Horticulturist Barbara Ellis Asks: How Does Your Chesapeake Bay Garden Grow?

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Local horticulturist and author Barbara Ellis can relax and garden this summer. For the past six years she’s been working on her book “Chesapeake Gardening and Landscaping: The Essential Green Guide”, and that labor of love has taken precedent in her life. Now it’s out.

The book, which promises to become one of the horticultural bibles for Chesapeake Bay region gardening, was published in association with Adkins Arboretum by University of North Carolina Press this month.

The 328-page book offers 317 color plates by Neil Soderstrom.

UNC Press’ Southern Gateways calls Ellis’ book “comprehensive guide shows homeowners, gardeners, garden designers, and landscapers how to do just that for the large and beautiful Chesapeake Bay watershed region.”

Mollie Rideout, Director of Horticulture, Historic Annapolis Foundations writes, “An important, valuable, and timely resource for Chesapeake gardeners, and the only book of its kind for the region. The volume’s structure and practical how-to nature will make it useful both to readers just starting their gardening endeavors and to experienced gardeners inspired to bring their landscapes into more conformity with their natural contexts.”

Barbara Ellis was former managing editor at Rodale Press and publications director at the American Horticultural Society.

The Spy was happy to have caught up wither last week and talk about her new book.

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Food Friday: A Mess of Frittatas

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I just love this cheeky instruction from Jamie Oliver: “Preheat your oven to full whack.” It is succinct, to the point, and it definitely sets the tone – you will be in the proper frame of mind to roast, beat, and chop away as you prepare your own delicious custardy frittata.

The frittata can be served at any meal, which is a great relief, when you have suddenly remembered (as I often do, at about 5:15 every afternoon) that there will be hungry folks expecting dinner. Again. And have I graciously planned a nutritious meal having shopped with thrift and epicurious zeal at the food market? Doubtful. It’s time to go scrounging around the fridge and the larder and see what I can rustle up in the way of intriguing ingredients.

Butter. Check. Eggs. Check. Milk. Check. Ditto peppers, onion, Parmesan cheese, cheddar cheese, leftover potatoes, bacon and parsley. Check, check, check. The clever folks at Food52 think we should have foraged for fiddlehead ferns and our own morels. https://food52.com/blog/6663-how-to-make-any-frittata-in-5-steps
I think not. The basics have covered my bases. Now to look for something a little out of the ordinary: spaghetti. http://usa.fage.eu/recipe/frittata-alla-carbonara-fage-total?gclid=CjwKEAjwpYeqBRDOwq2DrLCB-UcSJAASIYLjXESVD206YvTAaYXh_cqjedZ4SJc8ShMk7b6W7V4qfRoCQSLw_wcB)

Leftovers can also supply a panoply of variations: sausage, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, mushrooms, asparagus, zucchini, leeks, eggplant, spinach, squash, artichokes, ham, turkey, salami, chicken and smoked salmon. Add just about any cheese you can think of. I personally love a BLT frittata, because a BLT is the perfect food at any time of the day or night. Thank you, Rachel Ray: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/rachael-ray/blt-frittata-recipe.html

Last Sunday morning, while Mr. Friday was out entertaining the Wonder Dog, I thought I would be nice, and make a proper breakfast for him, instead of shoving the usual weekday box of granola in his general direct, through the fluttering stack of the New York Times. Virtue is its own reward.

I did not preheat the oven to full whack, sorry Jamie. Instead I set it at 375°F, and baked a cookie sheet’s worth of thick cut bacon, while sautéing the vegetables I had on hand: green pepper, green onion, a minced garlic clove, and four small tomatoes. It is important to brown these water-bearing vegetables, so the water does not leak out into your egg mixture during the baking process, leading to a watery mess. At the last minute I tossed in a handful of leftover hash browns, just to warm them up, and to distribute them evenly among the vegetables.

I sautéed the vegetables in our new 8-inch cast iron frying pan. We have a glass-top stove, so I have been leery about using cast iron, and scratching the surface. But nothing is better for cooking frittatas (and corn bread) than a cast iron pan, so I moved it gingerly, and no disaster resulted. In the past I have used casserole dishes or pie plates for the baking part of the frittata, and things have always turned out fine. A speck of frittata has never been wasted in this house.

For years the Pouting Princess was served a vegetarian Christmas frittata, baked on Christmas Eve and warmed up in the morning, alongside the sausage balls enjoyed by us, her savage relatives. And that is another charm of frittatas; not only can you use leftovers as ingredients, you can enjoy leftover frittatas, warm or cold.

I then beat 6 large fresh, cage-free eggs, with about a third of a cup of half and half, salt and pepper, and a cup of shredded cheddar cheese with about a quarter cup of freshly grated Parmesan. I kept a handful of cheddar to toss on top of the egg mixture for the last few minutes of baking.

