Monday, November 24, 2014

The New Chesapeake Kitchen Tour Continues to Virginia Beach

Often I forget just how expansive the Chesapeake Bay really is. For the Maryland-centric, a reminder that the Bay actually does continue on southward beyond Chrisfield. Driving from Baltimore down to Hampton Roads, Virginia, the southernmost reach of the Bay, takes a little over 5 hours, if all the traffic gods are with you. So it is one big bay, stretching over 200 miles north to south, the largest estuary in North America.

My good friend, Patrick Evans-Hylton, a Norfolk based food writer, author, and chef - and all around lover of all things Virginia and Chesapeake - recommended a number of must-meet folks for my visit to the Hampton Roads area, and his suggestions were perfect.

After a visit to Colonial Williamsburg (see previous post), stop number two on the New Chesapeake Kitchen tour with my partner-in-crime, Bonnie North, was to New Earth Farm in south Virginia Beach. It is an amazing oasis just outside bustling Virginia Beach, the State of Virginia’s largest city. I’ll let Bonnie tell the tale from here:

New Earth Farm is a collaboration between "Farmer John" Wilson, who began farming organically in the Virginia Beach area back in 1995 and launched the first CSA in the region, and Kevin Jamison, who came to the area with a wealth of experience in community development in the global arena. Before heading down to Virginia Beach Kevin served as the Director of the European Affairs Committee at the United Nations Association in New York City from 2005 to 2010 where he was also a co-founder of the 2009 flagship program "The Haiti Expedition Project," raising awareness and funds for educational and environmental projects in Haiti.

New Earth Farm is a working, sustainable operation running a CSA and wholesaling high quality vegetables, fruits, herbs, pasture-raised eggs and fresh flowers to stores like Whole Foods, but today the primary focus has become education and outreach through their non-profit organization, Community Development International. They work with the City of Virginia Beach Public Schools training students and teachers on creating and maintaining their school gardens and host classes for both students and adults at the farm in their new Learning Center.

Their focus is on teaching how to build healthy soil through composting, input of biological material, utilizing cover crops, crop rotation, natural mulches, and IPM, Integrated Pest Management techniques that combat crop pests by introducing predator insects like wasps, ladybugs, and praying mantises, instead of pesticides.

As Kevin puts it, “by demonstrating sustainable farming New Earth Farm provides super healthy food that has no additives and no chemicals, healing the land, making it sustainable for a lifetime rather than degrading it.”

The Learning Center’s beautiful classroom building was made with mostly recycled materials, uses passive solar heat, harvests rainwater and utilizes a green roof system. Surrounding the educational building is the Learning Garden, a working example of sustainable practices—over 5,000 square feet of vegetable, fruit and herb gardens which grow almost year-round, a flock of ducks, and a 35 foot barrier of trees around the garden to protect the integrity of their organic growing methods. You can see the difference in the plant coloring at the property line of New Earth and where it meets the property line of the neighboring farm that raises crops using chemicals—bright green meeting yellow brown.

The Farm-To-Table classes for adults led by local well known chefs sell out fast. The classes are geared to the public but also serve to introduce locally grown organic products to the chefs themselves. The latest additions to the educational roster are their "Food Lab" classes, teaching and demonstrating the various old and new processes of preparing and preserving good local food, like lacto-fermenting, canning, and dehydrating.

New Earth Farm won the 2012 Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation’s local and regional Clean Water Farm Award for their safe and sustainable practices and biological treatment of the land as well as the City of Virginia Beach Public Schools "Partner in Education" award in 2014.

Kevin, who besides working the land, knows his way around a kitchen has provided us with a terrific farm fresh recipe for a Savory Oats “Risoatto.”

Savory Oats (Risoatto) 

Makes 4 servings

1 lb rolled oats 
8 tbs unsalted butter 
2 cups field peas 
2 cloves garlic 
1/2 cup chopped basil 
1 bunch of green onions 
About 6 cups vegetable stock 
2 cups of whole milk 

Farmers cheese (can also use Cotija, Feta, any crumbly cheese) to crumble on top
Egg yolk (1 per serving) - separate egg yolk and put into a bowl of cornmeal. Cover and let sit for 10 minutes until coated. Gently sauté in butter for about 30 seconds on each side) 
Pickled okra - several pods per serving. 
1/2 cup chopped Sun-dried tomatoes 
several slices of cured ham like Edwards and Sons Surryano 

In a large pan sauté green onions, garlic and field peas in butter until tender. Add the field peas last to the pan and cook lightly to retain the color and texture. 

