Food Friday: Growing Season

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We are still fussing with the plans for our new raised garden bed, so I am concerned that we will not be getting the tomatoes in the ground this weekend. Last night I ran out to the grocery store for a bottle of cheap white wine (it’s been a week) and I saw some sad, limp and leggy tomato plants for sale on a table set up just outside the entrance. “2 for $5” read one sign. “$10/plant” read another. Yikes!

I’m too late to start seeds for this season, but I have started looking around for a good balance of plants, hybrid and heirloom, so I can hope to have at least a modestly successful harvest. The plants at the grocery store were not labeled, so one can only imagine what sort of homes they came from. I am not sure I need to be completely artisanal, choosing only heirloom, Brooklyn-worthy plants. I tend to lunge at the bright shiny objects, or the ones with vaguely poetical names: Brandywine (I think Andrew Wyeth would approve), Early Girl, Mortgage Lifter, Cherokee Purple or Green Zebra.

For the Mid-Atlantic states, Mother Earth News suggests Amish Paste and Brandywine tomatoes. http://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/growing-tomatoes/amish-paste-brandywine-tomatoes-zmaz10fmzraw

I like to have slicer tomatoes lolling in the sun on the windowsill. I can always make a happy lunch of a tomato sandwich, Pepperidge Farm white bread and a thick schmear of mayonnaise. With some potato chips, please. There is nothing better than a nice sun-warmed tomato. But then Mr. Friday is fond of some cherry tomatoes, which he likes to sear under the broiler, and serve with burrata, basil and good olive oil as dressing. He might prefer growing some Sungold or Sweet Million cherry tomatoes.

Mother Earth News also suggests putting plants in every couple of weeks. This staggering spreads out the growing season. I am stealing that idea as pure genius, and to cover for the fact that I am so late starting seeds. And then I can keep up with the weeding.

There are plenty of places on the Eastern Shore you can visit to get your tomato fix: http://marylandsbest.net/?dir-search=yes&orderby=post_title&order=asc&s=%22heirloom-tomatoes%22 CSAs and farms and farmer’s market abound.

And what will you prepare with your summer-long tomato bounty? Besides deelish tomato sandwiches?

This is the most popular salad recipe on Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/864620828431353119/

NatashasKitchen.com

Cucumber Tomato Avocado Salad

Ingredients

2 avocados
1/4 cup cilantro
1 English cucumber
1 lemon (about 2 tablespoons of juice)
1/2 red onion, medium
1 pound Roma tomatoes (or run through the garden, and see what beauties you have)
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon sea salt (we prefer Maldon, just like the Queen!)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Our clever friends at Food52 always have something delightful to say about tomatoes. I was particularly charmed when a period of time was described as a “load of laundry” – my kind of time frame. This is a slightly more involved tomato dish, but it will be fabulous in a few weeks, when your first green tomatoes are harvested: https://food52.com/blog/17762-the-chickpea-tomato-salad-that-presented-a-moral-dilemma

The USDA has a price per pound and a price per cup listing for most fruits and vegetables. They are not so specific about the myriad tomato varieties – just grape and cherry, Roma, and beefsteak make their catchall list. In 2015 grape and cherry tomatoes were more expensive than beefsteak – but only just: $3.29 per pound versus $3.16. Romas were the bargain at $1.24 per pound. In the dead of winter I buy Romas at the grocery store, because they have more flavor than the soulless slicing tomato option. I bet our tomato crop this year is going to set us back a few more dollars that we would have spent at the grocery store – but I will save a lot of seeds, and stick a PostIt on my 2018 calendar, and I will get cracking earlier next year.
https://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/fruit-and-vegetable-prices/

Update: today at the garden center, while also eyeing the foxgloves, I bought four starter tomato plants: two Black Cherry, hybrid cherry tomatoes for Mr. Friday, and two German Queen heirloom tomato plants for me. Let the garden games begin!

“I feel old and vulnerable. I now realise that I knew nothing and know nothing, but back when my career was beginning, I thought I was a man when, in fact, I was a dewy-eyed boy who’d not seen an avocado or eaten a tomato.”
– James Nesbitt

Chester River Gets a High C+

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The Chester River got a C+ on its annual report card from the Chester River Association.