You need to remember to lower the heat under the frying pan as this is a slow cooking process, unlike omelettes. Make sure you have enough butter in the pan so the eggs do not stick when added to the vegetables. Remember, Julia Child had no fear of butter, and neither should you. I poured the eggs into the pan, stirred a little bit, and then delighted in using a wooden fork to lift the edge of the already set eggs, letting the still liquid egg mixture run underneath. (It was almost as satisfying as pricking holes into cooking sausages and letting the hot grease stream out!)

After about 10 minutes the egg mixture has set, and you can pop the frying pan into the oven. Add cheese.
In about 10 minutes, remove the frittata from the oven, slice it up, and add bacon. Add husband. Drop a piece of bacon on the floor. Move on to the Style section of the New York Times.

“Hai fatto una frittata,” in Italian means you have made a mess. But a delicious one.

http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/eggs-recipes/roasted-chilli-frittata/#BvrqYq0Gg75DAvEJ.97

https://food52.com/blog/6663-how-to-make-any-frittata-in-5-steps

http://www.bonappetit.com/test-kitchen/common-mistakes/article/frittata-common-mistakes

“There was something sort of bleak about her tone, rather as if she had swallowed an east wind. This I took to be due to the fact that she probably hadn’t breakfasted. It’s only after a bit of breakfast that I’m able to regard the world with that sunny cheeriness which makes a fellow the universal favourite. I’m never much of a lad till I’ve engulfed an egg or two and a beaker of coffee.”
-P.G. Wodehouse

Chefs Face Challenge at Taste of the Town’s “Diced!”

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Like reality cooking shows? Don’t miss “Diced!” Chestertown’s own version of the popular television show, “Chopped.” Three local chefs, Kevin McKinney of B-K Market, Norm Miron of Norm’s Café and Jeff Nace of Jack of Hearts Seafood will each be tasked with creating a ‘spur of the moment’ dish from a mystery basket of food provided by local farms and businesses.

The event is a feature of the Eighth Annual Taste of the Town, on Sunday, April 26 from noon to 3pm, Fountain Park in downtown Chestertown. Local restaurants and caterers will offer a wide variety of dishes for festival goers to sample.

Advance passes are $15, and are available on line at www.tasteofchestertown.org

Or at the Finishing Touch, 311 High St. Chestertown. They will be $20 at the door.

 

Chef Kevin McKinney of B-K Market & Kitchen School in Kennedyville will be one of 3 chefs participating in “Diced! A Local Food Challege” at the 8th Annual Taste of Chestertown, Sunday April 26 from noon – 3 pm.

Chef Kevin McKinney of B-K Market & Kitchen School in Kennedyville will be one of 3 chefs participating in “Diced! A Local Food Challenge” at the 8th Annual Taste of Chestertown, Sunday April 26 from noon – 3 pm.

Food Friday: Get Ready for Spargelfest!

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Are you all set for Spring? The snow has melted, the flowers are blooming and the sun is rising earlier every morning. Birds are singing. Have you started exfoliating? Are you eager to put the sweaters back in the closet? It’s finally April and we are springing with joy for asparagus season!

We have been eating asparagus for ages. 20,000 year-old wild asparagus seeds have been found at archeological digs in Egypt. There is an image of asparagus in an Egyptian frieze that was painted before 3000 BC. Queen Nefertiti decreed asparagus to be the food of the Gods. In the first century AD Emperor Augustus quipped, “Velocius quam asparagi conquantur,” which every clever Latin wag knows means, “As quick as cooking asparagus”. A recipe for cooking asparagus even appears in the oldest known cookbook: Apicius’s Third-century AD De re coquinaria, Book III.

The asparagus-loving emperors Julius Caesar and Augustus kept an “Asparagus Fleet” for importing their beloved vegetable from the far edges of their vast empire. Samuel Johnson, the great British diarist, made a note of having bought some at a market in 1677, though he called it “sparrow grass”, a more colloquial term than “asparagus”.

Asparagus, (or asparagi) named by the Romans, means “the first sprig or sprout of every plant, especially when it be tender”. There are four popular types consumed here in the twenty-first century: green, white, purple and wild. Green is what we usually find at the grocery store or farm stands. Germany goes mad for a couple of months celebrating white asparagus. They have Spargelfests, which are akin to Octoberfest, only they are celebrating the many virtues of asparagus. And the new asparagus crops will be coming to market soon.

