FF_Artichokes for Streaking

Food Friday: Artichokes for Streaking

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How are you getting ready for May Day? Are you practicing your May pole dance? Have you shaken out the dust and the bells on your Morris dancing costume? Are you looking for love? Are you going to participate in the much-loved rite of spring: streaking? If you answer “Yes!” to any of those questions then you might want to buy some artichokes in preparation.

Long considered an aphrodisiac, the artichoke is technically a flower bud that has not yet bloomed. Such a potent symbol: prickly on the outside, soft and yielding on the inside. In 1576, Dr. Bartolomeo Boldo wrote that the artichoke “has the virtue of … provoking Venus for both men and women; for women making them more desirable, and helping the men who are in these matters rather tardy.” Stock up on equal opportunity artichokes, they are good for everyone!

Greek mythology gives Zeus the credit for creating of the artichoke. After he had been spurned by a beautiful woman, Zeus turned his love object into a thorny thistle, the artichoke. The ancient Greeks and Romans thought the artichoke was a rare and delicious delicacy. What better time than the beginning of May to celebrate the artichoke, particularly when it is at the peak of its season? And Sunday is May Day, so you should get off on the right foot.

After the Greeks and the Romans the artichoke spread to Spain. Catherine de Medici was supposed to have brought the artichoke to France when she arrived to marry the future Henry II. Catherine was known for her voracious appetites for both food and romance, and she scandalized the French court by eating lots of artichokes, and enjoying the sexy reputation that resulted. Shortly thereafter the artichoke crossed the Channel, where Henry VIII, he of many wives, was thought to be quite fond of them.

The French brought the artichoke to America. George Washington grew them at Mount Vernon. Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery contains a 17th-century recipe “To Make Hartichoak Pie.” At one point in Hamilton, the current Broadway show, it is remarked that Alexander Hamilton was a serial philanderer, and “Martha Washington named her feral tomcat after him.” One wonders if she ever served Alexander Hamilton Harty Choak Pie, too.

From Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery:

To Make an Harty Choak Pie:
Take 12 harty choak bottoms yt are good & large, after you have boyled them, take them cleere from ye leaves & cores, season them with a little pepper & salt & lay them on a coffin of paste, with a pound of butter & ye marrow of 2 bones in bigg pieces, then close it up to set in ye oven, then put halfe a pound of sugar to halfe a pinte of verges [a sauce made with green herbs] & some powder of cinnamon and ginger – boyle these together & when ye pie is halfe baked put the liquor in & set it in ye oven againe till it be quite bak’d.

Most artichokes sold in the United States today are grown in Castroville, California. In keeping with the artichoke’s somewhat sensual reputation, it should be noted that in 1947 Marilyn Monroe, then Norma Jean, was crowned Castroville’s first Artichoke Queen.

If you are going to get up to corporeal mischief this weekend, here are some helpful pointers:
This is a useful video of Jacques Pepin prepping an artichoke:
http://www.epicurious.com/ingredients/prepping-artichokes-versus-buying-artichoke-hearts-article

I have a fantasy life where on the weekends we are visited by our sophisticated and witty friends, who are stealing time away from their fascinating and glamorous careers in the arts. The only breakfast I could dream of serving them would be this:
http://www.marthastewart.com/356430/steamed-artichokes-poached-eggs-and-smoked-salmon

It never hurts to have elegant imaginary friends.But if I expect a little romance myself this weekend, I had best up our breakfast game. I am going to give this a whirl: http://artichokes.org/recipes-and-such/recipes/artichoke-frittata Sadly, the Saturday morning reality is just Mr. Friday and me sitting blearily at the kitchen table, reading the papers, and considering our list of weekend chores while shoveling sticks and twigs into our gawping mouths. On Sundays we add bacon. This weekend I will throw a some inspiring artichokes into the mix and trust to fate!

“Tra la! It’s May!
The lusty month of May!
That lovely month when ev’ryone goes
Blissfully astray.”
-Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe, Camelot

Here is a nice Maryland variation on the artichoke theme that Food52 suggests we try: https://food52.com/recipes/4382-crab-stuffed-artichokes

Celebrate National Public Gardens Day with Free Admission to Adkins Arboretum

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Adkins Arboretum will celebrate the American Public Gardens Association’s (APGA) eighth annual National Public Gardens Day by waiving admission fees on Fri., May 6.

Slated to coincide with Mother’s Day weekend, the unofficial start of spring, National Public Gardens Day affords public gardens an opportunity to showcase their gardens and highlight the valuable contributions they make to their communities.

On National Public Gardens Day, Arboretum visitors can shop from the region’s largest selection of ornamental native plants at the Native Plant Nursery; view an exhibition by artist Marilyn Banner; take a self-guided tour or an audio tour; explore the forest, wetland, meadows and native gardens; and learn about the link between native plants, land conservation and a healthy Chesapeake Bay. Visitors who become members will receive free admission year-round, in addition to a host of other benefits.

