Monday, September 27, 2010

Saturday at Everona by Martha

Janet, Susan, Nancy and Martha took a little field trip on Saturday to the Virginia Piedmont, specifically to visit a cheesemaker in Rapidan called Everona. We headed south mid-morning and even though it was Saturday, and sunny and warm, mimicing a mid-summer day, there was no traffic on I-95. (That's worth mentioning.) Just at the Fredricksburg exit we headed west for about 35 miles into the countryside. Virginia is one beautiful state, with rolling hills and lots of trees. We first went to a little town called Orange, which is the site of James Madison's home, Montpelier. Orange is pretty much a farm town, with beautiful brick storefronts along Main Street. But it also attracts folks from horse country, so you have a 1960's-like variety store across the street from a trendy cafe, which, of course, is where we had lunch. Elmwood at Sparks is a neat little surprise. Although not a destination restaurant, Chef Randy Cooper's open kitchen, with well used and nicely cared-for copperware hanging from the ceiling, turns out really tasty lunch food and a dynamite blueberry pie.

From Elmwood we headed to Everone Dairy, an artisan sheep farm tucked alway off of a country road in Rapidan. The cheesemaker, Carolyn Wentz and her six year old daughter, Sadie, proudly showed off both the farm and the cheesemaking operation.

The farm is owned by an amazing woman, who we did not meet because she was a little under the weather. Dr. Patricia Elliott is a Renaissance woman. A practicing physician in her 80s, she started Everona in the 1990s. You can read a bit about her at the Everona website, But the thumbnail is that she owns the farm, practices medicine, is the country coroner, breeds Border Collies and is the mother of seven children. What a life!

Our tour of the farm started in a small "stable" where there were about 10 head of sheep (I think they are heads) housed for a variety of reasons. We sympathized with the mother who was in labor ... it was such a hot day and she was ready to deliver. There were two baby lambs who were only two or three weeks old.

In the next crib were the 4 month olds

and then a there was a "recuperating" crib for a couple of sheep who had lost their way! (ha, ha) There were a couple of rams, one of which had a broken horn. Carolyn explained that it's a pretty serious injury for a ram. They can actually bleed to death from a broken horn.

We didn't see any of Dr. Elliott's Border Collies, but there were two beautiful dogs present. They are Polish dogs called Tetra. Stunningly beautiful, the older dog was content to sleep in the shade on such a hot day. The new puppy only visited for a minute. Carolyn said the puppy was still a handful.

Once we finished with the farming tour, we headed back to the dairy. (Which means we took about 20 steps. Everona has about 300 sheep, but seems to be a very compact operation.) Carolyn explained that they start milking their sheep at 5:30 every morning and they milk 6 at a time. So you do the math .... She said it takes about 3 hours to milk the entire herd and guess what? TWO milkings a day. If you have kids, but haven't taken them to a farm, it's a real good first-hand reminder for adults and lesson for kids about what goes on to put food on our tables.

From the milking room, we moved to the cheesemaking room where Lucy was hard a work. Through conversation, we learned that although Carolyn carries the title of cheesemaker, Lucy should probably be rewarded a similar title. The vat where the milk is churned was in operation. It's a stanless steel vat with a hollow lining that carries water heated to different degrees. The temperature of the water that circulates around the milk actually determines the type of cheese (hard, soft, feta, etc.) that's produced. Once the cheese is drained in colendars, Lucy shapes and labels it with the date and places it in the cave for aging. Sheep cheese does not develop a rind in the aging process, so it's totally edible. The aroma of the cheese cave, and I think their cave holds about 500 rounds of cheese, is intense and mouthwatering.

We moved into the front room for a cheese tasting. We had tucked a couple of bottles of wine into a cooler, (don't you always travel with wine?) so we were well prepared. (And guess what .... I was the designated driver. Who would have ever thought ....) I don't know how many varieties we tasted. Piedmont, Stony Man, Blue, Ash, Garlic, Herbs de Provence, Feta, Truffle, Marble and summer sausage, along with two mimbrillos ... fig and cranberry. Sheep's milk cheese is mild tasting, so it's the delicate flavoring that makes a difference.

Everona sells about 40% of their cheese at Farmer's Markets. In the DC area, I know they are at Crystal City on Tuesday afternoons, Columbia Pike on Sunday morning and Glover Park on Saturdays. They sell at Cheestique in Del Ray and their cheese is served in some pretty nice restaurants, including the Inn at Little Washington. So this is no slouch cheese!

You can visit Everona at their website where you will find their contact information. But keep in mind, this is a working farm. It smells like a working farm, the farm animals aren't bathed for your visit, and the tasting room isn't picturesque. But I'm so glad we made the trip. I have a couple of pieces of beautiful cheese in my frig and I also bought a pot of this amazing skin lotion. I also brought back a container of cheese whey, which Carolyn said cats like. I poured out some for Kochi and she looked at me as if to say, "You want me to drink this? It smells like a sheep!"

Monday, June 14, 2010

Mid June Catch Up

It's been quiet a while since I've posted anything on the blog, but I really enjoy reviewing our escapades and thought I'd take a few minutes to do a little catch-up.

Seems as if we've modified our activities a little .... less cooking, but always about the food and wine!

March was the dinner at Central.  I was unable to be there, so someone else might want to fill in on the meal.

In April (I don't remember what happend to February) we were treated at Eliza's house. Ingrid had come up with a theme centered around Brain Food. She provided us with some reading material from the book "Brainpower Game Plan" by Cynthia Green and the editors of Prevention. Eliza cooked an amazing salmon which was one of the best salmon recipes that I've ever enjoyed. She served it over a sauce of grilled veggies. Monica brought a powerful plate of appetizers. Susan contributed a vegetable dish and Ingrid a salad. Now, my mind is a little hazy from all the Mom-care I was giving at this time, so I can't quite put my finger on the exacts, but I know that I ate two portions of each. Janet brought along a chocolate raspberry dessert. I'm not sure it conformed to the tenents of brainpower food, which include low refined sugar and high on the dark chocolate (at least 85%). But we had gotten so smart over the earlier dishes that we were ready for a real treat. Nancy brought wine and I, being a total flake, brought nothing. Sorry, I was just happy to be among friends.  I have tried to incorporate the Brainpower foods into my diet more.  I've switched from coffee with cream and sweetner to a straight shot of espresso in the morning.  I am eating wild salmon twice a week and found a great Machu tea (at Costco, of all places!),

May found us with only three people available for dinner at Busboys & Poets in Shirlington.