CRA Staff Proudly Display Rivers C+

CRA staff and musicians proudly display the river’s C+.  Kneeling – Paul Spies & Emily Harris Standing L-R – Tom Anthony, Isabel Junkin Hardesty, Tim Trumbauer, Anna Walgast, Tom McHugh

The CRA announced the grade – which watershed manager Tim Trumbaurer said was “a rounding error away from a B-“ – April 19 at its annual “State of the Chester” meeting, held this year in Washington College’s Hynson Lounge. The Washington College Center for the Environment and Society co-sponsored the meeting.

The evening began with wine, cheese and raw oysters from Scott Budden’s Orchard Point aquaculture operation near the mouth of the Chester River – a concrete example of the benefits of clean water.

Following the reception, CRA executive director Anna Wolgast, Chester Riverkeeper Isabel Junkin Hardesty, agricultural specialist Paul Spies, and Trumbaurer each delivered a portion of the report.

Wolgast opened the proceedings by recognizing all the volunteers and staff members whose work went into the report. Some 10,000 data points were compiled and analyzed for the report, which she characterized as “not subjective, but based on scientifically derived facts.” It is “the foundation for the best solution for cleaning up the Chester River,” she said.

“I can’t remember a more important time to fight for the environment,” said Wolgast. She thanked the CRA members present for their support of the group’s efforts to ensure the health of the river.

Trumbauer then took over, starting with a “year in pictures” slide show that might have been subtitled “The Good, the Bad and Bob,” the latter referring to CRA Vice President Bob Ingersoll, who is an energetic volunteer for the organization. The audience was encouraged to cheer for good images such as volunteers recycling, boo bad ones like sediment in a stream, and say “Ahoy Bob” when Ingersoll appeared.  The audience participated enthusiastically, cheering, booing, and “ahoying,” making it a fun introduction to the report itself.

Trumbauer then turned to the hard statistics on the river’s watershed, which comprises nearly 700 square miles, about two-thirds of which is in crop agriculture. That is the highest proportion of farmland in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, he said,

Because of the large agricultural component, the impact of runoff from the agricultural lands is more significant than in more urban areas. The nitrogen and phosphorus contained in fertilizers can put the river water out of balance when rainstorms wash them into it.

To monitor the levels of those nutrients and of sediment, 50 volunteer Chester Testers measure the water in 27 sites all over the watershed twice a month, year round. The testers accumulate some 1,300 volunteer hours annually. Equipment and chemicals supplied by the LaMotte Company allow precise determinations of the quantities of pollutants present in the water.

According to these tests, the majority of the pollution in the river comes from within its own watershed, not from the Chesapeake Bay, Trumbauer said. That is evident from the fact that the levels increase with distance from the mouth of the river. The sites showing the greatest pollution are Centreville wharf, Morgan Creek and Duck Neck, he said.  The latter two are upriver from Chestertown

The overall trend, over the ten years the CRA has been testing, is toward improved clarity. (The river’s initial grade, in 2007, was a D+.) “People are snorkeling in the river,” Trumbauer said – something that would have been unthinkable a few years ago. And, except for the 24-hour period after a major rainfall, the river is safe to swim in. The CRA website (www.chesterriverassociation.org) gives updates on water safety, for those who want to be certain before plunging in, he said.

Trumbauer gave several suggestions on how property owners in the watershed can help improve the water quality. Reducing the area of turf grass lawns and the amount of fertilizer used can both help. So can planting native flowers and trees. Maintaining septic systems is also crucial. Residents should also let elected officials know their concern for the health of the environment. Call and write your local, state, and federal representatives. And, of course, joining and supporting organizations like the CRA goes a long way.

Hardesty gave a summary of the CRA’s programs that contribute to the health of the river. Among them are the wetlands restoration on Kent County High School land and Worton Park, a similar project at Gunston School, and the Natural Lands Project in collaboration with the Center for Environment and Society.

Spies gave an overview of the CRA’s work with the agricultural community, introducing new techniques to improve crop yield while minimizing fertilizer loss. For example, the GreenSeeker program allows a farmer to selectively apply fertilizer to the parts of a field that most need it. That reduces the amount that gets washed away in rains from fields where fertilizer is spread evenly across the whole field.

Similarly, Spies said, the use of cover crops and no-till agriculture saves soil that could otherwise wash away. Many farmers in Kent and Queen Anne’s are adopting these methods, and the river’s improved report card owes a good deal to them.