Arboretum hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. Nursery hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday and Saturday, beginning May 6.

Founded in 1940, Delaware-based APGA is devoted to strengthening public gardens throughout North America. Its membership includes more than 500 public gardens in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Canada and seven other countries.

Home Tips: Protect Your House and Birds this Summer

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It’s that time of year again….birds are returning, nesting, and flying into our windows with a heart wrenching “thud.” Every year close to a billion birds are killed in North America simply flying into glass windows. In the daytime the windows reflect surrounding foliage, and birds don’t realize they are smashing into an illusion. Some birds attack their reflection in a window, thinking it is another bird competing for their mate. At night birds are confused by bright lights and assume they can fly through that interior.

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These are bird friendly windows made with Ornilux glass. Courtesy www.arnold-glas.de

There are various nets and lines that can dangle in front of the windows. I have used decals with success. Windowalert.com has a series of inexpensive ultraviolet decals (hawks, other birds, snowflakes), films and sprays that the birds see, but are transparent for us. The window must be a moderate temperature and clean when the decals are applied. The decals last about six months.

For new construction or replacement windows, consider a UV reflective glass such as Ornilux. It has a chaotic pattern of UV lines painted on a middle layer of the insulated unit. It is completely transparent to us, yet highly visible to birds. Many architects are specifying fritted glass windows; closely spaced dots or other patterns of ceramic fused on the outer surface are visible to birds, but we can see through them. Fritted glass is typically used in office buildings. Chicago has been a leader in making their tall buildings more bird friendly.

Do not forget awnings. They block unwanted sunlight and help block those pesky reflections of foliage as well. Whatever you do, it’s for the birds.

Pamela Heyne, pam@heynedesign.com, is a Saint Michaels architect. Her forthcoming book, In Julia’s Kitchen, Practical & Convivial Kitchen design influenced by Julia Child, will be out this fall.

Discover Kent County’s Native Gardens on Adkins Native Garden Tour

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On Sat., May 21, when spring is in its glory, Adkins Arboretum brings its fourth annual native garden tour, “Celebrating Natives,” to Kent County.

“Celebrating Natives” is a different kind of garden tour, one that focuses on sustainable approaches to Eastern Shore gardening. The tour not only highlights the beauty of the gardens but emphasizes their importance in a biodiverse landscape.

The self-guided driving tour features six unique gardens from Chestertown to Rock Hall, each demonstrating varying commitments to native plantings and uses of sustainable practices such as rain barrels and composting. The gardens range from a small in-town lot that takes full advantage of every inch, to two multi-acre waterfront property showcasing thriving native trees, to gardens tended specifically for wildlife.

The first garden tour of its kind on the Eastern Shore, “Celebrating Natives” exemplifies the Arboretum’s mission of teaching about and showing by example the importance of using native plants in restoring balance to the ecosystem and fostering community relationships. Native plants are those that grew and thrived on the Eastern Shore before the introduction of European settlers. Because these plants have adapted naturally to the region’s ecology of climate, insects and wildlife, they are a better choice than non-native plants.

“Celebrating Natives” will take place rain or shine on Sat., May 21 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 on the day of the tour in the parking lot of Sacred Heart Catholic Church, 508 High St., Chestertown. For more information or to order tickets, visit adkinsarboretum.org or call 410-634-2847, ext. 0.

Save the Date: Taste of the Town Set for May 1

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One of Chestertown’s signature events, the 9th Annual Taste of the Town & County, will take place Sunday, May 1, noon to 3 pm in Fountain Park. Organized by the Downtown Chestertown Association, the affair pairs restaurants and diners, farm and chefs from throughout the county.

Chef Jordan Lloyd of Barlett Pear Inn will participate in the cooking demo, Diced! at Taste of the Town.

Chef Jordan Lloyd of Barlett Pear Inn will participate in the cooking demo, Diced! at Taste of the Town.

Attendees can sample a tantalizing variety of dishes prepared by local chefs and caterers who are encouraged to partner with local producers in sourcing ingredients. Prior offerings include cream of crab soup, gnocchi, pulled pork, beef brisket, oysters, beet napoleon, lemon pie and chocolate bread pudding. People’s Choice awards will be given to Most Creative, Best Use of Local Ingredients, and Most Flavorful.

While sampling the food, watch Chefs Kevin McKinney from K-B Market & Kitchen School, Jordan Lloyd from the Bartlett Pear Inn and Doug Stewart of Stewart’s Catering participate in “Diced! A Local Food Challenge,” patterned after the popular cable TV show “Chopped.” Each chef will prepare a dish from a “mystery basket” made up of ingredients donated by local farmers. The chefs have no idea what is in the basket until just prior to show time!

