Food Friday: Festive Fourth of July Feasts


There are a couple of paths that national holiday foods take here in the United States: hidebound and family-centric, or casual and open-to-suggestion. On Thanksgiving we gather closely together inside the confines of a house to share a bounty of foods with our nearest and dearest – and every year everyone brings the exact same dishes (and baggage) to the table. Mom always brings the pearl onions. Ken always mashes the potatoes. Peter is loathe to let anyone else lovingly baste the turkey. We have assignments and mutual expectations for the annual ritual. Each year we tell the same stories, and most likely, engage in the same jawboning arguments. We get increasingly snappish with the each glass of wine. Turkey and tiffs, they go together.

The Fourth of July reliably brings back free and happy plein air-y summer memories of childhood. A general feeling of freedom and bonhomie presides over the Fourth of July. We rid ourselves of tyranny, so now, let the games begin! We’ll be eating outside, waving sparklers, cooling off with a hose and being impatient for the fireworks to begin. We play baseball and horseshoes or even croquet! We share a collective memory of sitting on a blanket, waiting for dusk to fall, trying to catch fire flies. The blanket is on the damp grass in a lumpy, bumpy field surrounded by small clusters of friends and family and strangers. There is always a baby who is startled by the unexpected noise, and then, hopefully, is charmed by the magical streaking lights in the sky. By the time the grand finale rolls along one hopes the baby is a fireworks convert. If not? There is always next year.

Unlike Thanksgiving there is no set-in-stone food item on the Independence Day menu. You can let your imagination run riotously through the grocery store aisles. Instead of staid turkey you can rustle up a veritable cornucopia of delights. You can have hamburgers, hot dogs, steak, fried chicken or brats. I daresay some folks will be grilling lamb chops, barbecued ribs or shish kabobs. And what about shrimp and paella? Opportunistic vegetarians can toss any number of veggies onto the barbie. Grilled corn! What a summer treat! Baked beans! Potato chips! Potato salad! Cucumber salad! Pickles! A clambake! Lobster! Crabs! The picnic table can be a veritable groaning board on the Fourth of July, and it is up to you to explore the possibilities! And best of all, there is no good china to wash, or silver to polish.

The New York Times has a mind-boggling array of Fourth of July food ideas:

Our clever friends at Food52 also have a compendium of inspiration:

All of our grill masters have their own secret hamburger grilling practices, but we found advice from an unusual source: Popular Mechanics!

There are some among us who dote on deviled eggs, and the Fourth of July is the perfect time to whip up a batch or two:

Here is an idea for sprucing up the corn on the cob ritual, grilling instead of boiling or steaming, and adding some lime juice and a dusting of cheese:
Or this way with ginger bacon butter!

Drinkwise, I think filling a galvanized tub filled with ice, glass bottles of Coke, a few beers, some Prosecco and a big fat watermelon is quite enough for a perfect Fourth. But you might want to try some of these festive Fourth of July-themed cocktails:

I am going to try my hand at this impressive Food52 American Flag Cake:
All I ever usually manage is a vanilla sheet cake, slathered in whipped cream and artfully decorated with a square of blueberries and some wobbly, waving strawberry stripes. It is always delicious, it is a kid crowd pleaser, and it is easy peasy, which as you Gentle Readers know, is my kitchen mantra. Yumsters!

Have a happy and safe Independence Day!
From your friends in the Spy test kitchens!

“You have to love a nation that celebrates its independence every July 4, not with a parade of guns, tanks, and soldiers who file by the White House in a show of strength and muscle, but with family picnics where kids throw Frisbees, the potato salad gets iffy, and the flies die from happiness. You may think you have overeaten, but it is patriotism.”
-Erma Bombeck

Food Friday: Easy Peasy, No-Bake Summertime Desserts


One of my favorite, best-thumbed, dog-eared, crumb-y cookbooks is Peg Bracken’s The I Hate to Cook Book. Partly because she is so funny, partly because of Hilary Knight’s charming illustrations, and partly because Peg Bracken is so right. It is stinking hot, and because we are middle class folks, we seem to think we need three meals a day to exist. Didn’t we just eat supper last night? Do we really have to cook again? Right now, I just hate to cook.

I have been running out of ideas for supper. I could be very happy with a Popsicle or two for supper at this time of year, but then I am afraid the wine to Popsicle ratio would get out of whack and I would gain a reputation. Bread and cheese would be a clever alternative, with a sliced apple or a pear, but we are being warned away from wheat flour and unless we pick those apples ourselves on a certified organic farm, who knows what petrochemicals lurk beneath the skins?

Last night we made nachos for dinner, which was a pretty basic meal. The most labor-intensive action was browning the meat, followed by grating some sharp Cheddar cheese. Dicing the onions and jalapenos required little physical (or mental) effort. Opening the can of refried beans was a breeze. And then we sat at the kitchen counter, with two candles as our gesture toward romance. We couldn’t even stagger into the dining room it was so hot, and we were worn to a frazzle.