The presentations were followed by a question and answer session. David Sobers, a member of the Chestertown Environmental Committee, asked if the CRA planned to hold any meetings in Centreville. He also asked if the CRA is making use of drones to monitor water clarity and to spot possible sources of pollution.

Trumbauer replied that the CRA will hold its State of the Chester meeting in Centreville next year.

Junkin said the CRA has partnered with the Chesapeake Conservance Geographic Information System laboratory to investigate the use of drones in its programs. She said a test program on Ingersoll’s farm had given useful results.

Another audience member asked what other factors contributed to the improved results in 2016.

Trumbauer said the absence of hurricanes or other extreme rainfall was a large factor. Also, a cool spring inhibited the growth of algae in the river.

At the end of the question period, artist and writer Marcie Dunn Ramsey said a good way to introduce friends to the CRA’s program was to bring them to the Summer Solstice Gala, June 24 in Chestertown’s Wilmer Park. There, in addition to cocktails, dinner, live music by the High and Wides, and an auction to benefit the CRA, they can meet staff and learn about the organization and its programs.

As an added treat, the evening concluded with a well-received set of songs on Chesapeake Bay themes by Tom McHugh and Tom Anthony. The selections ranged from lyrical ballads to “Slow Train,” a harmonica solo by McHugh incorporating the sounds of a chugging locomotive and train whistles. McHugh interspersed jokes and anecdotes of the waterman’s life between songs.

It was a fitting conclusion to an important progress report from the Chester River Association.

View from the Write by George Merrill

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Over the years I’ve led workshops in writing the personal essay. Recently a participant asked me when I wrote my first essay and what it was like. I had fun recalling the experience and I’d enjoy sharing it.

It was in 1994. The great February ice storm devastated the Eastern Shore where I live. I wrote to make sense to myself of the troubled feelings and muddled thoughts I had about it. I was horrified by the storm’s devastation, but enthralled by its methods. Violence holds its own fascination. The sheer beauty of how ice, when it freezes on tree branches, sparkles and glistens. It’s fragile and exquisitely radiant. It’s amazing how deadly it can become.

I remember it was foggy during the storm. The temperature for several days remained slightly below freezing. Accumulated moisture began forming ice on everything including tree branches. The ice thickened. It glistened and sparkled festively even as it rent trees apart limb by limb while in their death throes, the trees groaned mournfully.

When the storm ended, I came upon a doe. She was dead by a stream near my house. She was crippled, somehow a victim of the storm. She died alone. My wife and I put her in the thicket where I believed she’d lived. We grieved for her. The first essay I ever wrote was about the experience.

The essay proved, by publishers’ standards, to be mawkish, appallingly sentimental and rejected by a magazine so swiftly that it seemed to me I received their notice in the return mail. My writing life began ingloriously.

Writing personal essays often leads to dead-ends. When it does, I’ll try a new path. The paths get strewn with excess verbiage. I sweep much of it away and tighten it up before more verbiage takes it place. I knew that writing was my new vocation in the same way junkies realizes they’re addicted; we can’t stop.

Personal essayists can claim no authority except their own thoughts and feelings. Shaky ground to be sure. I try speaking my heart as honestly as I can. I must write quickly before I obfuscate and render my thoughts unrecognizable by a host of anxious qualifications and addendums designed to impress. Ego is seductive and always a problem. There’s a lot of catch and release in the writing life.

I found that gathering my thoughts can be like snatching frogs before they hop away. Recalling thoughts is tricky, like attempting to remember last night’s dream. However, the personal essay, as its name implies, is at best an account of the writer’s experience and how she or he thinks about it.

Personal essays can be suspect. It’s because the “I,” appears a lot. Essays are almost always written in the first person. It begs the question; is the personal essay only a narcissist’s exercise? I’d say yes and no. E.B. White once wrote that he was “by nature self-absorbed and egoistical.” I know I have a strong streak of that. Personalities like mine fare better in print than in their marriages or parenthood.

My wife and children often tell me I’m too self-absorbed, preoccupied. My wife treats my astral excursions good-naturedly: she’ll say innocently, “And how are they today?” referring to my spacy demeanor. Her quip is all it takes and I’m right back in the room with her. I move fairly easily in and out of the real world. When I write, I alternate between both.

Craft can be taught. The necessary inspiration and fascination for writing are different from craft. They’re elusive, hard to quantify. Both live in our imaginations. Imagination is the locus of the soul. There, inspiration and fascination are born. And, what moves anyone’s soul is infinitely particular although at the deepest level is also universal. This is so because we all share a common humanity.

