It’s too hot to cook. Yet the heat that’s stewing us is sugaring the peach, sweetening the corn, swelling the crab.That’s summer’s dilemma. The heat that cooks fruits and vegetables — even Maryland seafood — to perfection is the same heat that’s stewing you.
Nobody knows this better than the chefs whose joy and job torture them with the best raw materials when kitchens are hellishly hot.
Except perhaps the farmers, condemned to reap in July what they sowed in spring.
So July didn’t fool the farmer-vintner-rancher-chef pairs who earned invitations to showcase their best on the lawn of Government House at Gov. Martin and First Lady Katie O’Malley’s Third Annual Buy Local Cookout. To tempt appetites wilted by the weather, they cooked cool the hot and humid afternoon of July 16.
You’ll want to know how they did it, because you have a challenge of your own this week. Through July 25, it’s Maryland 2010 Buy Local Challenge Week. What you’ve got to do, to meet the challenge, is eat one locally grown, produced or harvested food each day.
“Ha!” said Gov. O’Malley as he broke from sampling the bounty of the cookout to urge Marylanders to join the challenge kicked off at the cookout. “That’s easy. I can eat 15 a day from Katie’s garden.”
Katie O’Malley’s irrigated home garden — planted with the help of Providence Center gardeners and University of Maryland Master Gardeners — is producing abundantly on the Church Circle side of Government House.
In truth, O’Malley may have been exaggerating. Many of the Government Garden veggies, including the broccoli and Swiss chard, are bolting.
Be that as it may, you can meet and beat the governor’s challenge.
Harvest your own garden, or buy fresh and local from any of Maryland’s 110 farmers’ markets, hundreds of farm stands and multiple mainstream groceries now featuring the year’s most flavorful diversity of fruits, herbs and vegetables.
You don’t have to eat a vegetarian diet to be a locavore. Maryland cheeses, chickens, eggs, beef, pork, lamb and bison are commonplace in many groceries and breaking into many farmers’ markets. Maryland seafood remains at farmers’ markets, but it’s abundant at seafood markets small and large and in the fish section of grocery stores. Of course, in many parts of Chesapeake Country you can still follow hand-painted signs to watermen who brought home their catch that morning.
You don’t even have to sweat long hours over a hot stove. Cool dishes dominated the recipes presented this year by the 18 teams of chefs and local producers invited to his year’s Buy Local Cookout.
Keep your cool with Bay Weekly’s selection of this year’s coolest appetizers, salads, main dishes and desserts — and we didn’t forget the wine. Find the rest of the bounty in the 2010 Maryland Buy Local Cookbook: www.mda.state.md.us/pdf/coobook.pdf.
Four dedicated Anne Arundel County locavores teamed up for an entertaining appetizer that proves that even meat can beat the heat.
The main ingredient, grass-fed beef, is the product of Allen Colhoun, who’s part of the ninth generation to work a farm that’s been in his family since 1685. Allen raises a herd of up to 60 cattle on Ivy Neck Farm near Galesville, where sister Sara runs an organic Community-Supported Agriculture Farm, brother Brice does sustainable logging and makes furniture and brother Murray keeps the machinery going.
Allen’s Black Angus, white-faced Hereford and Dexter cattle range free on the land, eating grass, until topping out at 1,400 to 1,500 pounds, or 900 for the Dexter, whose size, Colhoun says, “makes them easier to manage; my favorite.” Every five or six weeks, three or four steers meet the butcher in an old family Maryland business in Oella.
Grass-fed beef takes slow cooking to tenderize, so Colhoun starts his customers out on ground beef.
Chef Raphael Jurkovic, of Tapenade Catering in Edgewater, eschewed the traditional hamburger for an appetizer he christened Rosemary Lollipop of Maryland Beef, Onion Spaghetti, Smokey Heirloom Tomato Confit and Spicy Micro-Greens Melange.
Despite the long title, these lollipops are easy and cool to make. As Jurkovic proved at the Governor’s Cookout, every element can be made outside.
Sara Colhoun provided the microgreens and rosemary sticks from her CSA farm. On the other side of the timeline, Shawn Sizer, new to farming, grew the other veggies.
Rosemary Lollipop of Maryland Beef
3×4 lb ground beef
4 heirloom tomatoes
2 large onions
1 tbsp chopped garlic &
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
12 rosemary sticks, 12 inches long
1 tsp thyme
Ground black pepper to taste
Sea salt to taste
2 tbsp water
1×2 tbsp canola oil
1×2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 handful spicy micro-greens for garnish
Mix ground beef with crushed and chopped garlic. Add water to moisten. Season with salt and pepper. Make a ball. Cook on the grill, then skewer on a rosemary stick (resembling a lollipop).
Chop onion and cook in a pan with canola oil and butter until caramelized. Add chopped thyme. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Core, peel and seed tomatoes. Put on a rack in smoker and smoke for about two hours [Skip this step if too much trouble]. Sauté garlic with canola oil in a large pan. Add smoked tomatoes and cook further on stovetop.
Once cooked to desired consistency, add olive oil, thyme, salt and pepper. Garnish with spicy micro-green mélange.
“It’s all about summer,” says Chef Jerry Edwards of Chef’s Expressions Catering in Baltimore County. So “cooling and refreshing” was his goal in designing A Study in Summer: Maryland Corn, Crab and Tomato Salad.