Busboys and Poets is a restaurant, bookstore, fair trade market and gathering place.

I was there a few minutes early and needed a refresher, so I ordered a Tree-tini.  It was one of the yummiest cocktails I've had in a while.  The food was well priced and great.  Nancy ordered the spinach lasagna.  It was a generous portion and lots of good healty spinach.  Janet had one of their salads, which had a beautiful presentation and she declared it delicious.

I really enjoyed my meal of spring with basil grits.  Being from the Northeast, I had never had grits before I came to DC, but I really enjoy them with lots of pepper.  This dish was amazing!  We agreed that we would definitely return.  Great food and good value.  Two thumbs up!

Which bring us to this month.  We've got me, Nancy, Ingrid, Susan and Vicki headed to Ray's Hellburgers.  unfortunately, no wine, but anticipating another one of their amazing burgers and the best dinner companions!

Ed Wheeless has invited us to Laurel Lodge again over the weekend of August 27th.  What a great time of the year to be in the heartland of fresh fruit and vegetables.  I'm sure we'll plan a great weekend.  We tried to get to Laurel Lodge earlier this year and had to cancel because of the last snowstorm.  It was a whopper and we all agreed that our decision to stay tucked in at home was the right one.  I keep telling everyone that in August I want to tube down the river.  I don't know if anyone is taking me seriously, but I'm bringing my bathing suit!

Hope everyone is enjoyed the summer and I'm looking forward to lots of adventures with our group.  We've talked about visiting a winery that Janet is familiar with and we all would like to visit Ris la Coste's new DC restaurant. 

Back to work and see almost everyone on Thursday.  We'll miss Eliza, Janet and Monica who are all enjoying summer travels!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

January meeting ... guess not

Didn't get much feed back on a January 21 meeting, so I guess that we just take it off the calendar and consider Laurel Lodge our January meeting. I'm going to put up the 2010 schedule today, so please make your picks. Thanks.

Our next get together would be scheduled for January 21. Originally, Susan had offered to host this meeting. I remember that we talked briefly about this date and that maybe we could go to Susan's when the potential for bad weather might not be so high. I think that we talked about maybe going to Eliza's or just skipping January since we're at Harper's Ferry a couple weeks later. Susan and I had no recollection of a final decision. Can you please weigh in with your preference? Thanks. Martha

2010 Meeting Calendar

All meeting at 6:00 PM, third Thursday of the month.

February 5 - 6:  Laurel Lodge
February 18: 
March 18:
April 15:  Eliza
May 20:  Dinner out in Shirlington
June 17:
July 15:
August 19:
Sept. 16:
Oct. 21:
Nov. 18:
Dec. 16:

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

January meeting ... guess not

We didn't get much feed back on the January 21 meeting, so I guess that we just take it off the calendar and consider Laurel Lodge our January meeting.  I'm going to put up the 2010 schedule today, so please make your picks.  Thanks.

Our next get together would be scheduled for January 21.  Originally, Susan had offered to host this meeting.  I remember that we talked briefly about this date and that maybe we could go to Susan's when the potential for bad weather might not be so high.  I think that we talked about maybe going to Eliza's or just skipping January since we're at Harper's Ferry a couple weeks later.  Susan and I had no recollection of a final decision.  Can you please weigh in with your preference?  Thanks.   Martha

Monday, January 4, 2010

News For All You Central Michel Richard fans

Top chef says adieu to Central Michel Richard

Chef Cedric Maupillier has parted ways with Central Michel Richard, reports his former boss.

"He did a great job: Two years at Citronelle and three years at Central," says Michel Richard, singing the praises of his former chef at the fashionable French-American bistro earlier today.

The split was described by both men as amicable. Maupillier says he wants to take a two-month "food break" to travel (likely to Asia), but he plans to return to Washington and contemplate "the next step"-- which won't include working for another chef. His dream: Cooking in a place "with my name on the door."

Taking Maupillier's place at Central is Arthur Cavaliere, until recently the executive chef of the 300-plus-seat Parc in Philadelphia's Rittenhouse Square and now a week-long resident of Washington. Richard was introduced to the 29-year-old Philadelphia native by a mutual friend, and he sampled Cavaliere's bistro cooking twice at Parc before hiring him for Central. Richard appreciated his "simple" food and "elegant" execution, despite the crowds. On a busy day, says Cavaliere, he and his crew served 2,000 lunches and dinners.

Richard says he plans to work with his new hire, who starts next week, to better Central's bar menu and give some "old food fresh twists."Stay tuned, the master of edible wit says, for reimagined meatballs and chicken pot pies.

Laurel Lodge Retreat, please RSVP to Martha by Friday, Jan. 8

Hope everyone had a great holiday and that you're all finding ways to keep warm.

I heard from Ed Wheeless about our February retreat to Laurel Lodge.  (  He's suggesting that we have our group meal on Saturday, February 6, but has invited anyone who wants to come up on Friday evening and stay through Sunday.  For the early Friday arrivals, we'd go to a local Harper's Ferry restaurant called Dish.

Since we're approaching Valentine's Day, Ed proposes we base our Saturday night dinner on the book Aphrodite by Isabel Allende.  Or, more broadly, any foods reputed to be an aphrodisiac.  He will supply recipes from the book and a sample menu from a dinner CafĂ© Atlantico did based on the Allende book.

Laurel Lodge has three guest rooms -- two rooms with one queen size bed each and one room with two twin beds. So some of us would be sharing a room, some a bed.  If you want to bring a blow-up bed, that might be helpful if we're over 6 people.
Because Ed and Chris are also doing some travel during their break, it would be good to at least have our numbers settled by the end of this week.  So please let me know if you will be coming along on this adventure and whether you'll be there Friday, Saturday or both nights.
Thanks and toodles!

