Sunday, September 18, 2011

Fall Has Arrived: Squash Soup

Wow, fall really snuck up on me this year. I am busy catching up on reading for class (it might be a bad sign that I have to catch up on week three, but I won't worry about that now).  I am also starting to prep some of the first foods of fall 2011.

Tonight, I made beet risotto from a previous post as well as crunchy, crusty loaf bread.  Additionally, I prepped a new squash soup I found when looking for an easy recipe on The Food Network. It is simple and delicious.  I suggest you try it during your fall transition to help ease you in.

Squash Soup (from Alton Brown)

What You Need

  • 6 cups (about 2 large squash) seeded 2-inch wide chunks squash (butternut squash or other)

  • Melted butter, for brushing

  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus 1 teaspoon

  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, plus 1/2 teaspoon

  • 3 cups vegetable stock

  • 4 tablespoons honey

  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger

  • 4 ounces heavy cream

  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

  • What You Do

    1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
    2. Brush the flesh of the squash with a little butter and season with 1 tablespoon salt and 1 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper.
    3. On a pan, lay the squash flesh side up.
    4. Roast for about 30 to 35 minutes or until the flesh is nice and soft.
    5. Scoop the flesh from the skin into a pot and add the stock, honey, and ginger.
    6. Bring to a simmer and for 10 minutes.
    7. Blend.
    8. Stir in heavy cream and return to a low simmer (I didn't have cream, so I skipped this step).
    9. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.

    Bring on fall!
    Beautiful fall tree from The Daily Balance

    Sunday, September 11, 2011

    Visit to Arcadia

    I first learned about Arcadia in an article in Flavor Magazine describing the farm and its related food initiatives. While I didn't hear about Arcadia until recently, I was familiar with Birch and Barley in my old stomping ground of Logan Circle, DC. The resturant is part of the Neighborhood Restaurant Group that provided the start-up funds for the project and currently sources produce from the farm. After reading the article I was immediately excited and wanted to learn more, but with the beginning of the semester and fall activities ramping up, I wasn't sure when I would have time to go out to the grounds of the historic Woodlawn Plantation to visit. Until a friend of mine emailed me to let me know that she planned a visit and tour over there and asked if I wanted to come along.  How could I say no to a morning out of the office and on the farm talking about local farming initiatives?

    Here are some photos from the farm:

    Existing beds

    Beautiful crops

    Themed raised beds for educational programming with D.C. Farm to School Network

    Educational bed used by D.C. Farm to School Network

    Love these signs and want to replicate them at the Public Health Garden

    "Taste me" sign and boots used as containers!

    Compost and bees in the background
    In addition to the farm itself, Arcadia's food initiatives include a mobile market serving low income DC residents and the D.C. Farm to School Network.  They are also exploring opportunities to start a food hub and become a farm incubator, providing education to people who are interested in learning to farm themselves.  Not only did we get to spend time talking with Farm Manager, Mo, about the farm and the food initiatives running out of Arcadia, we also got to witness expansion of the farm.

    When we arrived, the tractor just got started on a new area for the farm.

    Ready to expand!  Taking a look at the new space and discussing the cover crop that will go in soon.
    We were so impressed and inspired by the work at Arcadia, and also the delicious vegetables we got to take home from our visit. It is so exciting to learn about projects promoting sustainable agriculture and local farms while helping to increase access to fresh produce for D.C.

    Want to visit and support this initiative? Another exciting event at Arcadia: The Vices That Made Virginia.

    Thanks to Mo and Arcadia for allowing us to visit!  We can't wait to go back.

    Fall Cider

    I promise this will be the last post on beverages for awhile but last night we had a cookout at my house (after attending the nearby Maryland Renaissance Festival) and opened up the hard cider from Albemarle Ciderworks. It was just as wonderful as I remember it from the tasting I had in their tasting room.  

    Hard cider is best made from heritage varieties of apples and can be very unique (and delicious). The transformation of the apple industry and its move to only a small homogeneous selection of sweet apples is interesting and explained very well by Michael Pollan in The Botany of Desire. Cideries like Albemarle Ciderworks are bringing back American varieties of apples that were used by Jefferson and the founding fathers to make America's beverage of choice, cider. And I love Mr. Jefferson.  So, cider that was good enough for him, is certainly good enough for me.

    The other thing I love about cider is that it is perfect for fall and often inspires festivals. Consider attending some apple harvest festivals this season, like those at Albermarle Ciderworks.  

    Saturday, September 10, 2011

    Nelson County: More Breweries than Stoplights

    For me, trips to central Virginia often end up an ode to the University and a celebration of the food and beverages produced in the Commonwealth.  Not only is VA producing wonderful wine (as described in my previous post), but many breweries are popping up as well.  I went to meet a new friend and Sustainability Coordinator for UVA Dining at Devil's Backbone and was thrilled with their beer, although a bit intimidated by the size of the tasting.

    What was most surprising, however, was the number of breweries we passed on the way to Devil's Backbone.  Rt. 151 is filling up with breweries- it was so exciting to see.  I also learned that while there are now four breweries in Nelson County, there is still only one stoplight!

    I was thrilled to get the chance to talk about local and sustainable food with an incredible woman, Kendall Singleton who is working for UVA Dining.  We were able to discuss the successes and challenges in promoting environmental stewardship at institutional dining halls and operations.

    I also visited some lovely chickens perched in downtown Charlottesville:

    VA, beer, sustainable food, and happiness!

    Central VA Wine

    There is nothing I like better than a trip to Charlottesville, VA and the surrounding area of central VA. This summer I took a wonderful trip and visited some of my favorite wineries and some new ones as well.  With nearly 200 wineries, VA is a wonderful place to explore wine.

    Here was the wine tour:
    Grapes growing at Veritas on the porch

    Veritas wines, yum!

    Stinson wines, new but delicious

    Outside White Hall

    Inside Glass House, very unique with tons of tropical plants

    Rain storm at Glass House

    After the rain, saying goodbye

    Lewes and the Lovely Farmers Market

    Since moving to the DC area, I did not spend any time at the nearby beaches in Delaware or Maryland-- until this summer!  I was lucky to spend some time in Lewes, Delaware and visit one of the most lovely farmers' markets I've ever seen. The Historic Lewes Farmers Market is a producer-only farmers' market with 38 vendors. This year the market was voted one of America's Favorite Farmers Market.

    Here are some pictures from my visit.  I definitely recommend taking a trip to Lewes next time you are looking for a beach in the DC area.

    My sister and I outside the market
    We certainly voted for the Lewes Farmers Market!

    Logan went swimming in the ocean!

    Happy dog and happy owner

    Reflecting on the summer

    Although I didn't post much this summer, it is only because it was hard to find the time with all the fun I was having.  Now, as the fall is creeping in, I am reflecting on the wonderful time I had and all the beautiful places I visited. So, here are a number of posts on my summer fun from Delaware to Virginia and back.

    Lovely sunflower from the Public Health Garden at UMD College Park