Here is an asparagus-centric menu from the International Food and Wine Society’s Celebration of Asparagus Dinner held in England in 2010:

Asparagus mousse & char-grilled asparagus
With air-dried ham, toasted pine nuts, spring onion rings & 10 year old balsamic dressing.
Muscat Réserve, Trimbach 2008

Asparagus & watercress soup
Wither Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2007

Lemon-scented salmon fillet
With Jersey Royal new potatoes, roasted asparagus, sweet carrots & sorrel Hollandaise
Wither Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2007

Rhubarb & apple crumble
With vanilla pod ice cream
Clos L’Abeilly, Sauternes 2007
Freshly brewed tea or coffee with Florentines

“The mousse was lively and persistent, the wine light gold in colour and refreshingly dry with a good length.”

http://www.iwfs.org/assets/upload/regions/europe-africa/Food_and_Wine/Food__Wine_June_2010_1.pdf

But we are wasting time inside here at the computer. It is spring, and time to enjoy the great outdoors and the bounty of asparagus that is rolling our way. Carpe asparagi! Seize your lively and persistent asparagus by the lapels, and cook it with abandon! I have blown on before about our favorite way, which is to roast it on a cookie sheet under the broiler, with a scattering of salt, olive oil and a squeeze of lemon. We also like to roll it up in aluminum foil and toss it on the grill for a few minutes. You can celebrate Friday Night Pizza and toss a handful on the pizza just as it goes in the oven. Or stick a few tender shoots on a piece of baguette with a schmeer of goat cheese. Don’t waste a minute, or a morsel.

Here are some other ideas for your own Spargelfest (Asparagus Festival)!

4 minutes (cooking time, add some more for prep)
http://www.diningchicago.com/blog/2010/04/21/eat-this-asparagus-the-vegetable-of-kings/

15 minutes for Julia Child’s classic hollandaise sauce:
http://www.food.com/recipe/julia-childs-hollandaise-sauce-251332

20 minutes:
Food52 has a genius of an idea, that they call: Alice B. Toklas’ Asparagus in Salt & Pepper Whipped Cream
https://food52.com/recipes/34736-alice-b-toklas-asparagus-in-salt-pepper-whipped-cream

20 minutes: Mark Bittman also suggests this heady combo: Asparagus with Miso Butter
http://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/11220-asparagus-with-miso-butter

25 minutes: The New York Times’ Mark Bittman suggests a hands down favorite Roasted Asparagus Frittata:
http://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1017302-roasted-asparagus-frittata

And if you are trying to get some reluctant and unruly children to try asparagus, you can always start an Asparagus Race – who will smell asparagus pee first? Who knew that history and culture and a tasty plate of asparagus could lead to so much fun?

“A few Stems of Asparagus eaten, shall give our Urine a disagreable Odour…”
-Benjamin Franklin

Asparagus “…transforms my chamber-pot into a flask of perfume.”
-Marcel Proust

Colchester Farm Hosts Open House This Weekend

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Colchester Farm CSA is hosting a free open house event on the farm and the public is invited. Join farm staff and board members on the farm Saturday, April 18, for a family-friendly afternoon of free food, farm tours, live music by Nevin Dawson and Pres Harding, local wine tasting, a cooking demonstration (with a recipe card to take home!), raffle for 2 free smoothies from Tracy’s and a $25 Kingstown Farm, Home & Garden gift certificate, and children’s activities.

Date: Saturday, April 18
Time: 2:00-4:00 p.m.
Location: Colchester Farm – 31285 Georgetown Cemetery Road, Galena, MD

Annual Plant Sale on May 9th in Rock Hall

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Locally grown perennials, and freshly potted herbs will be available for your spring garden at The Garden Club of Rock Hall’s annual plant sale on Saturday, May 9th at the corner of Main Street and Route 20 in Rock Hall from 9am to 12 noon. Other booths will feature garden treasures and baked goods. Members will be available to provide information and advice on plants for your sunny or shady yard. The proceeds from the plant sales support the civic activities of the Club.

Club members have contributed labor, time and resources for the beautification of Rock Hall’s public spaces since 1962. The beach gazebos, municipal building and pots along Main Street are tended throughout the year. The Club also decorates the town for the Oyster & Fall Fest and Christmas. Hospice flowers and making seasonal tray favors for nursing homes are some of our special projects.

In celebration of its 50th Anniversary, the club gave the Town of Rock Hall a new sign.

Food Friday: Living High Off the Hog

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There will probably be a little tone of desperation running through my columns for the next year. The Tall One is to be married next April, so I have got a year to pull myself together. I always say that I would love to be taller, blonder and thinner; maybe discovering I was switched at birth, and I will find out that my long-lost aristocratic British parents left me their small estate in Sussex with a generous annual stipend and a wine cellar and a housekeeper.

Ah, the price I pay for working alone. I can have some pretty outlandish flights of fancy. Indeed,Luke, the wonder dog, would like you to know that he tries to entertain me the best he can with walks outside and treats and hunting snakes. All normal stuff. But the fact is that I want to look good in the wedding photos, and not echo Emma Thompson’s character in Love Actually, and lament that I am wearing Pavarotti’s cast offs. I think can manage blonder. And I am hoping for thinner.