Monday, December 7, 2009

To Bring List for Fondue Night

Here's the final list of what people will be bringing next week.  See everyone on Wednesday.  Don't forget your $10 swap gift!

Coquito -- Susan
Pate -- Martha
Cheese and Baguette -- Vicki

For the Chinese Fondue:

baby pickled corn -- Nancy
broccoli -- Susan
asparagus -- Susan
alphalfa bean sprouts -- Susan
medium shrimp, 3/4 lb. -- Monica
scallops, 3/4 lb. -- Eliza
thinly sliced tuna, 3/4 lb. -- Nancy
thinly sliced beef, 3/4 lb. -- Monica
dipping sauces -- Martha

For the dessert fondue:

a couple of clementines -- Janet
Some cookies -- Janet
some pretzels -- Janet
strawberries -- Janet
1 or 2 bananas


Ladies of the Knife Cellar:  2 bottles red
1 bottle of wine -- Monica
1 bottle of wine -- Eliza

Fondue Night Next Week!

We've got our annual fondue night next week on the 16th at my house.  I think we may have a full complement ... heard from everyone but Susan.  Hope she can make it!

We decided to stick with the Chinese Fondue and Chocolate Fondue.  (This should be the easiest no-prep-meeting .... great for the holidays!)  I'll make the same broth that we liked last year and I happen to have a container of some beautiful Valhrova Couverture chocolate that's perfect for the dessert fondue.  I have both pots, so okay there too.

Here's our list from last year, which seemed to work great:

baby pickled corn
alphalfa bean sprouts
medium shrimp, 3/4 lb.
scallops, 3/4 lb.
thinly sliced tuna, 3/4 lb.
thinly sliced beef, 3/4 lb.
dipping sauces

For the dessert fondue:

a couple of clementines
Some cookies (Janet .... would you ever?)
some pretzels
1 or 2 bananas

For hors d'ouvres, I'll make some pate.  Could someone bring a nice piece of cheese?

Last year Susan made coquitos.  (If you're coming, would you ever think about mixing up another batch?)

I don't know where we stand on wine.  I know Monica delivered three of four bottles to Nancy and maybe they went to Janet's house last month.  Anyone know what the wine celler situation is?

Mitzy says, "Don't forget the holiday kitchen gift exchange .... something around $10.00, right?"

Let me know what you'll be bringing .... I'll update the list on the blog and look foward to seeing everyone on the 16th around 6!

Felice Navidad!







Sunday, November 1, 2009

Appetizer Night at Nancy's

Well, out September dinner goes on record as the smallest.  Only Nancy, Martha and Janet made it.  So we enjoyed a nice evening sipping some wine that Hawaii-bound Monica had dropped off late in the afternoon.

We had a nice variety of finger foods ... Janet contributed a mock pate and a flourless hazelnut chocolate cake, of which there are no photos (sorry).  Nancy made shrimp cocktail, marinated mushrooms and stuffed red potatoes.  Martha made a mushroom stuffed baked brie and deviled quail eggs.  Recipes and the photos that were taken will show up in the next few days.

November is at Janet's house on the 19th and she mentioned osso bucco!  I'm sure we'll hear more from her soon.

Dulce de Leche Crepes by Martha

I used a basic crepe recipe, which can be found in any standard cookbook. I like Julia Child's recipe in "Mastering the Art of French Cooking", and used her suggestion to include some Grand Marnier in the batter. Crepes are relatively easy to make and there's probably nothing I can add to Julia's directions, right?

For the dulce de leche, I decided to try to make my own and found a neat little recipe on line for using the microwave. It worked beautifully and took about 8 - 10 minutes, compared to 2 - 3 hours it would have taken in the over. (I know you can buy dulce de leche in any Latin grocery. I just like to try it from scratch, at least for the first time I'm making something.)

Dulce de Leche

Empty one 15 oz. can of sweetened condensed milk into a fairly large glass bowl. Place in microwave for two minutes at 50% power. Remove and gently whisk. (At this point, you won't notice anything different.) Repeat this process three or four times. When you remove the bowl from the microwave and notice that the milk is looking curdled, it's time to stop. Whisk until the dulce de leche is smooth. (By the way, if you continue this cooking process you would ultimatly end up with dulce de leche candy, which is a fine tasting caramel.)

Plating the dish

Place about 1-1/2 tablespoon of dulce de leche in the center of one crepe. Fold the crepe in half and then into a quarter fold. Arrange on an oven proof dish. Continue the process until you've either used up all of the crepes or exhausted the dulce de leche.

Prior to serving, place the dish of crepes in the oven at 300 for about 20 minutes. You can then bring the dish to the table, pour a 1/4 cup grand marnier and flambe the dish, or if you wish, you can omit the flambe.

Tomato Salad

I can't remember who made this wonderful tomato salad, but it was amazingly refreshing and I'd sure like to have the recipe, so can the chef step up to the plate and load the recipe?  Thanks.

by Monica

Monica made this beautiful dish .... hopefully she'll be able to add the recipe here soon!

Empanadas by Monica

Pink Clams by Janet

Scallops Parmesan Style (or Clams or Mussels) by Janet

Ingredients: 2-3 scallops/person (if using mussels or clams, 5/person;) 1shallot, peeled and quartered; 2 T. salted butter; 4 T. fresh lemon juice; 1 T. dry white wine; 1 small garlic clove, peeled; ½ t. salt + 1 pinch; 2 sprigs cilantro, very finely chopped; 3 T. shredded Parmesan cheese.

In Chile, the shellfish of choice for this dish is a pink clam called Macha, but it’s not easy to find here in the US. I found them online, canned, and they work great.

Preparation: In a food processor, place the shallot, garlic, 1 T. butter, pinch salt, 2 T. lemon juice, pinch of salt and process to a paste. Add the shredded Parmesan and chopped cilantro and blend quickly.