Lewis Thomas was fascinated by the lives of cells, E.O. Wilson with ants and termites and Emily Dickinson by certain slants of light. Andre Dubus was a gun nut. Writers do best when they write abut what fascinates them.

As a boy, an old Voightlander camera enchanted me. I believe fascination is the divine incitement to wonder, a holy invitation to look deeply into ourselves while also trying to see beyond the horizon.

Photography informed my writing. I’d been avid photographer since boyhood. I had a good eye. I learned later that I preserved my personal experiences as mental images, like cameras record pictures. Writing is not unlike darkroom work. In a camera’s dark chamber, light rays enter to leave their impressions on film like the images of my life are retained in my mind. Processing the film to develop the picture is like my scrutinizing my mental images to find meaning. And like darkroom work putting images into words is equally as uncertain. Both in writing and in classical photography I might spend hours in the dark before I can see anything clearly enough to make sense of it.

The process of writing the personal essay can be heavy. It’s emotionally demanding. There’s always the vulnerability in putting my thoughts on the line or the fear that I may have nothing worthwhile to say. Nevertheless, I’m fascinated with the process.

An intimate feeling of being connected to others occurs occasionally. I find out – typically long after some essay had been published – that in reading an essay, someone saw something new in it that was familiar to them, or recognized something familiar in what was new. When that happens, I feel useful.

I tell my workshop participants that when their first essay is published they’ll feel a little like scientists who’ve launched a rocket into space. They’re always hoping but never sure just where it will land or whether there’s anyone out there who will ever see it.

With all the uncertainties, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Columnist George Merrill is an Episcopal Church priest and pastoral psychotherapist.  A writer and photographer, he’s authored two books on spirituality: Reflections: Psychological and Spiritual Images of the Heart and The Bay of the Mother of God: A Yankee Discovers the Chesapeake Bay. He is a native New Yorker, previously directing counseling services in Hartford, Connecticut, and in Baltimore. George’s essays, some award winning, have appeared in regional magazines and are broadcast twice monthly on Delmarva Public Radio.

Food Friday: A Soupçon of Danger

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As a enthusiastic home cook, I invest in gadgets that claim to make food prep easier. Perhaps I am just fantastically lazy. I have a drawer full of good intentions. I just love those bright, shiny, time-saving and ultimately, dangerous widgets. I can rummage through that drawer and remember all the blood that was drawn, the toes that were smashed, the knuckles that were scraped, and the fingerprints that were artfully grated. But my prepared dishes were beautiful. I obviously listened to my high school art teacher. When Mr. Preu was instructing us in the proper way to use the paper cutter, he warned us to never get blood on the artwork.

One of my favorite details in the original Jurassic Park film was the car mirror that had a helpful warning label: “Objects in mirror may be closer than they appear.” Do the characters in the movie pause to consider this valuable information? Of course not, because then the movie would have ended abruptly and without any teeth-gnashing fun. The show had to go on.

My first brush with kitchen equipment peril came when I was standing in a store, reading the side of a kitchen mandoline box. I had wanted one for a long time, and here I had found quite a fancy one, and it was on sale! A mysterious woman passing by reached out and tapped the box with a long, bony finger. “They are so dangerous! I had to go to the emergency room the first time I used mine!” Heavens! Were perfect waffle fries worth the pain? Certainly. Could I endure exsanguination for wafer thin cukes in a translucent Scandinavian salad decorated with frothy bits of lacy dill? Yes, I could. And so far, except for minor, shallow, and quickly staunched wounds made while fitting the cunningly complicated blades into the apparatus, I have not been seriously scarred. I do use the clumsy “safety food holder” provided by the manufacturer (no doubt at the urging of their liability lawyers) to keep my fingertips protected from the guillotine-sharp blade when slicing. And doubtless one of these days I will learn the double-weave-waffle-technique. It takes a lot of potatoes to master all of the cutting techniques.

I recently bought a microplaner, because I kept seeing it mentioned in recipes and because, unlike the mandoline, it can go in the dishwasher. Last week I used it to grate cheese, garlic and lemon zest. And my right thumb. All for one pasta recipe. But, still. It is dishwasher safe. And the hydrogen peroxide got rid of the blood stains on the tea towel.