I hate some of the magazine recipes that sound so breezy and self-assured. Especially the ones that claim that you can make them with the ingredients already in your kitchen. I once went to a highly deceptive cooking class. It claimed to teach you how to make the perfect emergency recipe, if people stopped by around the cocktail hour. You could whip this up in a jiffy with the basic stores every decently-run household keeps on hand. To which I had to say, “Ha!” If my friends stop by at the cocktail hour, they know that their best shot at getting hors d’œuvres or an aperitif would be a handful of Planter’s Lightly Salted Peanuts or maybe some aging Doritos. (These friends who stop by at the cocktail hour would be well advised to bring along some chilled, cheap white wine.) I do not keep frozen shrimp in the fridge (unless it is bait). I have never bought fois gras. Chervil? Figs? Mascarpone? I do have a large jar of capers, though. And cornmeal. And olives. OK. I could do a 1950’s relish platter. I have pickles, olives, celery and carrots. But the celery is looking a little limp…

I found this recipe while trolling around, and it could almost be classified as one you could make with ingredients on hand. Ostensibly. Raspberries are in season. Heavy cream is easily hunted and gathered. Many households stock graham crackers, although my kindergarteners are out of college right now. And chocolate chips. If you have them, great. If not, I bet this would still be divine. It is almost like a berry shortcake, but without having to turn on the oven to bake the shortcake. And it would work with different fruits, too. Strawberries, blueberries, peaches, plums. Maybe not rhubarb. But I digress.

Here is the recipe the way I found it – then I will tell you how I changed it to fit us.

No-Bake Strawberry Icebox Cake
Serves 8 to 12
2 pounds fresh strawberries, washed
3 1/4 cups whipping cream, divided
1/3 cup confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon rosewater (optional)
4 sleeves (about 19 ounces, or 24 to 28 whole crackers) graham crackers
2 ounces dark chocolate, finely chopped

Take out a few of the best-looking strawberries and set them aside for the garnish. Hull the remainder of the strawberries and slice each berry into thin slices.

With a hand mixer or in the bowl of a stand mixer, whip 3 cups of cream until it just holds stiff peaks. Add the confectioners sugar, vanilla, and rosewater (if using) and whip to combine.

Spread a small spoonful of whipped cream on the bottom of a 9×13 inch baking pan, or a similarly sized platter. Lay down six graham crackers. Lightly cover the top of the graham crackers with more whipped cream, and then a single layer of strawberries. Repeat three times, until you have four layers of graham crackers. Spread the last of the whipped cream over the top and swirl it lightly with a spoon. Add a few more strawberries.

No-Bake Berry Refrigerator Cake, à la Spy

1 16-ounce container of fresh raspberries (or blueberries, or a mixture)
1 pint heavy whipping cream (do NOT use Cool Whip)
1 tablespoon (if you must) Confectioner’s sugar
Graham crackers to fit (I used about a sleeve and a half)
2 ounces Ghiradelli 60% Cacao bittersweet chocolate chips
2 ounces butter
1 splash of Bourbon or Crown Royal (This is what we used to make ganache, and we still have no idea where the bottle came from. Nobody remembers buying it.)
1 brownie pan

Rinse the raspberries, carefully.
Whip the cream until stiff. Add the Confectioner’s sugar, if you want to. The berries and the graham crackers are sweet enough, in my opinion.

Lightly slather some whipped cream in the bottom of the pan. Line the pan with 1 layer of graham crackers. You will have to break them up a little bit to fit your pan. Add a layer of whipped cream; add a layer of raspberries.

Repeat: graham crackers, whipped cream, berries. I got to about 3 layers of graham crackers, but I have a deep brownie pan. Finish off with whipped cream and a presentable arrangement of berries.

Now melt the chocolate and the butter together in a small saucepan over a low heat, stirring constantly, so the chocolate doesn’t scorch. Stir in the splash of Crown Royal, or not.

Dribble the chocolate ganache over the top of the heavenly mixture.

Pop in the fridge to cool. Then cover, and keep in the fridge for a few hours to let everything ooze and mingle and meld.
Serve. And eat deeply of summer.

“How sweet I roamed from field to field, and tasted all the summer’s pride.”
-William Blake

11th Annual Taste of Cambridge Set for July 11

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People come to Taste of Cambridge for the crab cook-off, but they also find an incredible street festival full of live entertainment and family fun. Now in its 11th year, Taste of Cambridge has evolved into a showcase of regional and local talent, as well as a chance for families to enjoy the unique heritage in the heart of the Chesapeake Country.

“Foodies gravitate here because of the blossoming restaurant scene, and because we are cooking with one of the most sought-after ingredients in the world,” said Cambridge Main Street Executive Director Brandon Hesson, whose organization hosts the event on July 11 from 5-10 p.m. “The cook-off is the centerpiece of the event, but we are also watching this festival grow to attract amazing bands from across the Mid-Atlantic region.”