In a baking dish, place the remaining lemon juice and butter, wine and ½ t. salt and mix well to coat the bottom of the dish. Arrange the seafood in the dish and top each with a (generous) dollop of the paste. Bake at 375 for about 5-7 minutes, or until lightly golden. Serve warm as an appetizer.

Queen Style Avocadoes with egg mix filling, nestled in Fava Bean Salad made in Susan's Kitchen

(Note from Martha:  I am so far behind in posting the photos from both September and October and I'm hoping to get a caught up today, so prepare for an avalanche of wonderful recipes!)

Ingredients for stuffed avocadoes: ½ avocado per person, peeled and pit removed; hard boiled eggs (about 2 eggs for 3 avocado halves; 4 eggs/6 avocado halves and so on); 1 T. extra virgin olive oil/2 eggs; salt to taste; 1/3 tsp. hot sauce/2 eggs (Cholula or Frank’s Red Hot sauces work best;)

Preparation: in a bowl mash up the hard boiled eggs with the olive oil to a smooth paste; mix the eggs paste with the hot sauce and salt to taste. Cover and refrigerate until ready to stuff the avocadoes.

Ingredients for Fava Bean Salad: 2 cups of peeled and cooked favas (skin removed) or 1, 280z package of frozen favas (La Fe are the best and can be found in the frozen veggies section of most Asian/international markets or at El Chaparral, across from Whole Foods in Wilson Blvd.) If you can’t find favas, you can substitute with finely chopped Romaine lettuce for the “nest” sprinkling the romaine with a little salt, vinegar and oil so the lettuce is not bland; 1 t. salt; 2 T. red wine vinegar; 3 T. grapeseed or canola oil; 1 shallot, peeled, halved and finely chopped; ½ t. salt; the juice of 1 freshly squeezed lemon; 1 T. grapeseed or canola oil; 1 T. finely chopped cilantro.

Preparation: Cook the fava beans until tender, making sure that they don’t turn to mush; if using frozen favas, add to salted boiling water without thawing. Once they cool enough to handle peel and place in a deep bowl. The fava beans should be still warm enough that they can absorb the vinegar. Add the vinegar and salt first and stir well, then add the oil. In a separate bowl, mix the chopped shallot with salt and lemon juice and let steep for at least 10 minutes (a little longer is always better, 20 minutes ideally, but 10 minutes works in a pinch;) then add the oil and the cilantro, stir well and add to the dressed favas. Mix well and make a small nest on a dish, where the stuffed avocado will be placed in the center of the plate.

Cut and peel the avocadoes with a soup spoon, remove pit and stuff each half with the egg mix. Serve atop the fava bean salad nest or chopped romaine in lieu of favas.

Another salad that works well to plate the avocadoes is fresh green cabbage salad. I usually buy the shredded cabbage packages and salt it first, then following the recipe for the fava beans dressing. I also add a 1/3 t. ground cumin so it’s not so heavy to digest.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

An Amazing Recipe Search Site

Here's an amazing website I ran across.  It contains recipes, photos and articles from most food magazines, cookbooks, newspapers, tv shows.

You can search by recipe, or by source.  I think I can safely dispose of my stacks of magazines!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Severed Fingers by Martha

How about serving up a bowl full of severed fingers for your Halloween guests?  These cookies were actually pretty easy to make, were delicious and made quite a presentation.  The following recipe makes about 30 cookies.

For the finger nails:

Take about 20 blanched almonds and split them in half.  This was actually the most time consuming part of the recipe.  Soak them in a bowl with about 1 tsp. of food coloring ... your choice of color.  I used green and the almonds actually turned out pretty black.  I think a light shade of blue might be fun too.  When they reached the shade I was looking for, I spread them on a piece of parchment and dried them for about 10 minutes in the oven.  I had the oven set at about 250 for the shrunken heads.  You don't want to toast the almonds, just dry the food coloring.)

For the severed fingers:

1 teaspoon food coloring
20 blanched almonds
2 large eggs
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon almond extract
½ cup butter, at room temperature
½ cup confectioners' sugar
5 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 pinch salt
1 ⅔ cups all-purpose flour

1. Heat oven to 350°. Line two baking sheets with Silpats (French nonstick baking mats) or parchment paper, and set aside.
2. Separate 1 egg. Set aside the white. In a small bowl, whisk together yolk, remaining egg, and vanilla. Set aside.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine butter, confectioners' sugar, granulated sugar, and salt. Beat on medium speed until well combined. Add egg mixture, and beat until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the flour, and mix on low speed just until incorporated. Wrap the dough in plastic, and chill until firm, 20 to 30 minutes.
4. Divide the dough in half. Work with one piece at a time, keeping remaining dough covered with plastic wrap and chilled. Divide the first half into fifteen pieces. On a lightly floured surface, roll each piece back and forth with palms into finger shapes, 3 to 4 inches long. Pinch dough in two places to form knuckles. Score each knuckle lightly with the back of a small knife. Transfer fingers to prepared baking sheets. Repeat with remaining dough. (Hint: this dough spreads dramatically, so be sure to roll the fingers extra skinny. I actually baked one to make sure I had the right size. I think if you eyeball the dough and use about 1 tablespoon of dough for each finger, that should be just about right.)
5. When all fingers are formed, whisk the egg white until foamy and brush the fingers lightly with egg white. Position almond nails; push into dough to attach.
6. Place the sheet pan in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes to firm up the dough.
7. Bake until lightly browned, about 12 minutes. Cool completely.

For presentation:

I bought a bag of long grain white rice and poured it, obviously uncooked, into a bowl to resemble maggots.  (How charming!) and then just stood the severed fingers in the rice.  The next time I make these, (and I will) I'm going to add another realistic touch.  Once they have cooled I plan to splatter them with red food coloring to resemble blood and also brush some red on the severed end of the finger.  It's almost icky how realistic these are, but they taste so good and are really fun ....

Monday, October 26, 2009

Shrunken Heads by Martha

If you're making a Halloween punch or even soup, here's a decoration that's really fun and easy to make.  It's from Martha Stewart, but this Martha's added some useful information of my own.

