You Need a Farmer Three Times a Day

“A guy was just trying to buy some organ meats. I figured he must be part of your Slow Food group,” smiled farmer Greg as he welcomed us to Rocklands Farm this past Saturday.

Around 10:30am — yes, on a Saturday morning! — 20 or so fans of local food gathered to begin a walking tour and introduction to the regenerative farming practices of the Poolesville area family farm. In a fun and engaging way, Greg gave us the rundown on his farm’s philosophy and practices. He explained that cultivating an appreciation for nature and a sense of wonder, and later a reverence for good food (even if it’s only one out of every 5 or 10 meals in our busy lives), will lead the next generation to become the environmental stewards we need to keep our planet healthy.

As Greg spoke of his early experiences in Kenya connecting farming and community, he explained the philosophy of what they are attempting to do at Rocklands. Immersive regenerative agriculture is a step beyond sustainable farming: it creates more for the next generation, not just maintaining the assets of the land but leaving the land better. The Rocklands team utilizes the concept of bio mimicry — the way that plants and animals naturally interact and thrive — to graze cattle, sheep, and chickens using minimal infrastructure and capitalizing on animals’ instincts to roam, scratch, eat a variety of grasses or bugs, and stay in groups. The resulting land is lush and fertile, and just a single acre of the 70-acre farm can absorb a LOT of rainwater — 20,000 gallons, in fact, after a solid 1-inch of rainfall. We need more of these kinds of farms (and farmers) in this age of climate change, declining green spaces, and increasingly heavy storms!

After the walking tour, we were invited indoors to a feast of a lunch, sourced from Rocklands and nearby farms and inventively prepared by Chef Michael of Pizza Brama, accompanied by Rocklands’ own wines. While he apparently makes a killer pizza, our tastebuds were first wowed by Chef Michael’s seasonal appetizers including shaved radish, fennel, and kohlrabi salad with a honey tarragon vinaigrette; roasted brussels sprouts and carrots with sage and garlic; and a mushroom medley featuring lion’s mane, oyster, and maitakes tossed with parsley, arugula, and a sherry-lemon vinaigrette. The gustatory delights continued with a kale-arugula lasagne and a Rocklands lamb lasagne. As we nibbled, Michael waxed poetic about his love for quality ingredients and the relationships he’s built with local producers. “You need a doctor once a year, but you need a farmer three times a day. Think about that.” We did. And then had a second helping.

Some of us managed to save room for the apple spice layer cake, loaded with sauteed apples, mascarpone whipped cream, and cranberry preserves. As we poured a bit more wine and lamented that we hadn’t saved quite enough room in our bellies to eat an entire slice of the decadent dessert, we were treated to a discussion with Claudia and Ellen, who had put together a beautiful book based around their experiences at the Montgomery County Agricultural Reserve. More than just a cookbook, Bread & Beauty traces some of the Reserve’s history, but also the contemporary challenges faced by family farms trying to establish a new generation, new farmers seeking land and markets, and the shared community efforts required to preserve this special place. Many of us left with signed copies of the book… and a plate of layer cake for the road. A delightful end to a wonderful event.

Many thanks to the team that put together this beautiful, informative, and delicious event! For more upcoming Rocklands events, check out their calendar here.

Seasonal Recipe: Pumpkin Curry

FoodPrints, the educational program of Snail of Approval recipient FRESHFARM, gets DC public elementary school students excited about growing, preparing, and enjoying fresh, local, healthy foods. What better recipe to celebrate all three – fresh, local, and healthy – than a pumpkin curry? We’re smack dab in the middle of winter squash season, which generally runs from October to December. Pumpkins are nutrient-packed, providing a healthy dose of Vitamins A and C and potassium, not to mention dietary fiber. And they are unquestionably delicious and versatile, as the star ingredient in recipes ranging from pie to this hearty, savory curry. This recipe appears in our November 2018 newsletter.

Serves 3-4

Ingredients

  • 1 lb pumpkin or butternut squash
  • 2 Tablespoons unsweetened coconut
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 medium sized onion, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon olive or coconut oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon whole mustard seeds
  • 2 curry leaves if available (or use 1 tsp curry powder)
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 oz. creamed coconut (this is not the same thing as coconut milk!)
  • 1/2 cup hot water

Directions

Peel and remove the seeds from the pumpkin or butternut squash. Cut into 2 inch cubes.

