh Ground Black Pepper
3 Cloves Garlic, pealed and halved or quartered
2 Tsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Toss Basil, Olive Oil, Garlic, Vinegar, and Mayo in a food processor and blend until even consistency. This is quick, about 30 seconds. Add the Lemon Juice, . Salt, and Pepper. Pulse or blend until fully blended. Store in a sealed jar for up to two days, or serve immediately.

Zucchini Fritters

The Cuisinart at Max Capacity!

I'll confess I had never made these fritters before, but I was inspired by a recipe in the August issue of Martha Stewart. So of course, I totally did not follow the recipe. You asked so here it is... honestly if I were you I would use the base line proportions found in any of these others and use mine as a 'look I can play around with this" kinda thing. I made these up the night before. These were not super quick, the entire process took me at least a couple hours. After frying these I let them cool completely, refrigerated them in sealed containers and then reheated them on baking sheets at 350 for about 25-30 minutes before the event. Here's what I used...This recipe made me 35 fritters. I used way more cheese, more parsley, and more onion, in proportion to the zucchini than the original recipe.

2 Jumbo sized Zucchini, trimmed, cut long ways, and completely deseeded
2 Medium Onions
3/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
11/2 cups finely chopped fresh Flat Leaf Parsley
1 tsp. finely chopped Oregano
3 large eggs lightly beaten with a fork
3/4 cup? All Purpose Flour. (this part I just eyed for consistency, just so long as the fritters would hold together. )

Grate zucchini, and then onions using the large setting of a grater. Use a flour sack towel to squeeze out as much liquid as possible from each. Mix these together, with all other ingredients. Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat, and coat skillet with shallow layer of olive oil. A large skillet is fine as long as you have the burner size to match. Add zucchini mix in dollops of about 2 tbsp. Flatten with spatula. Cook until golden brown, and cooked through. About 3 minutes per side. Repeat for each batch. Place on paper towel lined tray to drain, or cool.

Zucchini and Herbed Ricotta Toastets

Okay, I made up these name for these as Cat was scribbling on those little slate pieces next to each item. These were whipped up about 20 minutes before we got to the event, so they definitely qualify as quick! No measurements here. We sliced a baguette into 1/2 thick rounds, and laid them on a baking tray to toast up in the oven. We were moving quick. If I do this again I would toast them up a bit more, toasty on the outside but still a little soft in the middle would be perfect.
Fresh herbs from the garden, perhaps chives, basil, and oregano were used. Toss some whole milk ricotta in a food processor with herbs, a clove or two of garlic a dash of lemon juice and some salt. A beautiful variety of long narrow, white and green striped zucchini was used fresh, and sliced thin. Layer slightly cooled bread, cheese mixture, and a fresh zucchini slice. Top with freshly grated black pepper.