Use nice round apples.  Peel them and cut in half.  Remove the seeds with a melon baller.  (This is important.)  Rub the surface with lemon juice.  Take a paring knife, or use your melon baller to cut in eyes, noses and mouths.  Make the cut-outs larger that you'd expect.  (Everything shrinks!)

Place the apples cut-side down on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a sillipat.  Bake at 250 degrees.  (Now Stewart says to bake them for two hours.  I kept mine in the oven about 8 hours before I thought they looked right.)  I have a dehydrator in my convection oven and that worked great.  Also, every once in a while, I'd take one or two out of the oven and squish them gently with my hands to distort the faces.  Finally, when they are done, insert whole cloves for the eyes.

These can also be strung up and hung as decorations.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Ingrid Has Lunch With Ingrid! The Edible Island Conference, Deer Isle, ME

During my recent visit to our home on Lookout Point in Maine, I decided to attend the first Edible Island Conference on Deer Isle, one of my favorite places in Maine. The conference offered several presentations from the leaders in the local food movement, a wonderful fresh mussel or onion soup and salad farm lunch using only fresh local ingredients, and excursions to local primary producers.

The presentation that was the most fascinating was by Eliot Coleman and Barbara Damrosch, the owners of Four Season Farm, a year-round market garden on Cape Rosier. Eliot has over 40 years of experience in organic farming and has published extensively on the subject. You may recognize Barbara’s name from her weekly column in the “Home” section of the Washington Post called “A Cook’s Garden”. She is also the author of several gardening books. Both are internationally recognized as leading authorities in the field.

Inspired by trips to France, Eliot and later his wife Barbara, began a journey that has led their farm to become a model for small-scale sustainable agriculture. I am still in awe that they are able to farm year around (all that snow!) and produce absolutely breathtaking produce. They are creative and continually improve their farming practices. They started by planting crops in cold frames located in greenhouses. Today they no longer use the costly and labor intensive cold frames, but rely on protective plant covers. They have also redesigned the greenhouses so that they shed snow and are movable. It should be noted that their greenhouses are, generally, without any supplemental heat. To make this all work, they choose the best and most suitable varieties of winter crops, practice succession planting, and have designed a complete system of garden tools and equipment specific to the needs of organic farming. Compost along with other improvements such as crab shells ensure far better than average soil composition. For more information, please refer to their website:

Sustainable seafood was another topic that was explored. Aaron Dority heads the Downeast Groundfish Initiative, a major campaign to rebuild a sustainable groundfish fishery in eastern Maine ( Ginny and Blaine Olsen, owners of Oceanville Seafood, have been focusing the last five years on organizing conservation efforts for the local shellfish industry. This has resulted in progress in restoring depleted local and historical clam populations. Terry-Anya Hayes, a wild foods educator, spoke about the local, edible landscape (

Now, what about Ingrid? I had the privilege of meeting and having lunch with Ingrid Bengis-Palei, who has been a Stonington author and seafood distributor for 25 years. Working only with local fishermen from Stonington and Penobscot Bay, she services some of America’s premier restaurants, including Jean Georges, the French Laundry, Chez Panisse, Spago and Le Bernardin. She is a primary force behind the Island Culinary and Ecological Center (ICEC), a non-profit organization of people who love to cook. They focus on cooking with regional products while supporting a sustainable environment. They also aim to inspire others and encourage young people in the culinary and hospitality arts. Ingrid and the ICEC organized the conference as well as the special fundraising dinner with renowned chefs Jean-George Vongerichten, Melissa Kelly, Michael Leviton and Lawrence Klang, who donated their services. I unfortunately was unable to attend, but it was an overwhelming success. Check out their website:

Oh, and by the way, if you recently saw someone with a rather large box trying to negotiate the New York subway from the airport, that was Ingrid hand carrying fresh Atlantic halibut for a dinner by Jean George for President Obama, the Clintons, and other friends. If she does this again and you happen to see her, please do offer to lend her a hand!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Carla on the NBC website

Nice item about Carla on the NBC website .... check it out! Link to Carla Hall's Secrets of the Kitchen!

There's also a great little 1/4 page item in this month's issue of Food and Wine.

Today's Washington Post carried an item from Tom Sietsema about Ris LaCoste's restaurant in the West End opening s.o.o.n.  Tom says, "I see pigs flying!"  I see a great meal coming!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake

My neice, Beth, mentioned today that she was looking for a good recipe for Pumpkin Cheesecake.  I have a really nice recipe and thought I'd share it with all since it is the season .... I'd also think about adding a 1/2 tsp. of cinnamon and a touch of nutmeg to the crust.


2 C vanilla wafer crumbs
½ C melted margarine
2 8 oz. packages light cream cheese, softened
¾ C sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
4 eggs
1 C canned pumpkin
¾ tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. ground nutmeg
Combine crumbs and margarine. Press onto bottom and sides of 9" springform pan. Combine cheese, ½ C sugar and vanilla, mixing at medium speed on electric mixer until well blended. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Reserve 1 C cheese mixture; add pumpkin, remaining sugar and spices to remaining cheese mixture. Mix well. Layer half of pumpkin mixture and half of cheese mixture over crust; repeat layers. Cut through batter with knife several times for marble effect. Bake at 350o for 55 minutes. Loosen cake from rim of pan; cool before removing rim of pan. Chill.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Scott in Town

I got the following note from Scott via Facebook and told him I'd pass it along to see if anyone is available ....

"I will be in town Oct 10-14 and was wondering if you and some of the ol' gang would be interested in getting together at all for drinks or dinner out. I've tried to contact Carla several times, but I haven't heard from her at all. Even after TC I've been trying to reach her, but to no avail.

I really would like to see all of you and catch up. Well I hope we can put something together. Let me know.

Hope you are well...."

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Chilean night at Monica's by Martha

Hope everyone's enjoying a great Labor Day Weekend ..... wow except for the lack of rain and the gardens and lawns turning to shredded wheat, it couldn't be more perfect.