Screen Shot 2015-06-24 at 2.34.25 PMHesson believes 12 restaurants will compete in the crab cook-off this year, in at least five categories: Crab cake, cream of crab soup, Maryland vegetable crab soup, crab dip and crab specialty, which allows chefs the freedom to get creative. More than a 1,000 event goers who purchase the $25 ticket will pick their favorites on a ballot and Peoples’ Choice winners will be selected in each category. Celebrity judges have come from as far as Florida to pick a winner, and the Best in Show winner will qualify to compete in the World Food Championship.

“We put a lot of thought into who judges our events, and there is a lot of weight put into making sure it is a fair competition,” said Hesson. “This year, we may have the most qualified group of judges we’ve ever had at the event. They aren’t just highly qualified chefs, but they have specific appreciation for food competitions.”

Chef Rene Marquis is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) and a combat veteran of 21 years with the United States Army. Throughout his military career, he served as the team captain of the U.S. Army Culinary Arts Team, which brought home 31 gold medals from the Culinary Olympics during his tenure. He won an episode in the first season of the popular show “Cutthroat Kitchen” on the Food Network.

Bruce Mattel is the associate dean of food production at CIA, from where he is also a graduate, and is responsible for the curriculum, instruction, program development, and food quality in the kitchen classrooms. He is the founder of the SkillsUSA post-secondary chapter at CIA, which has produced top awards at state and national competitions.

The judging group will be rounded out by Kevin Scott, a National Accounts Manager with the National Restaurant Association and a veteran judge of Taste of Cambridge.

“We’re putting a spot at the World Food championships on the line, and that is something that carries some weight,” said Hesson. “Not only do we want good, fair judging, but we want the chefs participating to feel like they are being judged by qualified peers. I think we outdid ourselves this year.”

Taste of Cambridge will feature two live stages and a myriad of performers covering a wide range of genres, all provided through a new partnership with Enliven Bookings. There will also be dance performances by local youth groups, a juggling performance in the children’s area, a watermelon eating contest for children and a crab picking contest pitting the area’s top pickers from the top crab houses in Dorchester County.

The Muir Stage kicks off with Dorchester County acoustic powerhouse Pete Baker at 5:00 p.m. The ABM Dance team will perform a routine at 5:45 before So Last Year, a vibrant pop/indie rock band from Rochester, NY, takes over at 6 p.m. Bluegrass veterans Flatland Drive will play from 6-7 p.m. and the explosive duo of Jess and Ben will close out the night on the Muir Stage, starting at 8:30 p.m.

Screen Shot 2015-06-24 at 2.35.03 PMThe Race Stage starts with an acoustic set from local artist Sam Pugh, who will play a large set from 5-6:15 p.m. before giving way to the crab picking contest, which is always a crowd favorite. The Eastern Shore Dance Academy, which also serves as food runners to the judges’ table, will perform at 7:30 pm, while the judges’ scores are tallied. Judges’ winners will be announced at 8 p.m. Maze Wave will close out the Race Stage with an electric/pop set from 9-10 p.m.

“We have a great selection of local musicians, and as our event evolves each year, we are starting to attract more accomplishes regional acts,” said Hesson. “This is important because event goers are starting to come from major metropolitan areas like Philadelphia, D.C. and Baltimore, so their expectations for entertainment are different.”

Cambridge Main Street is a volunteer-driven organization, and none of its efforts would be possible without a dedicated crew of volunteers. Specifically, Taste of Cambridge requires almost 100 volunteers to do set-up, tear-down and everything in between. In order to streamline the process of volunteer coordination at Taste of Cambridge, Cambridge Main Street has partnered with Cambridge Engineered Solutions and Cambridge International to bring its “Heavy Metal” Recreational vehicle to the heart of the event, where staff will check in volunteers, hand them their instructions and answer questions. The heavily-customized, 25-foot RV will also provide volunteers much-needed air conditioning and a refrigerator full of water.

“Volunteer coordination is something we have always been good at handling but having something like the Heavy Metal RV takes volunteer appreciation to the next level,” said Hesson. “We had an opportunity to work with a local company that employs local workers, and it shows everyone just how much we value our volunteers.”

Taste of Cambridge begins promptly at 5 p.m. and ticket buyers are urged to arrive on time so they are able to taste all of the competing dishes. Tickets can be bought online at, or they can be bought at the Dorchester Chamber of Commerce, the Cambridge Visitors Center or Katie Mae’s Country Store.

5-8 p.m.: Crab Cook-Off Tasting

5 p.m.: Kid’s area opens

5-5:45: Pete Baker, acoustic music, Muir Stage.

5-6:15: Sam Pugh, accoustic music, Race Stage.

5:45 p.m.: Dance demo by ABM Dance Team at the Muir Stage.

6 p.m. So Last Year, Live Band, Muir Stage.