Grilling season is almost upon us. It’s time for me to start making shish kabobs and pricking my fingers like a latter day Sleeping Beauty. The skewers are not so dangerous when I am actually skewering the meal and veggies; they are sneaky, and poke me when I am rooting around in the drawer looking for something completely different – like the basting brush or the cork screw.

In the dishwasher there lurk other pointy objects – like the steak knives that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named continues to put in the basket with the sharp tips pointing upwards. Ouch.

Be careful in the kitchen. Don’t perform home vivisections with any of the groovy mod cons. Even slicing a bagel can be dangerous. And since dining out nightly or 24/7 room service are not practical alternatives, listen to my old art teacher: don’t get blood on your creations.

Pasta with Lemon, Garlic and Parmesan Cheese,
with a Soupçon of Microplane Danger

Serves 4 to 6
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon Maldon salt
1 large clove garlic, grated with dangerous microplane
1 lemon, zested with lethal microplane, and juiced (watch out for seeds!)
1 pound pasta (I prefer Penne)
2 to 3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated with menacing microplane
Freshly ground black pepper for a flourish
Decorative parsley

Combine in a large bowl oil: salt, garlic, lemon juice and zest. Cook the pasta according to the directions on the box, retaining some water. Quickly throw the pasta into the bowl. Toss everything together well, and then add the parsley, cheese, and pepper before tossing again. Yumsters. Add salad, garlic bread and cheap wine. Bliss.

“…Goldfinger could not have known that high tension was Bond’s natural way of life and that pressure and danger relaxed him.”
― Ian Fleming

Secondary Education in a World of Fake News, Incivility, and Alternative Facts with Gunston’s John Lewis

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While it is fair to say that most adults in this country now struggle with such new cultural dynamics as fake news, incivility, and alternative facts, it could also be said that the role of educating younger people to prepare for these undesirable byproducts of the early 21st century is ten times more difficult. With students now facing hundreds of online news sources, social media sites, and a constant barrage of advertising and marketing aimed at their demographic, it is no surprise that teachers and schools have to work double time to instill values and critical thinking in teenagers for this new world.

The Spy has been curious about these new trends in the field of education and will be periodically checking with Mid-Shore school leaders about this added challenge, and we start this program with the headmaster of the Gunston School, John Lewis. We talk to John on how Gunston’s mission and curriculum prepare their graduates with essential life skills for this growingly deceptive world. We also talk about the health of private independent schools, a well as Gunston’s remarkable success story in the recruitment and retention of their student body over the last five years.

This video is approximately four minutes in length. For more information about Gunston School please go here.

 

The Shadow of Thy Wings by George Merrill

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Driving Rt. 50 the other day, I stopped at a traffic light in Cambridge where the McDonald’s is located. The stoplight was affixed to what appeared to be a large round aluminum arm arching across the highway. The arm swayed while gently rising and falling as if riding on the wind.

My gaze wandered.

I saw two birds behaving oddly. One flew back and forth underneath the arm. It seemed at first to be pecking at the under part of it while flying erratically – first diving under the arm and then flapping up and over it, down again, hovering in place while continuing to peck along the arm’s underside. Another bird joined it and soon both birds were engaged in these irregular sorties. It was fascinating to watch. Fortunately, the wait for the red light was substantial so I had time to enjoy their antics while trying to make sense of them. What were they doing?

Occasionally I’ve seen birds behaving oddly at my house. In certain morning light some go for the windows, even though they’ll crash into them and be stopped cold in flight. Some, bruised, might still persist. Sadly, a persistent bird or two may get knocked out when striking the glass or even kill itself. I once watched cardinals as they attacked the rear view mirrors of my parked car. I figured in both cases they were curious about their reflected image.

Waiting at the light I noticed the two bird’s beaks held either string or twigs of some sort. I knew then they were building their home, but the question remained, where? Their erratic flight patterns seemed exploratory, as if they were still checking out real estate and looking for permanent property rather than having already decided. If that were the case, carrying around building materials while still deciding where to build wouldn’t make any sense.

After the light changed, the driver behind me honked to get me moving.  I accelerated slowly taking one last look underneath the traffic light’s arm and sure enough, I saw two small holes along the bottom of the arm. Then I knew the birds had been busy building their new home inside it.

One of them quickly entered a hole.