We are scheduled for our next meeting at Monica's house on Thursday, September 18, just a short 10 days away. Several people have mentioned (me amongst them) that they are very unfamiliar with the Chilean cuisine. A couple of people have done some internet research and even looked at the library and our findings were mainly main-dish recipes. Monica has promised to send along recipes for appetizers, side dishes and desserts that would take advantage of the fall harvest that we're all enjoying this month, but those recipes have never arrived. I went back on line today to see if I could find anything and most of what I found were main course recipes. I can't seem to copy the links into the blog, so I'll send them separately.

In the meantime, I'll plan to bring dessert .... it may not be Chilean, but it will be seasonal.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Carla Alert by Martha

Just thought that I'd let you know that tonight is both the opening night for this season's version of Top Chef on Bravo, and the finale of the recent Top Chef Master's series. Carla left for California this morning and is scheduled to attend the Top Chef Master's filming, so you might want to tune in!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Julie and Julia night by Martha

Next Thursday is the date we selected to see Julie and Julia. (I really didn't think I'd be able to wait so long to see this movie and thought I would just see it twice. But I've resisted the temptation to see it before Thursday with everyone else!)

It is showing at Potomac Yard (7:40), Lowes Georgetown (7:15), Hoffman Center (6:30, 7:30) and Kingstowne (7:45).

Do we want to have dinner first and then see the movie, or maybe go to the 6:30 at Hoffman and then have dessert and coffee somewhere in Old Town?

Please let me know your preferences.

(Ingrid and Elisa will be unable to join us on Thursday, but I think everyone else has indicated their availability.)


Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Anyone Interested?

I don't know if anyone else is interested, but this seems like it would be lots of fun .... a pig roast at a chef's table at Poste Moderne Brasserie (Hotel Monaco at Gallery Place) on August 31.

The notice came through on my facebook yesterday and the spots are limited to 10 people, and it might be filled by now, but just thought I'd pass it along.

If there's anyone else interested, let me know and I'll register myself .... if not, I might just go by myself.

Here's the link ....

Thursday, July 23, 2009

All-American potato salad

By Eliza

Shortly after coming to this country, one of the things that caught my attention was the world of deli salads—tuna, chicken, egg, coleslaw, pasta, shrimp, potato, you name it—all in two, sometimes three different styles. I’ve come to love almost all of them, specially at that not-yet-lunch hour packed tightly between two slices of toasted rye bread—ah, so flavorful and so fulfilling! My favorite though is potato salad, the all-American way. Here's the recipe for the salad I brought to our al-fresco dinner on Saturday.


1 lbs of new golden potatoes, cooked
½ lb of new rosette potatoes, cooked
2 teaspoons kosher salt or to taste
1 cup sour cream
1/3 cup thick plain yogurt
½ cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoons olive oil
Juice of one lime
8 sprigs fresh dill
8 sprigs flat parsley
2 shallots
A pinch of freshly ground pepper

Prepare the salad

1. Peel off the skin from the golden potatoes. Leave the rosettes as are for color. Cut all potatoes in quarters and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with one teaspoon salt. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and set aside.

2. In a big bowl, mix in the sour cream, yogurt, mayonnaise and mustard. Stir in the vinegar, lime and remaining salt. Chop the dill and parsley finely. Finely dice the shallots and add herbs and shallot to the cream mix. Incorporate the potatoes, sprinkle the pepper on top and mix gently until all potatoes are generously covered with the cream. Serve or store in a tight container for up to three days.

Serves 6

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Photos from Ladies of the Knife guest night

Here are some of the photos from Saturday night that came off of my camera and from Warren. Amazing night .... send me any photos that you took and we can add them to the blog for all of enjoy!

Olive Puffs by Martha

I served these Olive Puffs on Saturday night and everyone seemed to enjoy them. Here's a version of a recipe that I saw Michel Roux demo on Martha Stewart. I tried very hard to make the "olive straws", but that was was beyond my capabilities, so I settled for slicing the olives in halves instead of 1/4 inch lines and offering 1/2 puff pastry olive as a serving. I found that the pastry actually worked better withour the flour and egg that Martha Stewart suggests below. The only other thing different in the preparation was that instead of being in the oven for 5 minutes, it took about 15 minutes for the puff pastry to brown. You can find a photo of the "olive straws" at the following link: Roux&rsc=header_3

Makes 12
All-purpose flour, for work surface

13 ounces puff pastry
15 large green pimento stuffed olives, about 1 1/4 inches long
1 medium egg yolk
1 tablespoon milk

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out puff pastry to a 12 1/2-by-6-inch rectangle, about 1/8-inch thick. Using a large sharp knife, cut the rectangle into a 5 1/2-by-6-inch rectangle and a 7-by-6-inch rectangle. Place both rectangles on a baking sheet and transfer to refrigerator; let chill 20 minutes.

Place the 5 1/2-by-6-inch rectangle on a baking sheet. Place 5 olives, end-to-end, in a straight line along the short side of the rectangle, leaving about a 5/8-inch border. Repeat process two more times to make three lines of olives. In a small bowl, whisk together egg yolk and milk. Brush egg mixture on all exposed spaces between olives. Cover with the 7-by-6-inch rectangle of puff pastry, pressing the whole surface of the dough between the olives firmly with your fingertips. Transfer to refrigerator; let chill 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Using a very sharp knife, trim edges of dough; cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-wide straws. Lay flat-side down on a baking sheet. Transfer to oven and bake until pastry is golden and crisp, 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer straws to a wire rack to cool slightly. Serve warm.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

July 18th Spouses and Guests Night

Here's the food list for our July 18 ALL-AMERICAN EVENING BARBECUE where we have invited spouses and/or guests. We'll have a total of 12, maybe 13 people.

I'd like to change the time to 7 PM, which will give Mother Earth a few more minutes to cool down since we'll be in the backyard. Nancy has offered to start the evening off with gin/vodka tonics and if everyone else could plan to contribute 2 bottles of red wine, we should be covered.

Notice that Nancy and I both have guests ... Ed Wheeless and Warren Eng will be joining us. Bonnie will not!

Ingrid is in Michigan all week and will let me know tomorrow if she's getting home early enough on Saturday to make it.