6:30 p.m.: Crab Picking Contest, Race Stage.

6:45 p.m.: Flatland Drive, Live Band, Muir Stage.

7:30 p.m.: Dance demonstration by Eastern Shore Dance Academy at Race Stage.

8 p.m.: Announement of Judges’ Choice winners, Race Stage.

8:30-9:30 p.m.: Jess and Ben, accoustic duo, Muir Stage.

9-10 p.m.: Maze Wave, Live Band, Muir Stage.

10 p.m.: Taste of Cambridge ends.

Say What? Skipjack Rosie Parks Plays Role in Producing Special Balsamic Vinegar

CBMM shipwright apprentices Hans Wagner, left, and Jack Roesner, center, joined Olivins owner Bill Acosta, right, to move six barrels of 2015 reserve cast Rosie Parks balsamic vinegar aboard the Rosie Parks to begin an accelerated five-month aging process.

In cooperation with the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, Olivins Fine Olive Oils and Vinegars is producing its 2015 reserve cast of balsamic vinegar that will age at an accelerated rate aboard its namesake, the skipjack Rosie Parks. With limited bottles of the specialty vinegar available by Thanksgiving, a portion of each sale will benefit the children and adults served by the CBMM’s education, boat restoration, and exhibition programs.

On June 18, 2015, six small barrels of the specially blended balsamic vinegar were placed in the hull of the 1955 skipjack Rosie Parks, where it will remain over the next five months. During that time, the vinegar’s aging process will be accelerated by the gentle motion of the boat, which is seen dockside at CBMM, and under sail at the annual Choptank River and Deal Island skipjack races.

CBMM shipwright apprentices Hans Wagner, left, and Jack Roesner, center, joined Olivins owner Bill Acosta, right, to move six barrels of 2015 reserve cast Rosie Parks balsamic vinegar aboard the Rosie Parks to begin an accelerated five-month aging process.

CBMM shipwright apprentices Hans Wagner, left, and Jack Roesner, center, joined Olivins owner Bill Acosta, right, to move six barrels of 2015 reserve cast Rosie Parks balsamic vinegar aboard the Rosie Parks to begin an accelerated five-month aging process.

In November, Olivins will remove the barrels from aboard the skipjack and package the reserve balsamic vinegar in six-ounce bottles, which will be available for purchase at Olivins and the museum’s store.

According to Olivins owner Bill Acosta, the oak barrels used for the vinegar are made specifically to expand and contract as the temperatures rise and fall during the aging process, infusing the specialty vinegar with undertones of toasted oak.

“Aging barrels aboard boats started out in history as a necessity, as most trade occurred over waterways,” explains CBMM’s Chief Curator, Pete Lesher. “A boat’s movement can speed up the process of aging, whether it’s spirits, vinegar, or another liquid.”

“Last year’s cast of Rosie Parks vinegar was our first, and several of our regular customers—including myself—commented that it tastes more like a balsamic aged over 35 years,” said Acosta. “Last year’s cast sold out very quickly, so we’ve increased the reserve from two to six barrels this year.

“The skipjack Rosie Parks has such rich history on the Chesapeake,” continued Acosta. “We not only wanted to create a special balsamic vinegar that gives people a real sense of place—with an exceptional taste—but also to support the museum in a meaningful way.”

The Rosie Parks, built in 1955 by legendary boat builder Bronza Parks for his brother, Captain Orville Parks, was named for their mother. CBMM purchased the Rosie Parks in 1975 from Captain Orville. Only 20 years old at the time, Rosie had a reputation as both the best-maintained skipjack in the oyster dredging fleet and as a champion sailor at the annual skipjack races at Deal Island and Chesapeake Appreciation Days at Sandy Point. Now fully restored after a recent three-year restoration, the Rosie Parks serves as an ambassador for the museum, and the dwindling skipjack fleet, with the museum racing her in the annual Deal Island and Choptank River skipjack races.

Profile: Crow Winery’s Winemaker Catrina North

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There comes a moment in the life of a young winery when a decision is made to hire a full-time winemaker. It is a seminal point for most, representing a big step into the big leagues of wine production with that kind major investment in one person, rather than part-time consultants or amateur instincts, to decide what wines to grow and when to harvest.

Crow Winery in Kennedyville crossed that threshold a few months ago when they brought on Catrina North to head up their growing winery and vineyard. The product of a grape-growing family from upper New York State, trained in Australia, Napa, and the Finger Lakes District, and most recently in Southeastern Pennsylvania, Catrina brings a level of expertise to the Kent County winery that clearly indicates Crow’s intention to be serious player in the fledgling Maryland wine scene.

In her Spy interview, Catrina talks about her background, some of the bias she has developed in producing good wine, and her aspirations for Crow Winery. She also talks about the challenges Maryland wine faces as being the relatively new kid on the block next to New York and Virginia as well as its great potential on the East Shore.