So I am going to try to forgo carbs, at least during the week, and step out more often with Luke. We have been walking 3 and 4 miles a day for the past month. But now I will leave the biscuits behind. Sadly. I do love a nice, hot biscuit, with a bit of dripped butter glossing my chin. Sigh.

The only thing good about going carb-free is that I can ramp up my bacon intake. Everything is better with bacon, as the saying goes. Even without those invitingly warm, crumbly biscuits. Which is a good thing – I almost always have bacon in the house because one never knows when The Tall One will descend and bring his enormous appetite. Like catsup and mayonnaise, and Lipton chicken soup and Saltine crackers, I reliably have bacon on hand. Capers? Not that often.

And I will be taking you, Gentle Readers, on this carb-free year long adventure. Prepare to eat bacon. But keep your frying pans and skillets stashed in the cabinet. Get out a cookie sheet and bake your bacon. An ever-so-wise friend schooled me in this technique, and it has saved me from hours of scouring pans, and wiping the grease splatters off the tricky bits on the stove. I do go back and forth – whether to cook on a rack, or use parchment paper or aluminum foil to line the cookie sheet. Our current thinking is to bake the thick bacon on the rack – which despite being bought because the package was labeled “Non-Stick” – the thinner bacon does indeed stick. It is a sad and unholy mess pulling the stubborn bacon bits off, though Luke is happy, because then he gets a little smackeral of bacon.

The baking time bacon takes a little practice, because it can vary depending on the thickness of the bacon, and if your oven is like mine and is a little wonky. Generally we heat the oven to 375°F and bake for about half an hour, turning it halfway through, just when the odor gets irresistible. That being said, I burned bacon using this method a couple of weeks ago, for the very woman who advised me to adopt this otherwise reliable technique. I was yammering away and forgot to check every few minutes. Let that be a lesson to you. Pay attention! Don’t burn the bacon!

This next recipe for weaving bacon is sheer genius. You will never again have to endure a BLT that does not have B covering every square inch. I cannot believe how many years I have gone through life without this approach to bacon preparation. Thanks, Mimi for finding this!

Bacon weave recipe: http://myfridgefood.com/recipes/salads-and-sides/bacon-sheet/

I know some of you Gentle Readers will want to know about the dangers of sodium and cured meats, so I am thoughtfully adding a link to an NPR story about such incidentals. http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2013/10/25/240556687/does-bacon-really-make-everything-better-here-s-the-math

Here are some of the truly bizarre recipes I found while doing my very scientific fieldwork:

Bacon Infused Vodka naturally leads to a Bacon Bloody Mary…
http://whatscookingamerica.net/Beverage/Bacon-BloodyMary.htm

Bacon Cheesecake. Honest.
http://kfgo.com/podcasts/it-takes-2/939/chef-scott-talks-bacon-who-doesnt-love-that/

Bacon Peanut Butter Cups. Really?
http://www.baconfreak.com/recipe-bacon-peanut-butter-cups.html

And one last glimpse at bacon excess, although I never thought that I would type those words in the same sentence: http://www.npr.org/blogs/waitwait/2010/08/16/129232792/sandwich-monday-the-lady-s-brunch-burger

Sadly, most of those recipes involve lots of carbs. But that’s OK. I am happy with just plain, crunchy delicious bacon. Bon appétit!

“I had rather be shut up in a very modest cottage with my books, my family and a few old friends, dining on simple bacon, and letting the world roll on as it liked, than to occupy the most splendid post, which any human power can give.”
-Thomas Jefferson

Officers Elected for Chestertown Garden Club

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The 2015-2016 Officers of the Chestertown Garden Club.  From left to right: Mackey Dutton, Recording Secretary, Beryl Kemp, President, Linda Verbeck, Treasurer, Jan Murphy, First Vice President. Not pictured: Mary Flanagan, Corresponding Secretary , Karen O’Connor, Second Vice President.Screen Shot 2015-04-09 at 9.12.02 PM

“Upper Shore Harvest Directory” to Become “Eastern Shore Harvest Directory”

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In 2012, The Upper Shore Harvest Directory underwent a major update in order to be the most comprehensive resource connecting consumers with local farms and agribusinesses in Maryland’s Kent, Cecil, and Queen Anne’s counties. Recently, in March 2015, the Harvest Directory gained enough momentum to expand, now servicing agribusinesses in Caroline, Dorchester, and Talbot counties with hopes of expanding even further, highlighting farmers’ markets, bakeries, stables, charter services, vineyards, wineries and more! The directory is accessible online at harvestdirectory.org, in print available at Visitor Centers across the region, and in the App Store for iOS and Android.

With hundreds of agribusinesses registered, customers can find plenty of local options in their area and businesses can expand their outreach to everyone on the Eastern Shore. Interested businesses may register at http://register.harvestdirectory.org/ www.linkedin.com/in/dorismason