In another pan lightly sauté oats in butter until they begin to turn golden brown. Begin to add vegetable stock to just cover the oats and stir. When oats absorb the majority of the liquid but before the liquid at the very bottom is absorbed, add more vegetable stock to just cover the oats. Taste for firmness. The oats should have a slight firmness left to them as they will continue to cook even after removed from heat. Next add 1-2 cups of warmed whole milk and stir in. Remove from heat. 
Stir in the sautéed onion, garlic and peas. 

Spoon about 1 cup of the oats onto plates. 

In this particular recipe, which I originally made in the summer, we topped the risoatto with a fresh crumbled farmers cheese, sun-dried tomato crisps, chopped basil and a cornmeal crusted egg yolk that was very lightly sautéed as well as a couple slices of pickled okra for the acidity. Cut the Surryano into long thin slices and crisp lightly in olive oil in a pan. Put several of the slices on top of each serving to add a nice smoky saltiness to the dish. 

This recipe (like many) is very adaptable to any season so feel free to experiment with other ingredients as per what is in season in your area. 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The New Chesapeake Kitchen Tour Begins – Coming Soon To A Town Near You

After years of planning, ruminating, procrastinating, and a good bit of day dreaming, the New Chesapeake Kitchen project is underway. The fine folks at Johns Hopkins University Press will be publishing two works by me in the relatively near future: the 25th Anniversary Edition of The Chesapeake Bay Cookbook (aka Chesapeake Bay Cooking with John Shields) in Fall 2015, and a brand new work, The New Chesapeake Kitchen, in Fall 2016.

In the 25th Anniversary Edition I will be updating information, adding back some delicious time-honored recipes that got sidelined between editions, and including a slew of brand new additions, such as a whole new Chesapeake Libations chapter.

The New Chesapeake Kitchen will be imagining a new, local kitchen for the 21st century. Things are much different in the Chesapeake region than they were when the native peoples populated the shores, and when Captain John Smith first sailed into the Bay and wrote; “the fish were so thick we attempted to catch them with frying pans.” The types of seafood available and the populations of the native species have changed. The water quality is a challenge, along with a number of other environmental concerns. So how are we to cook  in this new century? While there’s some bad news out there, fortunately there’s even more good news, as I’m discovering lots of local folks doing great things to rebuild our food scene and food economy. The New Chesapeake Kitchen will chronicle this revitalization and hopefully through the tales of locals show us the way to a vibrant culinary future.

The New Chesapeake Bay Kitchen Research Tour kicked off last week in Hampton Roads Virginia: Williamsburg, Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Suffolk County, Portsmouth, and then onto the lower eastern shore of Virginia. It was an amazing week down in the Hampton Roads area and beyond.

Tour stop # 1 was  in Colonial Williamsburg, where I chatted with Williamsburg Inn Executive Chef, Travis Brust; and the Master of the Department of Historic Foodways at Colonial Williamsburg, Frank Clark. One of the concepts of The Chesapeake Kitchen is for us to look to the past so we can find our way to a new Chesapeake kitchen for the 21st century. Hanging out in Williamsburg is the perfect spot to ponder that process. Both of these guys gave me plenty of thoughtful ideas on how a colonial approach to food is now “hot” again, and in general just makes good sense—as it is, you can’t get more local and seasonal than the way they cooked back then!

Both the Williamsburg Inn and the Department of Historic Foodways of Colonial Williamsburg have their own mini farms and gardens.  Chef Brust at the Inn insists that his culinary interns work in the gardens as part of their training. And from this garden and back into the restaurant’s grand Regency Room, the students take an amuse bouche cart tableside and use much of what has been grown in the garden to fashion the these little bites for their guests. It gives the interns, now with an intimate knowledge of the food under their belts, an opportunity to share their passion for this garden’s bounty with guests, as they helped to grow and harvest it. And Chef Travis tells me that it makes for some stimulating dinner conversation.

Over at the center of Revolutionary City some of the best baking in town is actually going on at the wood-burning, mud-covered, outdoor brick oven where Frank Clark prepares scrumptious whole-grain bread. The bread, made from a colonial recipe, is leavened with beer yeast, giving the crusty loaf a rich, earthy flavor. According to Frank, back in the day the average citizen of Colonial Williamsburg would get 50 to 60 percent of their daily calories from this wholesome bread.

All this Southern Foodways talk churned up memories of warm rounds of Johnnycake that my grandmother would make in my youth. It was years later that I learned that “Johnnycake” was the actual name of the bread and wasn’t named for me—growing up I didn’t realize my grandmother was just pulling my leg! But I'm positive the Shields Tavern in Williamsburg was definitely named after me.