Here's the food list:

finger-food appetizer -- Monica
dip and chips -- Nancy
potato salad -- Eliza
Pasta dish -- Janet
Tomato and green beans (to be picked that day from my garden)-- Martha
Steaks - to be purchased by Martha
Spinach bake -- Nancy's guest
Blueberry cobbler -- Vicki
Peach Pie -- Martha's guest
Ice Cream -- Nancy and Martha

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Fish Cakes for Dessert by Martha

With Susan's "Gifts from the Sea" theme for our June meeting, it was a challenge to come up with a seafood-based dessert. I borrowed the cake recipe from Nick Malgieri's "A Baker's Tour" cookbook and adapted the decorations to fit our theme. The recipe was a little complex, and I must have read it about ten times to make sure I had it right. It's not a recipe for the faint hearted baker. But I would bake it again. It comes out like a cannoli in a cake form!

Ricotta-Filled Cake from Sicily

For the Pan di spagna
2/3 c all purpose flour
1/2 c cornstarch
5 large eggs, separated
1 c sugar
2 t vanilla extract
pinch of salt

For the Rum Syrup
1/3 c water
1/3 c sugar
1/4 c white rum

For the Ricotta Filing
2-1/2 pounds whole-milk ricotta
2 c confectioner's sugar
1 t vanilla extract
1/2 t ground cinnamon
4 oz. semisweet chocolate, cut into 1/8" pieces

For the Almond Paste Decoration
8 oz. almond paste
3 c confectioners sugar
green food coloring
5 tbsp. light corn syrup

10" round pan, 2" deep, buttered and the bottom lined with a disk of buttered parchment or wax paper. (If your baking pan is only 1-1/2" high, add a parchment collar.
10" sloping-sided pie pan lines with plastic wrap

1. Set a rack in the middle of the over and preheat to 350.
2. Stir the flour and cornstarch in a small bowl and set aside.
3. Place egg yolks in the bowl of an electric mixer with 1/2 c. sugar and the vanilla. Whisk by hand. place the bowl on the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and whip on medium speed until very light in color, about 3 - 4 minutes. If you have only one mixer bowl, scrape the mixture into a medium bowl and wash the mixer bowl with hot soapy water, then rinse and dry.
4. In the clean, dry mixer bowl, combine the egg whites and salt. Whip by machine with the whisk attachment on medium speed until the egg whites are white, opaque, and beginning to hold their shape. Increase speed to medium-high and add the remaining 1/2 c. sugar in a slow stream, continuing to whip the egg whites until they hold a firm peak.
5. Use a large rubber spatula to fold the yolks into the whites, then sift about a third of the flour and cornstarch mixture over the egg foam and fold it in. Repeat with the second and last thirds of the flour mixture, folding each time.
6. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake the pan di Spagna until it is well risen, well colored and firm, and a toothpick inserted in the center emerges dry, about 30 - 40 minutes.
7. Immediately unmold the cake onto a rack, removing the paper on the bottom of the cake. Place another rack against the bottom and invert. Remove the top rack so that the cake cools right side up. Cool the cake immediately.
8. For the rum syrup, place water and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Remove from heat and cool. Stir in the rum
9. For the ricotta filling, gently stir the ricotta in a large mixing bowl with a rubber spatula, just until it is smooth. Gently stir in the confectioners sugar. Do not beat the mixture or it will liquify. Stir in the vanilla and cinnamon. Remove about 1/2 of the ricotta mixture and set aside for finishing.
10. Out the chopped chocolate in a small strainer and shake to sift away any very fine chocolate dust which would color the filling. Stir in the larger pieces of chocolate remaining in the strainer into the large bowl of ricotta filling (not the 1/2 cup).
11. To assemble the cassata, use a long, serrated knife to cut the pan di Spagna into 1/4 inch wide vertical slices. Line the prepared pie pan completely -- bottom and sides -- with cake. Sprinkle the cake slices with about a third of the run syrup and about half the ricotta filling with the chocolate bites in the lined pan. Arrange a layer of cake slices over the filling and sprinkle with another third of the syrup, then spread the remaining filling over the cake slices. Top with more slices of cake, but don't moisten them. (Once the cassata is inverted, this will be the bottom.)
12. Give a good press to the top layer of the cake with the palm of your hand and wrap the cassata in plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight to set.
13. While the cassata is chilling, make the almond paste. Combing the almond paste and sugar in a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Add 3 - 4 drops of green food coloring and pulse until the mixture resembles fine crumbs. Add the corn syrup and pulse until the mixture is about to form a ball. Scrape the almond paste from the food processor to a surface lightly dusted with confectioners sugar and knead it until smooth, making sure that the coloring is evenly distributed throughout. Wrap in plastic wrap and store at room temperature until needed.
14. To finish the cassata, unwrap it and place a platter over the pie pan. Invert the whole stack onto the platter and life off the pie pan, leaving the cassata on the platter. Use a brush to moisten the outside of the cassata with the remaining syrup. Spread the reserved ricotta mixture without the chocolate bits over the outside.
15. Roll the almond paste thinly on a surface dusted with cornstarch and drape it over the cassata. Trim away any excess almond past at the base of the cake. Use the scraps of almond paste to make a twisted rope to finish the bottom of the cake. Decorate the top of the cake with candied fruit in a symmetrical pattern.

Cover and refrigerate until service time. Wrap and refrigerate leftovers.

Shellfish Watermelon Ceviche from Vicki

Makes 6 servings

1 orange
½ cup orange juice
¼ cup fresh lime juice
½ cup diced seeded watermelon
½ teaspoon grated fresh ginger
2 T. finely diced red onion
2-3 teaspoons finely chopped jalapeno pepper
½ teaspoon slat
¼ lb. sea scallops, cut into ½” pieces
¼ lb. large shrimp, peeled and deveined and cut into ½” pieces
¼ lb. cooked lobster meat, cut into ½” pieces
1-2 T. chopped fresh mint

Cut, peel and remove pith from the orange and cut into segments. Chop each segment into pieces.

Stir together the chopped orange, orange juice, lime juice, watermelon, ginger, onion, jalapeno and salt.