In a heavy bottomed frying pan, over a low heat toast the coconut until lightly browned. Put the garlic, onion, and toasted coconut into a blender and grind into a smooth paste.

In a pan heat the oil, add the mustard seeds and cook covered on a low heat until the seeds sputter. Add the curry leaves, spices, and salt.

Add the coconut paste and the pumpkin to the pan. Lastly add the creamed coconut and the water, bring to a rapid boil.

Cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Serve with rice.

Terra Madre Celebrates Good, Clean, Fair Food for All

First launched in 1996, Terra Madre Salone del Gusto is one of the world’s most important events dedicated to artisan and small-scale food and wine producers. The art of eating, however, isn’t the only focus of Terra Madre. The event is also an opportunity for producers, consumers, and advocates from across the world to gather together to exchange ideas, challenge preconceived notions, and unite around the common cause of good, clean and fair food for all. Terra Madre 2018 attracted thousands of delegates from over 100 countries across the world, not to mention hundreds of thousands of public visitors!

It was an honor for me to attend this one-of-a-kind event as a delegate on behalf of Slow Food DC. Though I had many amazing experiences, my two favorites were those that fostered a sense of unity and connection  – with both the food and one another. Coincidentally, these were also the first and last events of my Terra Madre experience! The first was a bike ride through Torino hosted by the University of Gastronomic Sciences (aka “Slow Food University”). On this culinary tour of the city, we had the experience to eat some of Torino’s best artisanal foods and meet the hardworking producers who make it all possible! It was also an excellent opportunity to learn more about the history of Torino and meet many other fellow slow foodies. 

The last event of my Terra Madre experience was a true honor: experiencing baru gong yang –a meditative way of eating with gratitude in the Buddhist temple – with famous Buddhist nun Venerable Jeong Kwan. By eating in silence and focusing only on the simple yet delicious food before us, this experience allowed everyone involved to fully digest their Terra Madre experience and all they had learned from Jeong Kwan about the intersection of food, faith, and meditation. 

To see photos from Terra Madre – including photos from the Torino culinary bike tour – check out our Facebook Album

Can Burgers and Beer Save the Chesapeake Bay?

With views of sheep and cattle grazing on verdant rolling hills, Slow Food DC shared samples of Chef Mark Haskell’s “Singapore Sling” burgers, topped with cabbage slaw and pickled habanero sauce, with hungry visitors at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF)’s Burgers and Brews for the Bay event on October 21.

The burgers and accompanying slaw were prepared using ingredients raised and grown right on Clagett Farm, a 285-acre working farm under the auspices of the CBF and a beautiful venue for this truly farm-to-table event for a great cause.

Founded in 1967, the CBF is the largest independent conservation organization dedicated solely to promoting science-based solutions to the pollution degrading the Chesapeake Bay. Their motto “Save the Bay” defines their mission and commitment to reducing pollution, improving fisheries, and protecting and restoring natural resources such as wetlands, forests, and underwater grasses.

The role of Clagett Farm is wholly complimentary: to employ farming methods that are both economically and environmentally sustainable. The farm raises crops, beef cattle, and sheep, as well as supports a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program and tree farm. Clagett’s farm manager, Michael Heller, also spearheaded the Maryland Grazers Network, which helps farmers transition from corn-fed to grass-fed livestock.

The CBF’s annual Burgers and Brews for the Bay event is also a way to highlight the success of the Clagett Farm’s sustainable approach. Chef Haskell’s ”Singapore Sling” burger featured 100 percent pasture-raised beef, as well as slaw ingredients picked that morning from the farm’s garden. It’s hard to get any more local than that.

Tents featuring the other guest chefs’ inspired burger creations, as well as regional craft beers, were scattered within easy walking distance throughout the farm, providing an opportunity to view grazing cows and sheep and explore this picturesque farm just 30 minutes from downtown Washington, DC. Along with the food and beer tents, educational stations were nearby to explain the farm’s sustainable practices and the vital work of the CBF.

With awareness and support being important first steps, we believe that burgers and beer can go a long way toward helping restore and protect the essential resource that is the Chesapeake Bay. Slow Food DC was honored to be a part of this wonderful event, and we’re already looking forward to next year!

If weren’t able to participate in this farm visit, please consider joining us November 3 at Snail of Approval winner Rocklands Farm! You can find more details and tickets here.