Here’s a Johnnycake recipe that can be made in the traditional manner with bacon greaseor in a healthier, contemporary version using vegan butter flavored with Liquid Smoke to retain a smokehouse taste.

 Serves six to eight

1 egg or 1 ½  teaspoons Ener-G Egg replacer whisked well with 2 tablespoons warm water
1 tablespoon sugar
1 ½ cups milk, or soy milk
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cups yellow cornmeal, stoneground
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoons butter, melted (or vegan butter)
3 tablespoons bacon drippings, melted* (vegan butter or vegetable oil may be substituted for this as well. For a very authentic taste, put 2 drops of Liquid Smoke into the melted vegan butter or oil.)

Preheat the oven to 4000F.

Beat the egg and sugar together in a bowl. Stir in the milk and salt. Beat in the cornmeal and flour. Mix in the butter and 2 tablespoons of the bacon drippings.

Generously grease an 8-inch cast-iron skillet with the remaining 2 tablespoons of bacon drippings. Put in the hot oven for about 5 minutes. Wearing oven mittens, remove from the oven and pour in the batter.

Return to the oven and bake for 30 – 40 minutes, or until well browned. Serve hot, cut into wedges. 

   Adapted from Chesapeake Bay Cooking with John Shields

Stay tuned for our next stop: Full Quiver Farm in Suffolk and New Earth Farm in Virginia Beach

Monday, July 7, 2014

The New Chesapeake Kitchen - Summer Market in Full Bloom

Beets and Chard and Radishes, Oh My!

Only the third week of the “Summer Market” at the 32nd Street Farmers Market in Baltimore City and things are already in full bloom. Gertrude’s Kitchen Czar, Doug Wetzel, snagged up a cart-full of beautiful, first-of-the-season tomatoes and summer squash from Knopp’s Farm; pole and burgundy string beans from Real Food Farms; and baskets of sweet cherries (both white and dark) from Dave Hockheimer at Black Rock Orchard.

However, my eyes were on the beets, chard, and radishes. Joan Norman, and husband Drew, out at One Straw Farm, possess some sort of magical powers when it comes to organically growing their greens, kale and chard – always lush and beautiful! 

Joan has an easy chard (or any green you like) recipe for parents trying to get their kids to eat more greens; “Take a bunch of chard or kale and remove the larger part of the stems. Roughly chop up the leaves.” Now it’s pasta time. “Boil a pound of your choice of pasta (whole or multi-grain is best) and add the chopped chard to the pasta water for the last 3 to 5 minutes that the pasta is cooking. Drain the pasta and chard in a colander. Then toss it in a bowl with a little heated olive oil/sautéed minced garlic, salt, a touch of freshly ground pepper, and a handful of shredded Parmesan, if you like.” Voila! A Spaghetti & Chard con Agilo e Olio.

Radishes can throw some people for a loop. Often their only experience with the little devils has been a tired, crudité tray. What’s a cook to do? Not too worry, let’s try a refreshing summertime,

Radish & Sweet Corn Salad

Serves 6 to 8

Juice of 1 large lemon
2 teaspoons of local honey (we love Cybil’s Cybee’s Honey), or maple syrup for vegans
Pinch of cinnamon
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil  (Dimitri brand can be found at the 32nd Street Market)
8 to 10 medium radishes (mix ‘n match if you like), trimmed and thinly sliced
3 cups fresh corn kernels (about 4 ears)
¼ cup finely minced red onion
¼ cup finely chopped mint
¼ cup finely chopped flat leaf parsley
Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

In a bowl mix the lemon juice, honey, and cinnamon together. Slowly whisk in the olive oil. (* Free culinary tip: The “slowly” part is not the “whisk”, it means to add the olive oil slowly while you whisk vigorously to emulsify the dressing a bit.)

In a large bowl, mix the radishes and corn together. Add the dressing and toss well. Add the red onion, mint, and parsley, mixing well. Season the salad with salt and pepper. (I like to use kosher or sea salt if it’s available whenever making a radish salad. The salt is an integral part of the *taste profile – *chef lingo). But if you have neither, don’t sweat it, still will be delicious.

Place the salad in the fridge for at least an hour before serving.

When I was a kid it seemed that beets were a mostly winter vegetable. But how not true. The late spring/early summer beets are the best. There are many complicated recipes for beets but the way I like them best is the most simple. Just roast them! Then it’s like eating candy. Your fingertips may get a bit purple-ish from eating them right out of the bowl, but what the hell, they are so good. Or, I guess you could use a fork.