Crow Vineyard and Winery in Kennedyville will be on hand with a selection of wines to purchase by the glass; local beers will be for sale as well. Proceeds from a raffle and auction benefit two local groups dedicated to maintaining the flowers, planters and trees in downtown Chestertown: Curb Appeal and the Chestertown Garden Club.

Come early to view entries from the annual Paint the Town Quick Draw competition. Paintings will be displayed along Cross Street prior to the opening of Taste of the Town. Artist from across the East Coast are participating in this year’s four day plein air event culminating in the Sunday morning competition.

Advance pass tickets are $15, and are available at The Finishing Touch, 311 High St Chestertown or on line at www.TasteofChestertown.com.through April 29. Admission at the door is $20.

The DCA is committed to maintaining a viable historic business district as an integral part of preserving the quality of Kent County life. For additional information, visit www.TasteofChestertown.com or call 443 480 1987.

Mead, Munchies, and More Than Honey: Celebrate Earth Day By Honoring Bees!

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charmCityMeadIn honor of Earth Day, April 22, get ready to celebrate the world’s most fabulous pollinators—bees—with the documentary More Than Honey shown under the stars, and a chance to taste actual nectar of the gods from Charm City Meadworks. The events are sponsored by Washington College’s Cen ter for Environment and Society and are free, open to the public, and on the lawn of the Custom House, 101 South Water Street.

At 6 p.m., guests over 21 are invited to taste the ancient liquor of mead, an alcoholic beverage created by fermenting honey with water and yeast. Charm City Meadworks, opened in 2014 in Baltimore, has taken this storied art form to a new level and reintroduced it to a more contemporary palate. Co-owners James Boicourt and Andrew Geffken began the meadery with the hopes of showing the world that the world’s oldest alcoholic beverage is still relevant and delicious. Their wares range from basil lemongrass mead to a seasonal pumpkin spice flavor. To learn more about Charm City Meadworks, check out their website.

At 7 p.m., guests can spread out their blankets and beach chairs, munch on complimentary popcorn, and watch Oscar-nominated director Markus Imhoof’s film More Than Honey, which tackles the global decline of bees and the lives of people who rely on them from California to Switzerland and China to Australia (not to mention Baltimore!). One out of every three bites of food you take requires pollination. This film will open your eyes about the vital role that bees play in our everyday lives, and why we need to understand their decline and work to stop it.

In case of rain, the event will take place in Litrenta Lecture Hall in the Toll Science Center on the College campus. You can RSVP at the Center for Environment and Society and receive reminders for the event on their Facebook.

Inspiration from the Prairies

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Janet Draper, Horticulturist as the Mary Livingston Ripley Garden (part of the Smithsonian Gardens), is coming to Chestertown. Ms. Draper was awarded a travel grant to go out to the Midwest to explore some of the region’s ‘Prairie Inspired’ gardens; the latest trend in landscape design.

Rather than trying to control nature, the 21st century garden is designed to work with nature and promote biodiversity. Janet Draper will share what she learned at the Lurie Garden in Chicago and the Olbrich Botanical Garden in Madison, WI.

The Lurie Garden was designed by Piet Oudolf, the famous garden designer, who also designed the plantings for the High Line in New York City. These two public gardens have moved away from a formal planting design to gardens that are more ecologically balanced and support a wide array of insects and wildlife.

The talk will be held at the Chestertown Town Hall, 2nd floor conference room, on Saturday, April 16 at 2pm. The event is free and open to the public. For more information please contact Sabine Harvey, sharvey1@umd.edu

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Chestertown Garden Club Receives Two Awards

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The Federated Garden Clubs of Maryland, Inc. awarded The Chestertown Garden Club, District I. a State Award for ”Outstanding Container Garden” with $150.00 and a District award, the Steiff Young Gardeners Achievement Bowl, in recognition of the Pizza Garden Creation with 2nd Graders of Radcliffe Creek School, Chestertown, MD.

e Connie Scroth

Connie Scroth and Robin Emling

Horizons at Radcliffe Creek School is a summer program for disadvantaged children in Kent County. The club provides the barrel, soil, plants and the guidance of two garden club members to assist is creating a pizza garden. Horizons School students learn how to recognize and care for different types of parsley, herbs, and tomatoes as well as the importance of insects and pollination.

(L to R), Mackey Dutton, Beryl Kemp (President) and Sid Cooper.  They are receiving an award from The Federated Garden Clubs of Maryland, Inc. to the Chestertown Garden Club in recognition of their 85th Anniversary.

(L to R), Mackey Dutton, Beryl Kemp (President) and Sid Cooper. They are receiving an award from The Federated Garden Clubs of Maryland, Inc. to the Chestertown Garden Club in recognition of their 85th Anniversary.

