Thursday, September 27, 2012

Apple time again!

Apples are practically falling off the trees into your bushel at Carter Mountain right now, go get 'em people! (RFC visits here.)

Right now they have Golden Delicious and Jonagolds (my personal favorite) with new varieties coming all the time.

I've been working this week on Apple sauce and Apple butter. (All from this book) And I'm still up to my elbows...

If you need some more delicious inspiration for all that bounty, look here. For now, back to the kitchen!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Gearharts Fine Fine Chocolate- New Treats and Wine Pairing Events

Tim Gearhart, creating the confections
As cool weather settles in folks tend to start craving these delicate chocolate confections all the more, and Gearharts has come up with some nice ways to satisfy that sweet  tooth.  Last week, Shannon and I were lucky enough to be invited to a wine and chocolate pairing at Gearharts Chocolates.  We have loved this local chocolatier for a long time- we've even visited the flagship shop in Charlottesville.  Several local bloggers were invited for the pairing- wines from J. Emerson and chocolate treats were made right in front of us.
Wine pairings courtesy of J. Emerson
We chatted with friends and watched eagerly as figs, candied orange peels and local apples were dipped and spiced and matched expertly with dessert wines.  The reason for this outing was to learn about Gearhart's plans to open their Libbie Ave. shop for private parties to enjoy their own wine and chocolate pairing events.  We couldn't think of a nicer way to spend a bit of a crisp fall evening or a fun addition to holiday celebrations.  Contact their shop for more information.

Candied orange peels with chilies, pine nuts and dark chocolate
Chai spiced pecan
While the importance of maintaining absolute freshness of the handmade chocolate truffles prevents them from being sold outside of their own shop, Gearharts has created a line of products that can be sold elsewhere.  Their chocolate bars, spiced pecans and drinking chocolates are sold in several local groceries.

beautiful bars
Drinking chocolate with chilies and orange
Gearharts is an incredibly special artisan food shop in Richmond.   Their inventive flavors like Michigan cherry, cardamom and earl grey will make you fall in love with chocolate all over again.  Why wait for a holiday?  Show Gearharts and someone special some love today!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Fresh Spring Rolls with Spaghetti Squash ( Late Season Spring Rolls)

Fresh Spring Rolls with Roasted Spaghetti Squash
This past week I came from work one night to find Matt making fresh spring rolls.  By the time I got home he had done everything but wrap each little bundle of veg. up in it's own  wrapper.  A glass of white wine was poured, and a fresh spring roll with homemade dipping sauce was placed in front of me. What a lucky lady I am!
Fresh spring rolls are usually made with chopped cabbage, rice noodles, and perhaps some carrots and shrimp. To be totally honest, if we're eating out I usually find them a bit boring and opt for something fried and crispy. However,  Matt made a fabulous variation of  this classic buy using freshly roasted spaghetti squash in place of the rice thread noodles or "cellophane noodles'.  They were delicious.  The carrots, bok choy, fresh Thai basil, and fresh banana and red pepper all added flavor and a nice crispness to each bite.

All the vegetables were cut into sticks or thinly sliced longways.  The small squash was cut in half and roasted on a cookie sheet.  After using a fork to pull the roasted squash out into threads Matt seasoned the squash with a little red curry paste, salt, and pepper. The flavor of the roasted squash and red curry is fantastic with the raw freshness of the other ingredients.   Go easy on the red curry paste if your not used to working with this spicy seasoning.  Try adding a tiny amount and tasting as you go . 
One small Spaghetti squash was used, with one large carrot, some bok choy, fresh basil, and red pepper slices.
Packaged spring roll wrappers are made of rice flower, tapioca, and salt. They are brittle and each one must be set in a shallow pan of luke warm water for about two minutes so you can work with them.  Working with the wrappers can take a little practice. (You can find how-to videos on-line.) The package said to soak for 5 minutes, but we found them tender and workable in just two.  Any longer and they tear  too easily.   The sauce is quick. The biggest prep time factor is  the veggies. It took Matt about 30minutes.

Matt's Spring Roll Sauce
Matt usually eyeballs the ingredients and then adjust to taste so this is his best approximation.

In a sauce pan on the stove add...

1/2 cup Apple Cider Vinegar
1 cup sugar
Stir together and bring to a boil.
Turn off immediately and then add..
couple shakes of chili pepper flakes
crushed up peanuts to taste.

Ultimately we ate these tender treats with a Twin Oaks  tofu stir-fry.... . but that's a post for another day- 
The seven  or so large spring rolls this produced was enough for each to have two that night, as well as more the following afternoon and even for lunch two days later. Just store them in the fridge inside a tupperwear container covering the spring rolls with a damp cloth or  paper towel.  The sauce should not be refrigerated, and will last in a sealed container for a couple of days.
 Try your hand at making these spring rolls. It can be fun, like making sushi rolls.  Spaghetti squash is available now at local farmers markets, as are bok choy and basil.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The great Paw Paw hunt

For years, Anne and I have gone looking for Paw Paws with no success.  I think we always started looking too late, but now I will always remember that Labor day weekend is the time to find ripe Paw Paws!