This video is approximately six minutes in length

Food Friday: Going on Vacation Tomatoes


(I am sneaking out of town, so this is a repeat of a Food Friday column from a couple of summers ago. Enjoy!)

As we mosey into summer, we need to conserve all of our energy, and we don’t want to heat up the whole house with a wayward oven, or sweat in an embarrassing and unnecessary fashion. We are too cool, after all. We require shade and comfy pillows and a good long book.

I was trapped in the grocery store the other day by an early summer thunderstorm. The rain fell in loud torrents onto the flat roof and it felt like I was inside a steel drum. Luckily I was meandering in the produce department – which is always a great source of inspiration – and I found an artful display of fat, healthy red tomatoes. Now I don’t live near Brooklyn, so the hip, green market vibe, with young artisanal entrepreneurs growing organic heirloom tomatoes in their back yard allotments, isn’t my current shopping style. Sigh. Mostly I see bland, cotton-y, grocery-store variety, hothouse tomatoes. I am so glad it is finally tomato season and I can visit the farmers’ market on the weekend and stock up on the good stuff!

Still, these were beautiful and intriguing. Just look at those jewel tones! I brought a few home to try out with one of my favorite Martha recipes. This is one to try, and then use in the dinner menu rotation during the warm summer months. You may be tired of it by October, but that’s OK, because by then you will be eager to have sauces simmering on the back of the Aga. Now there are too many nighttime walks to take with the dog while watching the moonrise over the river, or outdoor concerts, or going downtown to eat ice cream and window shop. Get out of the kitchen! Get out of the house!

Sometimes in the summer we almost forget to eat, or are just too lazy to be creative. One of my favorite last minute meals (are there anything but last minute meals in my house?) is almost a snack. I do not suggest it for a first date. Wait until you know someone well enough to allow him/her to wipe the drip of olive oil from your chin. I take a baguette and cut it down the middle and broil the halves lightly. Once they have cooled I rub a clove of garlic over the toasted tops, generously wave the olive oil container, add tomato slices, layering them with basil from the back yard basil farm, and then I top it all with fresh mozzarella, or buratta, or feta cheese. Dizzle some more oil, pop them back under the broiler for a moment or two, and be sure the wine is nice and cold. A nice warm salad sandwich. And cold is fine, too.

Or you can chop up the tomatoes and make a bruschetta.

This next recipe requires that you boil a pot of water and cook some tortellini. And then you have to cut corn off a couple of cobs, but it is summer vacation now, and those young ‘uns need to make some memories. Send them outside to shuck some ears of corn on the back steps.

Do you remember when this seemed like an exotic and unfamiliar meal? Yumsters!

Mark Bittman, who is my new household god, has mined the mother load here, with stunning graphics. Good bye, Martha! I can’t decide what we will have tonight – the B.L.T. Style Salad or the Stuffed Tomato. Such decisions!

Martha Rose Shulman is coming in as a close second household god. This sounds divine. But I am going to wait for a rainy day, when I won’t mind being in the kitchen while baking the focaccia.

“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.”
― F. Scott Fitzgerald

Food Friday: Picnic Season

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‘Tis the season to skip away from the hot stove and the high maintenance kitchen to dine al fresco, lolling on the grass, longing for someone to peel my grapes, or suggest that we pose for a modern take on Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe. I will be wearing a crisp, freshly ironed white Laura Ashley dress, though, with a little sprigging, and my hair will be long and luxuriant. Monsieur Friday and I will have some fine chilled Chardonnay and a basketful of sandwiches. The stream will babble and the mosquitoes will buzz elsewhere.

And we take time to thank Mark Bittman for all of these wonderful ideas which will liven up what could have been the hackneyed and the unambitious luncheon items I thought of first: fried chicken (store bought), watermelon and carrot sticks. Instead, we will have PANZELLA – to which I added a sliced peach after reading his idea for a tomato and peach salad – yumsters.

I love Mark Bittman. Even though he is intent upon helping us eat better, he recognizes the vital importance of the humble potato chip in our lives: “ROAST BEEF AND BLUE Start with whole-grain rolls. Smear blue cheese on one side and prepared horseradish on the other. Add red onion and thin-sliced roast beef, pork or lamb. Pack! Lettuce and tomato on the side. Potato chips are mandatory.” Mandatory! The man is brilliant!

And what a simple and unusual idea he has for a dessert – cornbread cubes with blueberries! “Toss cornbread cubes with blueberries, lemon juice, olive oil and hazelnuts. Yes.” And I agree. The Tall One will quite like this, if I can wrestle the corn bread pan away from him.

I printed this list of ideas for summer meals and have it on the kitchen counter so I will remember to vary our summer meals and make them a little more interesting. Be sure to keep cool this summer!