The children use their harvest to make pizza as a culminating activity. In many cases, this is the first introduction to actually seeing food grown in “soil/dirt”! Co-Chairmen in photo are Connie Scroth and Robin Emling. These two members work with Horizons staff/children and all members participate through May Mart fund-raising.

Food Friday: Hamburger Helper!

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It really doesn’t get any simpler than this: ground beef, salt, pepper, and a cast iron skillet. With a little practice, you can have an excellent bar burger at home without lighting up the grill, without baking your own buns, and without paying for overpriced beer. Yumsters.

I have always believed that hamburgers cooked outside over a charcoal grill were manna from heaven. American fast food manna, for sure. When Mr. Friday switched from charcoal to a gas grill, I was disappointed in the flavor of my burgers. Those carcinogens emitted by the charcoal were very tasty. And I would never venture outside to grill my own hamburgers if Mr. Friday was away, as he often is. The gas grill was intimidating with its buttons and gauges and whooshing and the inherent explosive nature of the gas tank. No, thank you. Instead I would get take out at the local drive through – which has excellent onion rings, as well as a good, cheap cheeseburger.

I expect an excellent burger when I go out to a sit-down restaurant, and mostly I get served merely adequate, formerly frozen, blocks o’meat. But if they are served with crispy, blisteringly hot French fries, I tend to nibble around the burger, eating the well-done bits, and I try to feel as if I have had a satisfactory dinner. There have been expertly cooked, gold standard bar burgers in my past, and I savor their memories, but present day, my local burger dining experiences have been disappointing.

Enough of that nonsense! I have discovered a burger I can cook on top of the stove, without fear of explosions, without carcinogens, without getting into my car and having to share with Luke the wonder dog on the ride home. Thank you, Sam Sifton of the New York Times. You have allayed my cooking fears, encouraged bad behavior in smashing the cooking beef, and given me home-cooked hamburger independence.

I am always searching for the perfect French fry prep, and have found that Crispy Crowns are perfect temporary accompaniment. Heresy for sure, but they are hot, crunchy, crispy, and deelish, and all they need is a couple of shakes of Lowry’s Seasoning Salt. And they fend for themselves in the oven while you are performing your rapid-fire maneuvers with the burgers. It is hard to juggle a vat of boiling oil and a couple of searing hamburgers. Trust me, the gas grill is less dangerous.

Mr. Friday was not convinced about using cold meat, right out of the fridge until I showed him the video graphic evidence – so take a few minutes to watch the video. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/25/dining/how-to-make-a-great-burger.html?_r=0 He enjoyed squishing the hamburger with a heavy spatula, and you will, too.

And here are the steps, courtesy of the New York Times.

1. Add oil or butter to a large cast-iron or stainless steel skillet and place over medium heat. Gently divide ground beef into 8 small piles of around 4 ounces each, and even more gently gather them together into orbs that are about 2 inches in height. Do not form patties.

2. Increase heat under skillet to high. Put half the orbs into the skillet with plenty of distance between them and, using a stiff metal spatula, press down on each one to form a burger that is around 4 inches in diameter and about 1/2 inch thick. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Cook without moving until patties have achieved a deep, burnished crust, a little less than 2 minutes. Use the spatula to scrape free and carefully turn burgers over. If using cheese, lay slices on meat.

4. Continue to cook until meat is cooked through, approximately a minute or so longer. Remove burgers from skillet, place on buns and top as desired. Repeat process with remaining burgers.

We tried cooking our two burgers, a thin, bar-style for me, and the larger, thicker hamburger for Mr. Friday in our relatively new, only slightly seasoned cast-iron skillet. What an excellent addition to the pots and pans assemblage that pan has become! It is perfect for so many kitchen essentials: corn bread, bacon, fancy pan-seared steaks à la Mr. Friday, fried chicken, cobblers, hash browns; you name it. The clever folks at Bon Appétit have dozens of ideas: http://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/slideshow/cast-iron-skillet-recipes

I topped up with cheese, lettuce, tomato and pickles. Mr. Friday used catsup, spicy brown mustard, and lettuce. I find catsup an abomination, and much prefer a nice slice of a room-temp local tomato. Inevitably, at this time of year, it is an overpriced organic heirloom ugly tomato that I have carted home from the grocery store. But tomato season is rapidly approaching!

Served with Crispy Crowns which I always overcook slightly (by design) and a pleasant, inexpensive plonk, we had a fine meal, topped off with many calories from a raspberry fool.

“You can find your way across this country using burger joints the way a navigator uses stars.”
― Charles Kuralt

Helpful cast iron pan hints: http://www.seriouseats.com/2014/11/the-truth-about-cast-iron.html