Bring a 1-quart saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add scallops. Reduce the heat to a slow simmer and poach about 1 minute. Remove with a slotted spoon to an ice bath. Return the same water to a boil and poach the shrimp the same way. Again, drain the shrimp and place in an ice bath, then drain both the scallops and shrimp and pat dry.

Add the scallops, shrimp, lobster and mint to the watermelon mixture and toss, season with salt and chill

Traditional Ceviche from Vicki

Seafood stew from Nancy

Seafood appetizers from Monica

Seafood appetizers from Janet

Monday, June 22, 2009

Bye Bye Bebo, Hello Morou

I don't know where I've been, but turned around the other day to find that Roberto Donno fled his Crystal City Coop in early April! But it looks like it won't be long before another celebrity chef steps into this space that was originally occupied by Joes Andres' Oyamel. This time around, Chef Morou Ouattara from Farrah Olivia in Old Town will open Kora, named after his youngest daughter, hopefully later this summer. Maybe he'll bring good service and consistently high quality food and in return will be rewarded with lots of diners!

Monday, June 15, 2009

2009 Meeting Schedule

Here's an update on the coming months. Janet mentioned that she and Monica have swapped dates.

All meetings are scheduled the third Thursday of the month and begin at 6 PM. Here's the current list of dates and hostesses:

August 20 Movie night -- "Julia on Julia"
September 17 -- Monica
October 15 -- Nancy
November 19 -- Janet
December 17 -- Martha -- fondue
January 21 --
February -- At Laurel Lodge
March 18 --
April -- Beach trip???

Friday, May 15, 2009

In Search of Herbs and Finding Susan by Martha

Nancy joined me today for my annual trip to T. DeBaggio's herb farm. This business was started many years ago on 10th Street in Arlington by Tom DeBaggio, one of the world's experts in the science of herbs. Tom was stricken by Altzheimer's several years ago and his son Francesco now runs the business and moved the operation to Chantilly.

There are thousands of plants, herbs, flowers and vegetables with hundreds of varieties. I counted twenty different kinds of peppers today, sweet and hot. I always buy my tomato plants from DeBaggio and each year experiment with a new variety. Last year it was a black cherry plant that turned out to be the star of the garden. This year I picked up a yellow paste tomato plant that comes with a promise of being great for salsas. My oregano from last year shows no signs of life, so I bought a replacement. Picked up Alpine strawberries that are supposed to bear small sweet fruit throughout the summer. In honor of Eliza, I have a epozate plant which has a warning of being a nuisance, so it's going into a pot.

From DeBaggio's, we headed to Ray's Hell Burgers for lunch. This hole in the wall, with no sign outside and seating for probably no more than 40 got some national attention couple of weeks ago when President Obama and VP Biden stopped by for a burger. Even though there's usually a line to get in the door, it's probably the most efficiently run place in town. Tops 15 minutes from the door to sitting down at your table with a simply yummy burger. This was my third trip to Ray's and is probably the only place I'll ever eat burgers. The menu is simple ... Nancy and I decided to split a burger topped with Amish cave cheddar, mushrooms and raw onions. The burger arrives on a great seeded bun, accompanied by a piece of fruit. There's no fries at Ray's, but you don't miss them.

The biggest surprise for Nancy and I was waiting in line for us .... Susan ... standing not two feet from me. She has ordered, what else, a burger with fois gras.

What a great way to spend a sunny day ...

Thursday, May 7, 2009

And Yet Another Super Delicious Meal! by Ingrid

About Susan's Entree Course
Susan outdid herself with the scallops and carrot and chipotle reduction, which she served with black rice. For a starter, she chose a fabulous beet salad with goat cheese. Everything was better than perfect!

About the Vegetable Salad
To go with the carrot and chipotle reduction, I thought that Rick Bayless’ Mixed Vegetables with Lime Dressing would be a great match for the reduction, and it was. You pick and choose from several lists of veggies, decide which ones you’d like to include, and then cut up the appropriate amount. I would say that I was quite liberal with the ingredients and added more than the recipe indicated. I included carrots, beets, blanched green beans, defrosted peas, radishes, cucumbers, and tomatoes. Instead of using a thick slide of red onion as part of the garnish, I diced some red onion – about a half a cup and included it with the veggies. The presentation is quite nice with the lettuce leaves lining the plate and serving as a bowl for the veggies, which after being tossed with the vinaigrette, are mounded in the middle then topped decoratively with the egg slices and Mexican queso fresco.

I used the “baby” carrots and since the slices were thin, I did not blanch the carrots. I used canned beets, which worked out well, but fresh is always better and will roast them the next time I make this dish.

So, check out the link for the recipe!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Arugula that gives and gives by Martha

I seeded arugula this fall which provided me with greens all winter long. Now I have these beautiful blossoms to add to salads, fish, etc. They will soon reseed, but right now are a bright spot in the garden.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Baked Pastry Puffs by Martha

The recipe of these pastry puffs was developed by David Lebovitz and showed up in his spring newsletter. They are so easy to make (in the blender), beautiful when they puff up, smell great as they are baking and taste delicious. Watch out Krispy Kreme .... no frying for these!

Baked pastry puffs

For the puffs:

Softened unsalted butter, for greasing the pan
2 tablespoons butter, melted
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 cup flour

For the sugar coating:
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 tablespoons butter, melted.

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Liberally grease a nonstick popover pan, or a muffin pan with 1/2-cup indentations, with softened butter.
2. For the puffs, put the 2 tablespoons melted butter, eggs, milk, salt and sugar in a blender and whiz for a few seconds.
3. Add the flour and whiz for 5 to 8 seconds, just until smooth.
4. Divide the batter among 9 greased molds, filling each 1/2 to 2/3 full.
5. Bake for 35 minutes, until the puffs are deep brown.
6. Remove from the oven, wait a few minutes until cool enough to handle. Remove the puffs from the pans. You may need a small knife to help pry them out.
7. Mix the sugar and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Thoroughly brush each puff all over with melted butter, then dredge in sugar and cinnamon mixture to coat completely. Let cool on a baking rack. Makes 9 puffs.