The Wall Street Journal has been a little less stodgy of late and had this divine recipe. It might be a little labor intensive for us kitchen shirkers, but it is nice to read, in a leisurely fashion, in the shade, with some nice cool lemonade:

Sarabeth’s Summer Chicken Salad
½ pound asparagus, steamed, cooled and cut diagonally into 2-inch pieces
1 1/2 cups tricolor couscous, cooked, rinsed and at room temperature
1 large rotisserie chicken, cooked and sliced (or 6 lightly seasoned chicken cutlets, sautéed or grilled and sliced
1 pound mixed greens (romaine and Boston lettuces, mixed baby greens)
1 large seedless cucumber, peeled and sliced
3 medium seedless oranges, peeled and cut into segments
1 small jicama, peeled, sliced and cut into matchsticks
1 pint grape tomatoes, cut in half
4 ounces sweet pea shoots
½ cup whole almonds, toasted
2 cups Tarragon-French Sheep Feta Dressing (recipe follows)
In a large salad bowl, lightly toss the greens, cucumber, orange segments and jicama. Add the couscous. Place the tomatoes on top. Add the pea shoots. Sprinkle on the almonds. Plate each serving and top with the asparagus and chicken slices. Serve with dressing drizzled on top, or on the side. Serves six.

Tarragon-French Sheep Feta Dressing
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon maple syrup
3/4 teaspoon celery seeds
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
1 tablespoon fresh tarragon, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
4 ounces French Sheep Feta or buttermilk blue cheese, crumbled

In a bowl, whisk together ingredients through salt and pepper. Add the cheese and whisk lightly, leaving small chunks of cheese visible. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours. Yield: 2 cups

Food Friday’s Popular Potato Salad
This is a recipe that people actually ask for – and not just because they are my in-laws and trying hard to be polite! It that constantly evolves and adapts, and each summer brings a new twist. I don’t always have green onions – Vidalias work just fine. No red potatoes? Go for Russets. A little fresh thyme? Why not? It is dependable, tasty and can be adapted and stretched to feed the masses. Just add more potatoes, and more mayonnaise. Particularly fine for large picnic gatherings. Plus you can make it in the morning, and it is just right by suppertime.
Many, many servings…

• 2 pounds little new, red potatoes
• 1 cup Hellmann’s mayonnaise thinned with milk
• 1 bunch green onions, chopped
• Sea salt and pepper to taste
Boil the potatoes until tender. While warm (but not still steaming hot – I have melted my fingerprints slicing too early and my life of crime may start any minute now) slice potatoes and begin to layer them in a large bowl – 1 layer potatoes, then a handful of green onions and salt and pepper. Pour on some of the mayonnaise mixture. Repeat. Gently stir until all the potatoes are coated. You may need to add more mayonnaise mixture when you are ready to serve, as the potatoes absorb the mayo. Put on the table and stand back – the stampede might knock you down!

“’Never plan a picnic,’ Father said. ‘Plan a dinner, yes, or a house, or a budget, or an appointment with the dentist, but never, never plan a picnic.”
― Elizabeth Enright

Edible Flowers Subject of Chesapeake Bay Herb Society Meeting June 11

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Local Author Katie Moose will discuss edible flowers at the June 11 meeting of the Chesapeake Bay Herb Society. Her presentation will feature two dishes using edible flowers.

Mrs. Moose lectures on regional foods and herbs of the United States and gives talks on foods, herbs, and spices of various countries around the world. She is in the process of publishing an international cookbook covering every country around the world that will include the history of the cuisines of the countries, the dining etiquette, and recipes contributed by ambassadors, their chiefs, and her international friends.

Mrs. Moose is the co-author of “The Best of Newport”; author of “Annapolis: The Guidebook”, “Eastern Shore of Maryland: The Guidebook”,” God’s Bounty:; “Chesapeake’s Bounty”, Chesapeake’s Bounty II, New England’s Bounty, “Nantucket’s Bounty”; Maryland’s Western Shore: The Guidebook” and several publications on the fiber optic telecommunications business, and is a consultant on international business and protocol. Her hobbies include gourmet cooking, fine wines, history, sailing, genealogy, gardening, theology, and travel.

Katie Barney Moose, born in Baltimore, is a descendant of the Clagett (Claggett) family of Maryland, and many old New England whaling families. She has lived in many of the U.S.’ great architectural, historical and waterside gems besides Annapolis – New Castle, DE; Newport and Providence, RI; Cold Spring Harbor, NY; San Francisco; Philadelphia; Greenwich, CT; Alexandria, VA; Washington, DC; and New York City. She presently resides in Easton, MD.

CBHS was formed in 2002 to share knowledge of herbs with the local Eastern Shore community. The group maintains the herb garden at Pickering Creek Audubon Center.

The society usually meets on the second Thursday of each month at Immanuel Lutheran Church for an herbal potluck dinner, a short business meeting, and a presentation on an herb-related topic. The theme for the June meeting is a cold summer dinner, featuring cold dishes using tarragon, basil, dill, summer savory, chervil, mint, sorrel, coriander, and edible flowers.