It’s spring, Easter, a time of hope and a time to build. No better time to birth and raise kids. I felt pleased for the birds. If they have no problem with the relentless traffic moving just below them – imagine summer traffic with folks from D.C. and Baltimore going ‘downee ocean,’ then building inside the traffic arm was probably the most readily accessible, cheapest and the safest building site imaginable.  Overall, a wise choice.

I can’t imagine any snake who would care to go out to eat over a highway where one slip would dispatch him for sure, leaving as his legacy only a dark stain on the highway left in the trail of some SUV. And the same holds for raccoons and other predators whose own lives would be jeopardized by trying to gain access to the bird’s nest underneath the arm’s slippery slopes. I commend these birds for the care and thoughtfulness in providing a safe space for their progeny. My own children tell me that their greatest concern in today’s dangerous world is keeping their children from harm as they grow into adulthood. Today most parents escort their children almost everywhere.

Still there’s one mystery in this scenario I’m not sure I’ve fathomed. The birds had obviously staked out their claim and were in the process of building there. So, why is it they had to fly all over the place first rather than simply homing in directly on the entrance holes to commence building? It’s as if they’d left the site to get building materials and couldn’t remember how to get back. I can’t imagine birds drinking and flying much less under the influence while working on a construction job just above moving traffic.  Does short term memory account for their apparent forgetfulness? Since they’re of childbearing age that makes it very unlikely.

I have read that some birds cannot see directly ahead. One eye sees what’s on the right, but the left eye only the left. Birds must turn their heads to get the whole picture, which also limits depth perception. This might explain why, when birds light anywhere, they’re constantly turning their heads this way and that to gain a clear sense of where they are. They accept their limits and do what they have to.

Birds are remarkably creative, superb craftsmen and environmentally friendly. They can transform the most unlikely places into practical and unobtrusive home sites, like the one I saw at the stop light in Cambridge. They use only recyclable materials in all their home construction. Ever inspected a bird’s nest up close? You’ll find a potpourri of leaves, old cellophane wraps, pine straw, shredded paper, small twigs, yarn, Styrofoam scraps and in one nest I once saw a paper clip – all skillfully woven to create security and comfort for the whole family without harming the environment in any way. Christians believe God does the same thing; takes the world’s throwaways and castoffs and transforms them.

Bird watching is immensely popular. Why, I’ve wondered, is it that nothing quite captures the imagination as watching a bird in flight? Birds have always been a universal symbol for divine messages and the motions of our souls. When the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus, John the Baptist thought it looked like a dove.

Crossing on the Bay Bridge, I have often watched gulls in flight riding effortlessly on wind gusts. Their wings barely move as the birds soar this way and that. They don’t flutter and flap. It’s like some invisible agent had carried the birds aloft, and the birds, finding themselves centered in just the right confluence of forces, let go to be safely borne along by the breath of God. It is a graceful sight.

In a troubled world like ours is today, a psalmist, mindful of birds, once offered this tender supplication: “Hide me [Lord] under the shadow of thy wings.”

Cover Illustration by Jo Merrill

Columnist George Merrill is an Episcopal Church priest and pastoral psychotherapist.  A writer and photographer, he’s authored two books on spirituality: Reflections: Psychological and Spiritual Images of the Heart and The Bay of the Mother of God: A Yankee Discovers the Chesapeake Bay. He is a native New Yorker, previously directing counseling services in Hartford, Connecticut, and in Baltimore. George’s essays, some award winning, have appeared in regional magazines and are broadcast twice monthly on Delmarva Public Radio.

 

Food Friday: Raspberry Ricotta Cake

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Easter isn’t just about chocolate eggs or marshmallow peeps. Or even jelly beans or chocolate bunnies. Spring is blooming all around us, and we need to revel in it. And in cake. And thrill to raspberries. And whipped cream. And more raspberries.

Mr. Friday happened to look over my should as he passed through the studio the other day, when I was watching a video from the clever folks at Bon Appétit magazine. He immediately longed for this light, spring-y cake. And so it was baked.

It is easy peasy. I only had to shop for ricotta and for the raspberries. (I used frozen, because fresh were prohibitively expensive – $4.99 for a pint of fresh!) I used an 8-inch springform pan, because I haven’t unpacked the other cake pans yet. At least, I hope I have packed the other pans, and haven’t mislaid them. Nothing surprises me these days. This is easier than most cheesecake recipes, and very light. I have been sneaking small slices out of the fridge all week – they have made for a couple of very yummy breakfasts.

