Wilting weather is not dampening the prodigal enthusiasm of vine, branch and stalk.
Bursting into ripeness are apples, beans, cukes, eggplants, figs, grapes, honeydews, interesting squash, jalapenos, kohlrabi, limas, melons, nectarines, onions, peaches, root vegetables, sweet corn, tomato, varieties of hot and sweet peppers, watermelons, yams and sweet potatoes, zucchini.
They’ll never taste better than they do now, when their abundance puts them at your fingertips — if not in your own garden and orchard, then at farmers markets, roadside stands and local groceries that buy from farmers who are our neighbors.
If vine, branch and stalk yield a diet that’s a little too vegetarian for your taste, you’re doubly in luck. Never in most lifetimes have we had more variety of locally raised meat to choose from. It’s accessible as well as abundant, at local farms, farmers’ markets, butcher shops and more.
All this abundance is why Gov. Martin O’Malley chooses the last week in July to throw his annual Maryland Buy Local Cookout.
For Every Season, There Is a Recipe
To prepare for the occasion, local growers of fruits, vegetables, fish, fowl and flesh team up with local chefs to combine the freshest ingredients into the most tempting recipes. Forty teams from across the state submitted the recipes gathered in the 2011 cookbook of Maryland Buy Local Cookout recipes. About a third of the team braved the heat to cook and serve their recipes on the lawn of Government House.
Farmers and chefs local as your own backyard stand out at each year’s cookout. Among them this year was Prosperity Acres in Sunderland, in Calvert County, whose team of 18-year-old Edward, 11-year-old Jacqueline and nine-year-old Jacob Bowen prepared Apple-Glazed Beef Brisket.
“It’s hot, but what are you going to do?” said Chef Edward Bowen.
Bowen — who enters Anne Arundel Community College’s culinary program next month — worked his magic on beef hand-raised by the family farm’s youngest generation.
The brisket was rich, savory and delicious. It also took hours to cook: three in a Dutch oven, followed by searing on the outdoor grill. So I’ll be waiting to try the Bowen’s recipe until autumn brings late apples and cool weather.
So come October, look for his recipe in Bay Weekly. It will be the third in Bay Weekly’s monthly sequence of a year of recipes gleaned from the 2011 Maryland Buy Local Cookout and geared to the season.
Can’t wait? Download the cookbook at www.mda.state.md.us/pdf/cookbook11.pdf.
Now, here are Maryland chefs’ suggestions on how to make the best of summer’s bounty with recipes while staying out of the kitchen (mostly) when you can’t stand the heat.
Chilled Cantaloupe Soup with Cayenne Coconut Ice Cream
Westin Annapolis Hotel Chef James Barrett, who grew up in Fairhaven, was Cookoff 2011’s most popular person. Instead of raising temperatures, he lowered them. Not a degree of new heat went into his Chilled Cantaloupe Soup with Cayenne Coconut Ice Cream. So tasters gathered about to sip and to enjoy the frost of his liquid nitrogen ice-cream freezer.
Summer in a Bowl, as Barrett nicknamed his success, is indexed as a dessert. But it does as well as an appetizer or the highlight of a cool meal.
Farmer George Mortimer of Green Farm in Centerville grew the cantaloupes, and farmer Allen Colhoun of Ivy Neck Farm in Galesville provided the eggs.
1 tsp simple syrup
Peel cantaloupe, removing all seeds, and cube. Peel orange, removing all white pith. Peel limes, removing all pith. Run cantaloupe, oranges and limes through juice machine. Combine with simple syrup.
Cayenne Coconut Ice Cream
1 quart heavy cream
9 egg yolks
8 oz pina colada mix
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 cup honey
1 liter liquid nitrogen
Combine all ingredients in mixing bowl. Using a paddle attachment, mix thoroughly on low. Slowly add liquid nitrogen to freeze ice cream. Store in airtight plastic container in freezer.
Float ice cream in soup.
Simpler still but just as cool is this variation on gazpacho, created by Chef Susan Callahan of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore in Somerset County to capitalize on the most popular fruits of the vine, pairing them with the herb everybody’s most likely to grow.
This gazpacho wasn’t served at the Cookout, but the recipe was irresistible. I made it at home, serving it with crab salad instead of topping it with crabmeat. Grandkids weren’t turned on, and adults rejoiced as they all wanted seconds.
1 cup seedless watermelon
1-1/2 lbs plum tomatoes (peeled and seeded)
2 small cucumbers (peeled and seeded)
1 onion: sweet yellow, white or scallions
1 bunch fresh mint, leaves only; substitute basil for an unusual combo
1 tbsp kosher salt
1/4 cup Dragonfly Farms Black Currant Vinegar
Optional: 1/2 lb Maryland crab or 1/2 cup crème fraise
In a food processor or by hand, chop each vegetable to a fine dice. Do not create a puree. Slice mint to thin slivers. Combine all vegetables, herb and salt.
Serve in chilled soup cups or bowl. Drizzle about a tablespoon of vinegar over each cup. Top with crab or crème fraise.
Maryland Summer Peach Soup with Seared Eastern Shore Monkfish
and Local Watermelon Salsa
Anne Arundel County’s Schillinger Farm, a regular at local farmers’ markets, grew the peaches and watermelon. Waterman Jesse Garner took his 87-foot Capt. Fella into the Atlantic to catch the monkfish. Chef Bryan Bernstein of Howard County’s Saval Foodservice combined fish and fruit into an invitation to dinner.
Like Watermelon Gazpacho, Maryland Summer Peach Soup approaches a full meal. In either recipe, the fish topping could be plated next to the soup rather than in it. Either way, good crusty bread with a local cheese turns appetizer into full summer meal.
2 lbs very ripe peaches
1/4 cup yogurt
1/4 cup sour cream
salt and pepper
2 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp honey sugar, if needed, for sweetness
Peel peaches and puree in food processor with yogurt, sour cream, lime juice and honey. Season with salt and pepper. If too tart, add sugar to sweeten.
3 cups seedless watermelon
1 tbsp Thai basil chiffonade
salt and pepper
1 sliced red onion
Cut rind off watermelon and cube into half-inch pieces. Chiffonade (roll into tight ball and slice) 1 tbsp basil and slice red onion very thin. Mix with watermelon. Keep chilled.
Season monkfish with salt and pepper, and sear in a hot pan with oil. Place in a 400° oven and cook until 140° internal temperature.
Serve soup in a bowl with watermelon salsa over top. Top watermelon with a thin slice of the monkfish.