For more information, call 410) 827-5434 or visit

The meeting is June 11 at 6:00 p.m.
Emmanuel Lutheran Church,
7215 Ocean Gateway, Easton

Maryland Food Recovery: No Meal Left Behind

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Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, the Mill Valley General Store’s back refrigerators are filled with stuffed Ikea blue bags.

For $6, a customer takes home a blue bag containing 25 to 45 pounds of fruit and vegetables, and sometimes the occasional bag of chips or crackers — enough to feed a family of four for a week, said Cheryl Wade, owner of the small, family-owned natural foods grocery store.

“We’ve had folks from every ZIP code in Baltimore City, and some from outside the city even, coming here every weekend for these blue bags,” Wade said.

Wade’s store hosts the blue bag initiative for Gather Baltimore, a volunteer-based local food recovery program that sells organic food overflow from local farms, farmers’ markets and stores at an affordable price in low-income neighborhoods at farm stands across the city.

Friday through Sunday, customers come to Mill Valley General Store and pickup a 25-to-45-pound IKEA blue bag full of donated produce and snacks for $6. Gather Baltimore owner Arthur Morgan started selling the blue bags at this store about three months ago, said owner Cheryl Wade.Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 2.54.01 PM

“Literally billions and billions and billions of pounds of just produce are thrown out in this country every year,” Wade said. “Americans don’t understand, we pay the cost of the produce we throw away in the prices we pay at the supermarket — we ought to put it to good use.”

Fifteen percent of Maryland’s municipal waste consists of food, according to Maryland’s Department of Environment. At the same time, 757,430 people are food-insecure in Maryland, with the highest level of food-insecure homes in Baltimore City at about 23 percent, according to Feeding America, a domestic hunger relief organization.

To address the national food distribution and waste problem, organizations across Maryland are taking the initiative and going straight to the source of extra, edible food: supermarkets, farms and colleges.

Arthur Morgan, founder of Gather Baltimore, said that he takes unsold vegetables, fruit and bread from Baltimore City’s farmers’ market and local grocery stores like Wade’s and redistributes the surplus to meal programs, faith communities and others in need. The blue bag initiative, just over 3 months old, is the newest installment.

“There’s so much extra food, and people are hungry and don’t have food,” Morgan said. “I’m just trying to eliminate a lot of the food waste and feed some of these people that are hungry.”

Morgan’s organization’s outreach mainly spreads by word-of-mouth, Wade said, allowing Morgan to keep up with the demand. Even so, the number of bags sold at her store has increased from 50 to 200 since it began early this year — and that number grows every weekend. Anyone may purchase the produce, and the store offers a sign-up sheet for recipes and updates on what will be in the bags on a given week.

“We have not found anyone else in the Baltimore area that does what Arthur does, which is actually get fresh fruit and vegetables into people’s hands,” said Wade, whose store is in the Jones Falls area of Baltimore.

Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 2.54.26 PMKnown among friends and customers as “Ms. Cheryl,” Mill Valley General Store owner Cheryl Wade, 61, said she opens her store to Gather Baltimore volunteers Thursday through Sunday to prepare the blue bags for the weekend, storing gathered food in her extra refrigerators during the week.

In its 2014 Zero Waste Plan, the state set an interim goal of 15 percent food waste reduction by the end of 2015, but it’s not yet known whether the state will reach this goal, said Jay Apperson, communications director for Maryland’s Department of Environment.

As of 2013, the state had recycled 10.7 percent of its food scraps primarily through composting and animal feed according to the state’s environment department. Apperson said the state does not take into account source reduction programs like Gather Baltimore or Food Recovery Network when calculating its food scrap reduction, but completely supports their efforts.

“The Zero Waste Plan included some strategies for (Maryland’s Department of Environment) to support and enhance these existing food donation activities,” Apperson said, such as surveying large food generators to determine quantities and locations of available food and connecting them to food banks, kitchens, pantries, shelters and organizations.

“Surplus edible food that cannot be prevented should be donated for human consumption,” Apperson said.

For Ben Simon, co-founder and executive director of the startup Food Recovery Network at the University of Maryland, College Park, the idea to transfer excess meals from college campuses came from seeing how much was left over at the university’s dining halls and after big sports games.

“It really came out of that need of seeing hungry people in Prince George’s County and Washington, D.C., and also seeing the surplus at the same time and connecting the dots,” Simon said.

The nonprofit organization, which started in September 2011, now extends nationwide to 129 college campuses and is completely student-led, delivering meals that were going to be thrown away to local homeless shelters, transitional homes and women’s shelters, said Mika Weinstein, a Food Recovery Network staff member.

“In the United States, almost 40 percent of the food that’s produced ends up in a landfill,” Weinstein said. “Some of that is actually food scraps, like banana peels, but a lot of it is perfectly good food.”