Raspberry Ricotta Cake
Ingredients
8 servings
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
3 large eggs
1½ cups ricotta
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup frozen raspberries or blackberries, divided

Preheat oven to 350°. Line a 9-inch-diameter cake pan with parchment paper. Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.

Whisk eggs, ricotta, and vanilla in a medium bowl until smooth; fold into dry ingredients just until blended. Then fold in the melted butter, followed by ¾ cup raspberries, taking care not to crush berries. Scrape batter into prepared pan and scatter remaining ¼ cup raspberries over top.

Bake cake until golden brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 50–60 minutes. Let cool at least 20 minutes before unmolding.

Here is the video which launched our Raspberry Ricotta Cake Experience:
http://video.bonappetit.com/watch/super-easy-raspberry-ricotta-cake

Now, if you have time on your hands, and really can’t think of anything better to do, you could make some homemade marshmallow peeps for your own Easter egg hunt. https://food52.com/blog/10116-how-to-make-homemade-marshmallow-peeps

No. Don’t do it. You really should get out in the garden instead of rolling confectionaries in bowls of colored sugars. Though I come from the school that believes that the best peeps are eaten a couple of weeks after Easter, when they have gotten a little stale, and crusty. (Hint: you have to poke a hole in the plastic wrap, otherwise I suspect peeps are like Hostess Twinkies and will never degrade by themselves. You have to encourage them.) Plus you can get Peeps on sale at the grocery store starting on Monday. And you can use this time instead to read a good book, and take a nap. Or maybe admire the tulips. Have a daydream. Perhaps even weed. Deadhead the daffodils.

“All gardening is landscape painting.”
-Alexander Pope

Maryland 3.0: Screaming and Shaking at Justine’s with Tyler Heim

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There is something rather extraordinary about a small town ice cream parlor. It inevitably strikes a nerve of memory and nostalgia for many Americans as they recall their families special trips in the early evening of summer to the local stand on Main Street.

And one of those very special places is Justine’s Ice Cream Parlour in St. Michaels.

Known for having the longest lines in town during the summer months, including those eager to visit the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. Justine’s over the last 30 years has become on those iconic snapshots of life on the Eastern Shore.

But behind the counter is another great American story of young entrepreneurs taking the concept of the summer ice cream place to an entirely different level. And that was the motivation behind the Spy’s recent interview with ice cream maker Tyler Heim,who, along with his brother, Jared, has been managing Justine’s for the store’s owner (and aunt) Kathleen Lash over the last few years.

When we talked to Tyler last week in the store last week, Tyler gave us an excellent overview of the world of local ice cream, the art of milkshake making, and plans to scale up the Justine brand in the years ahead.

This video is approximately three minutes in length. For more information on Justine’s please go here. Maryland 3.0 is an ongoing Spy series on entrepreneurship on the Mid-Shore. 

Spy Profiles: Chesapeake Harvest with Deena Deese Kilmon

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There seems to be a good bit of nostalgia about the traditional family farm on the Eastern Shore as of late.  Going back centuries, the idea of a self-sufficient, agricultural enterprise that’s focused on locally grown produce has had a minor renaissance as consumers continue to seek out healthy alternatives to commercial grown “fresh” fruit and vegetable sections.

That’s the good news. The not so good news is that in order for those local farmers to be competitive they are increasingly asked to certify their agricultural practices in order to qualify in the wholesale and retail markets.

This is not an easy undertaking. And that is why the work of the Chesapeake Harvest project formed by the Easton Economic Development Corporation is so critical to this important transition.

With the help of a federal grant, Chesapeake Harvest has made it its goal to work with 30 of these family farmers over the next three years to prepare them for USDA gap certification, the most common and well respected endorsement, while at the same time branding and marketing the notion of being “Bay-friendly” through the adoption of these production conservation standards.

Leading this marketing and outreach effort for Chesapeake Harvest is Deena Deese Kilmon who has not only had the invaluable background of coming from a family farm background, spent time in the wholesale food world but also owned restaurant in St. Michaels before joining the organization.

We caught up with Deena in Kent County a few weeks ago before she and her team of volunteers worked with the local farmer to do a risk assessment of that farm’s practices and make recommendations that will move that farm into a gap certified agricultural center.

This video is approximately three minutes in length. For more information about Chesapeake Harvest please go here