Okay, I’m going to conjure our Food Network girlfriend Ina Garten, who is a beet’s best friend, not to mention she started as a great home cook.

So Sweet To Eat Roasted Beets

12 beets, washed, topped, and peeled (Beet greens are good to eat too. Think spinach or greens.)
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil (Don’t forget Dimitri)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (Ina likes raspberry better)
Juice of 1 large orange

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Cut the beets into chunks, about ½-inch thick. Toss them in a bowl with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Place the beets on a baking sheet and roast them in the oven for about 40 minutes. Turn the beets occasionally while they bake. When tender, remove them from the oven. Mix the vinegar and orange juice together in a little bowl and then pour over the beets. Serve immediately.

A lower fat, yet still delicious, version would be to roast the beets, whole, unpeeled until tender. Just cut off the top and bottom of the beet and put them loosely wrapped in foil on a baking sheet. It takes about 1 hour at 400 degrees. Then allow them to cool. Peel and cut the beets into chunks. Toss with the vinegar/orange juice mixture given above, season with a little S&P, and then chill (the beets, not you) a bit. Serve cold.

And they say there ain’t no cure for the summertime blues. I think we just found some with these three tasty recipes from today. So until next time, get out there and cook!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Seasonal Summer Dishes

The days are getting longer and writing time is getting shorter! We've been very busy at the restaurant with private parties, including bridal showers, graduations, and celebrations, all taking advantage of the outdoor patio and Sculpture Garden at the BMA. 

This summer I'll continue updating my readers whenever I can on the goings on around town, may it be what's popping up in Gertie's Garden, what's featured on Gertrude's dinner specials, or whomever I bumped into at the Waverly Farmers Market.

Here's a peak into what the chefs at Gertrude's have served lately...

Pea Tendril & Mint Pesto with Roasted Asparagus & Farfalle Pasta

Serves 4 to 6

3 to 4 cups pea tendrils
1 cup mint leaves
½ cup toasted pinenuts
4 cloves minced garlic
1 lemon, zested and juiced
½ cup grated parmesan (optional)
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

Place the pea tendrils, mint leaves, pinenuts, garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice, and parmesan if using, into a blender or food processor. Process the mixture until smooth. With the blender running, slowly add the olive oil. Season the pesto with salt and pepper to taste.

Roasted Asparagus

1 pound local asparagus, with tough bottom stalks trimmed off
Extra Virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Coat the spears of asparagus with olive oil and dust with salt and pepper. Lay the asparagus out on sheet trays, making sure they do not overlap. Roast for about 20 to 25 minutes, until tender, but still a little crisp.

Pasta Salad

1 pound farfalle pasta (regular or whole wheat), cooked al dente and cooled
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
½ cup minced chives or green onions
Roasted asparagus (see proceeding recipe), cut into 1 ½ -inch pieces
Pea Tendril & Mint Pesto (see proceeding recipe)
Salt & freshly ground pepper, if needed

Place pasta in a large mixing bowl and toss with the bell pepper, chives, and asparagus. Fold in pesto, a little at a time, until just nicely coasted. Season the pasta salad with additional salt and pepper if necessary.

And for dessert, a Pastry Chef Doug Wetzel's signature dish....

Strawberry Shortcake

Serves about 10 to 12

4 to 5 pints strawberries, washed, hulled and sliced
About ½ cup sugar, or to taste
1 ½ cups heavy whipping cream
½ cup sour cream
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Cream Biscuits (recipe follows)

Macerate berries in sugar about 1 to 2 hours before serving.

Mix whipping cream, sour cream and powdered sugar together in mixing bowl. Whip until soft peaks begin to form. Add the vanilla.

Split open the biscuits with the prongs of a fork. Place the bottom on a plate and spoon strawberries on top – and then a dollop of the cream. Place the top of the biscuit on top of the cream. Place another dollop of cream on the plate with a strawberry to garnish. Place a mint leaf in the cream. Dust with powdered sugar.

Cream Biscuits

Makes about 10 to 12 biscuits

3 cups white flour
1 ½ tablespoons baking powder
1 ½ tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
¼ pound butter, cut into small pieces
1 ¾ cups heavy cream, plus additional for brushing

Mix the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt together. Incorporate the butter until the consistency of a coarse meal. Stir in the whipping cream. Turn dough out onto a floured board. Knead gently 3 or 4 times. Pat out the dough into a circle ½-inch thick, and cut with a 3-inch cutter. Place on baking sheets with pan liners and brush lightly with whipping cream. Lightly sprinkle the biscuits with sugar. Bake at 425 F. for about 15 minutes – or nicely browned.