Clyde loves a visit to the water!
Paw Paw trees grow by rivers and are native to Virginia.  They have a tropical tasting, very soft fruit, that seems to have a fleetingly short season.

We didn't see a single paw paw on the walk until we had turned around and started walking back.  Then Anne started to see them everywhere!  We gathered up about 10 fruits in various stages of ripeness. 

We gathered Paw Paws and people!

We even taught a fellow hiker that the fruit was edible, and he wound up being a better paw paw spotter than either one of us.  It is not an easy fruit to see- Paw Paws are green and about the size of your fist. But once you know what you are looking for, it is pretty easy to spot them. 

Anne eating one on the trail!
The fruit is delicious raw.  The flavor is tropical, and pretty complex.  It has a soft texture, which made us wonder about what else we could make with it.  I will not lie, the first thing we thought to try making was a cocktail.  And so, the Captain Paw Paw was born.

Anne and Zak prepare the Paw Paws
First you take the skins and seeds off of the fruit.  This can only be done with your hands.

Then we added a simple syrup infused with star anise, black peppercorns and cardamom pods, then some dark rum, and finished the drink with fresh lime juice.  Delicious- not pretty, (kind of looked like gravy actually, so I didn't take a photo) but super tasty.  Valentines Day has chocolate, Thanksgiving has turkey and now Labor Day has the Paw Paw!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Day Trip for Dairy ( and Wine, and Granola, and...)


Nothing makes a Monday better than taking the day off work and heading out for a day trip with friends. We started our road trip in the proper fashion with me locking my keys and every single item of importance in my car. I did this while trying to call Erin to check on her progress and so by accident Erin was left with a rather surprising message involving a good deal of pounding noises and some repeated curses. Leaving behind my car... and my  I.D., wallet, camera, food, water...well you get the idea...we were on our way. Our first stop was Everona Dairy in Rapidan, Virginia.  
From there we stopped for Ice Cream at the Moo Thru in Remington Virginia. Moo Thru is the brain child of a fourth generation Virginia dairy farm family that wanted to find a way to do more than sell their milk in bulk.  A roadside stop off a busy four lane road the Moo Thru has a drive thru window, a walk up window and outdoor tables under a pavilion.  We left Erin here to enjoy a lunch of grilled cheese and Ice cream with the owner while we zipped down the road to theRed Truck Bakery in Old Town Warrenton.
This Red Truck Bakery is a perfect small town meeting place.  The chef's old red pickup sits just outside of the converted gas station.  A bakery counter in the front room leads to a singular communal table surrounded by the floor to ceiling windows of the converted car bay and the noise of the open kitchen. This company has been featured on Road with a score of "Legendary- worth driving  from anyplace."
 I had to try a bottle of their own root beer.  It was delicious, along with a fantastic chicken salad sandwich, some cold curried sweet potato and carrot soup, and a bit of crumb cake. I dined with my friends Montana and Linda and sweet woman from the area who had ecstatic praise for every dessert in the place.  For ten dollars I  bought ( or ah... Linda bought) a bag of their house made granola.  This stuff gets a lot of press and it was good. A bit too sticky sweet for my taste  even with plain yogurt.  I did enjoy it  drenched in whole milk. Don't take my word for it though.  There are obviously a whole slew of devoted Red Truck Granola Fans.
We wound around stumbling onto Hume Vineyards.  The barn they use in their photos sets the right feel.  We pulled up driving past the man in the riding mower cutting down acres of grass only to get to glass front door of a large barn like structure with a sign that told us to go on in, the man mowing the lawn would be with us in a minute.  I turned around to be greeted by a hearty wave and big smile from the owner riding his mower back up the hill to meet us.  Not skipping a beat he was behind the counter and pouring my first taste... the 2011 Seyval Blanc.  I waked out with a bottle of this, and my friend took a bottle of their Viognier.  A rather different approach from a young vineyard.

After checking out some pottery spots we found our much anticipated and last destination... Second Wind Farm in Sperryville.  A fabulous spot owned and operated by a dedicated family who care for animals ranging from lama  to duck. They make some fabulous fermented  foods, and cheese just for themselves, spin wool from their sheep, and basically make a beautiful life out of their piece of the earth.   If you live near the area look into buying a goat share.
After a relaxing visit at Second Wind we ended our day with a giant soft serve ice-cream for dinner... All and all a pretty nice Monday.
Next up... Fredricksburg....