Friday through Sunday, customers come to Mill Valley General Store and pickup a 25-to-45-pound IKEA blue bag full of donated produce and snacks for $6. Gather Baltimore owner Arthur Morgan started selling the blue bags at this store about three months ago, said owner Cheryl Wade.

Weinstein said that the whole organization has collected 731,145 pounds of food since it began, with about 117,708 of that amount collected in 2015 alone. The University of Maryland chapter has recovered 116,115 pounds of food since its launch.

Pastor Ben Slye from the Christian Life Center in Riverdale said his center receives 25 to 30 trays of meals three times a week from the Food Recovery Network–enough to feed between 50 and 75 people per meal–as well as 10,000 pounds of fresh produce each week from national food processor Taylor Farms, and Coastal Sunbelt, a mid-Atlantic food distributor.

Slye said his organization also receives college sports games’ leftovers that could feed up to 500 people at a time. His center redistributes the free food to local soup kitchens, recovery programs and other ministries, only paying for transportation costs.

“We always say that it’s not a food shortage problem in our nation, there’s a food distribution problem in our nation — so we’re trying to solve that problem,” Slye, 53, said. “We’re grateful to be a part of something that’s going to become huge.”
How does Maryland Measure Recycled Food Waste?

Because it keeps waste from being generated in the first place, food recovery does not count toward reducing the state’s food waste footprint.

Instead, to achieve its statewide goal of 15 percent reduction in food waste by Dec. 31, Maryland’s Department of Environment is focusing primarily on composting.

The Department of Environment calculates food waste reduction, measured as a percent, accordingly:

Food scraps recycled (tons)
Food scraps generated in Maryland (tons/percent)

Each jurisdiction annually submits a report outlining its tons of recycled food waste, Apperson said. The department adds these counties’ totals together to determine the tons of recycled food scraps.

Meanwhile, the state’s food waste generation is calculated by the amount of total waste generated in Maryland multiplied by the Environmental Protection Agency’s estimate of the quantity of food as a portion of the overall waste stream, Apperson said. The current estimate is 14.5 percent, according to the federal department’s website. (Tons of food scraps generated in Maryland = Maryland’s total generated waste in tons x 14.5 percent.)

As of 2013, Maryland was recycling 10.3 percent of its food waste, Apperson said, but it is still unclear whether they will reach the 15 percent goal by the end of the year.

Apperson said that the next step to reducing the state’s food waste footprint is to connect generators of food scraps with established composting facilities.

In Maryland, local governments are responsible for establishing solid waste and recycling programs, he said. Howard and Prince George’s counties are the current leaders in food scraps composting pilot programs, with Howard County attempting to recover food scraps from residential curbsides in certain areas.

By Katelyn Newman

Nice: Avon-Dixon Partners with Garden Club on Thompson Park

Pictured left to right are Bill Lane, Chairman of the Board at Avon-Dixon; Sandy Kaufman, Co-Chairman of the Thompson Park Restoration Project; Margot McConnel, President of the Garden Club of the Eastern Shore; Rich Trippe, President and CEO at Avon-Dixon
 Pictured left to right are Bill Lane, Chairman of the Board at Avon-Dixon; Sandy Kaufman, Co-Chairman of the Thompson Park Restoration Project; Margot McConnel, President of the Garden Club of the Eastern Shore; Rich Trippe, President and CEO at Avon-Dixon

Pictured left to right are Bill Lane, Chairman of the Board at Avon-Dixon; Sandy Kaufman, Co-Chairman of the Thompson Park Restoration Project; Margot McConnel, President of the Garden Club of the Eastern Shore; Rich Trippe, President and CEO at Avon-Dixon

The Avon-Dixon Insurance Agency, a member of the Shore Bancshares community of companies, is partnering with the Garden Club of the Eastern Shore to help fund the maintenance budget for Thompson Park in Easton, Md. The park is located at the corner of Dover and Washington Streets in downtown Easton. Thompson Park was originally created through the generous donation by one of the Garden Club’s early members, the late Mrs. Rebecca Thompson. In celebration of their 50th anniversary, the Garden Club of the Eastern Shore, along with other generous volunteers throughout the community, has been hard at work to restore and enhance Thompson Park.

“Thompson Park is a place for people to pause and relax in a beautiful setting,” said Rich Trippe, President and CEO of Avon-Dixon. “The restoration of the park enhances the charm of Easton; making our community more attractive for visitors, families and local businesses. We’re proud to support this initiative to ensure that the park is maintained for many years to come.”

“Garden clubs play an important role in the beauty, function, and preservation of our public spaces. Having the support of local businesses such as Avon-Dixon Insurance is essential to our town,” says Garden Club of the Eastern Shore President, Margot McConnel. Project co-chair Sandy Kaufman agrees, adding, “Support from businesses such as Avon-Dixon Insurance is recognized and appreciated, not only by us as park restoration organizers, but also by the community at large. Residents understand the importance of local business support for maintaining the vibrancy of our towns and neighborhoods, and they in turn do business with those companies who give back.”