“Crabs are at their sweetest and corn and tomatoes are at their peak,” said Edwards, who travels the state and the nation to present his delicacies. “Plus, I’ve used Maryland Dragonfly vinegar to add balance.” So, he says, his cute and cool savory cupcakes are “not monoflavored.”
You’ll hardly have to step into the kitchen to prepare them, and they’re light enough to be irresistible in the hottest weather — as their reception at the Governor’s Cookout proved.
A Study in Summer: Maryland Corn,
Crab and Tomato Salad
16 oz jumbo lump blue crab, gently picked
4 ears Silver King corn
4 ounces extra virgin olive oil (ah, you can’t get that grown locally)
11×2 ounces Dragonfly wine vinegar
1×4 bunch basil, fresh, cut into chiffonade strips. Use only tender leaves
1 pinch sea salt
1×2 tsp white pepper
1×4 oz sugar
4 oz heirloom tomatoes, 1×2-inch diced (Cherokee Purple, Green Zebra or Brandywine are favorites)
Peel husks away from corn. Rub corn with one-ounce olive oil and a touch of salt. Roast corn in a 350-degree oven for 20 minutes. [Editor’s note: you can do this outside on the grill.] Cool and cut from the cob into a stainless steel bowl. Add lumps of crab, cut tomatoes, and basil.
Make vinaigrette in a separate bowl by whisking remaining oil, vinegar, sugar, white pepper and sea salt. Pour over crab mixture. Toss gently so as to not break up the lumps of crab.
Mold in ramekins and refrigerate for at least two hours so the flavors meld. Turn out ramekins onto a pretty plate, garnish with fresh tomato and basil and enjoy!
Let the grill do the work. That’s the advice of Chef Alfredo Malinis Jr. at Annapolis’ newest trend restaurant, Level Small Plates Lounge, at the corner of West and Calvert streets. Beat up a simple sauce for his Caroline Pit Chicken, put the chicken on the grill, baste and turn. Malinis also pulled the chicken from the bones, as you’d do barbecued pork.
Ah, simplicity! Amid the wilting complicated, albeit lovely, presentations of the Governor’s Cookout, Caroline Pit Chicken was little more than chicken and fingers. Isn’t that your dream of how to eat when it’s too hot?
Caroline Pit Chicken
Whole free-range chicken
4 whole free range eggs
2 cups rice wine vinegar
60/40 blended oil
1 yellow onion, small dice
1 scallion, small dice
4 oz garlic
1 tbsp parsley
1 tbsp rosemary
1 tbsp sage
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh-squeezed lime juice
In a large container, blend all ingredients but chicken. Cook chicken over a wood fire, basting with mix and turning every five minutes.
Peaches are so good right now that you want to eat them every way you can. Right off the pit is always the best, and that’s what Robbie Jester — chef at Harbor House Restaurant at Worton Marina on the Chester River — does in this dessert. Because the peach is grilled instead of baked, you can do it outside. The sauce hardly needs any heat, and assembly is simple.
A Maryland native, Jester buys local across his menu. He used peaches and blueberry honey from Lockbriar Farms in Kent County. It’s a U-Pick farm, so you can, too.
The wine for his sauce came from Cassinelli Winery and Vineyard in Church Hill, on the Eastern Shore near Chestertown. He used their Merlot, but on the side he told me that the winery’s Chocolate-Kissed dessert wine is also fun.
Grilled White Peach with Blueberry Honey Mascarpone,
Granola & Salted Caramel
3 white peaches (peeled and halved with the pits removed)
1 cup mascarpone cheese
4 tbsp honey (here, Lockbriar blueberry)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup granola
11×2 cups sugar
1 cup Cassinelli Merlot
2 tbsp cold butter
1×4 tsp salt
4 tbsp heavy cream
In small saucepan, dissolve Merlot and 1 cup sugar over high heat. Reserve to soak your grilled peaches.
Beat the mascarpone, honey and vanilla extract until smooth. Refrigerate.
Here’s the only hot step [Skip it if it’s too hot]. Heat remaining 1×2 cup sugar in a sauté pan over medium heat with a teaspoon of water. Slowly the sugar will melt and form a caramel. If the sugar starts to brown too quickly, lower the heat. Patience is the key. Once the sugar is a light amber color, add the butter and swirl. Remove pan from heat and whisk in the cream and salt.
Brush the open surfaces of each peach with a little melted butter and place on pre-heated grill. Cook until the edges begin to caramelize.
To serve, cut a little piece off the round side of each peach, plate and fill cavity with mascarpone. Top with granola and salted caramel.
Don’t Forget the Wine
To beat the heat with a sparkle as refreshing as Hilda Mae Snoops’ fountain, all you have to do is chill and pop the cork. Ray Brasfield of Carroll County has done the rest of the work for you.
He’s spent three decades learning the craft, and he’s transformed a prizewinning hobby into a profession at Cygnus Wine Cellars. He’s grown the Vidal wine grapes at his own Brasfield Family Vineyard. He’s harvested and pressed them, fermented their juice twice — once in barrels and once in the bottle. He’s aged the wine and turned it sparkling.
Now its fate is up to you.
Brasfield Family Vineyard bottles three sparking wines. I vouch for the heat-tempering properties of Cygnus Royele Blanc de Blanc, the brut sparkling wine served by the family at the governor’s cookout.
Find the 2010 Maryland Buy Local Cookbook at www.mda.state.md.us/pdf/cookbook.pdf