Seasonal Recipe: Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho with Dijon Mustard Ice Cream

Those who were able to join our summer happy hour in August at Snail winner Garrison Restaurant will remember this delightful and refreshing gazpacho. While the gazpacho showcases the ripe sweetness of the tomatoes, the savory mustard ice cream provides a pleasant and creamy balance. Chef Rob Weland has graciously agreed to share his recipe and he notes that in our region, heirloom tomatoes can be enjoyed throughout September and beyond. This recipe appears in SFDC’s October 2018 newsletter.

To Make the Gazpacho
Serves 12 (can be halved)

  • 6 cups fresh plum tomato
  • 3 cups coarsely chopped red onion
  • 3 cups coarsely chopped red peppers
  • 4 cups English cucumbers (cut into one inch chunks)
  • 3 cups mixed heirloom tomatoes
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp Tobasco
  • 3 T Banyuls vinegar
  • 2 cups Extra Virgin Olive Oil (organic if you have it)
  • 3 T fresh lemon juice
  • 3 sprigs Thyme (leaves only)
  • Salt to taste

Combine tomatoes, onion, peppers, cucumbers, garlic, herbs, tobacco, and salt in a large pot or other container that can comfortably hold all the ingredients.

Blend ingredients with large immersion blender until well liquefied. While blending, slowly add in olive oil until mixture is smooth and creamy.

Transfer mixture to a blender in small batches and puree on high for 1 full minute.

Add vinegar and lemon juice. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. If you want your soup to be extra smooth, pass the mixture through a fine mesh sieve to remove any sediment, before adding the vinegar and lemon juice.

Refrigerate in airtight plastic container until ready to use.

To Make the Dijon Mustard Ice Cream

  • 6 cups half & half
  • 1 jar (7oz.) strong mustard (such as Dijon or mutarde forte)
  • 18 egg yolks
  • Salt & pepper

Prepare an ice water bath in a large bowl to cool your custard quickly when it comes off the stove. Set an empty bowl inside or on top of the ice water bath. This will be used to cool the custard when it comes off the stove.

Mix cream and mustard in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat, cover and let infuse 10 minutes.

Place yolks in a third bowl and whisk until slightly thickened. Drizzle in half of warm cream from the saucepan and whisk. Return mixture to saucepan.

Place saucepan over medium heat and stir continuously with a wooden spoon until mixture thickens and covers the back of the spoon. Remove from heat immediately and strain mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into your empty bowl placed over the prepared ice bath; stir custard until cold.

Cover custard and refrigerate overnight. Freeze in an ice cream maker for 10-15 minutes, or according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

To Serve

Place one scoop of ice cream into a bowl, and cover with gazpacho. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and a few grinds of fresh black pepper.

The Origins of Slow Food – Or How to Start a Global Movement with Pasta

Every two years, Slow Food members and supporters embark on a pilgrimage of sorts to Turin, Italy for the largest international event dedicated to food, Terra Madre Salone del Gusto. While it isn’t hard to imagine why anyone would journey to Italy for several days of celebrating all things gastronomic, there is less familiarity with the global movement behind the call to slow the fork down when it comes to our food.

In some ways, it’s only fitting that the global growth of fast food planted the seeds of the today’s Slow Food movement. In 1986, a McDonald’s opened near the historic Piazza de Spagna in Rome, just adjacent to the iconic Spanish Steps. Worried that the proliferation of fast food would threaten local restaurants and culinary traditions, Italian journalist Carlo Petrini organized a protest against the fast food chain’s entry into the Italian market. Instead of signs, Petrini armed protesters with bowls of penne, declaring:  “We don’t want fast food… we want slow food!”

While Petrini was interested in preserving taste (as evidenced by the protest penne), he also wanted to support and protect small growers and artisanal producers, as well as safeguard the environment and promote biodiversity. This ambitious agenda led to the creation of the Slow Food movement in 1989, with the goals of defending regional food traditions, good food, gastronomic pleasure, and a slow pace of life. Aptly, the snail symbol chosen was chosen to represent the movement. As outlined in the Slow Food Manifesto, this translates into core values that aim to inspire individuals and communities to change the world through food that is good, clean and fair for all.

Some of these values naturally come to mind when we think of Slow Food, such as taking the time – ten minutes or a few hours – to enjoy our meals, or cooking and sharing meals with others. But the Slow Food journey is not prescriptive. Slow Food doesn’t necessarily mean organic food or a particular type diet. It’s food that is good for us, good for our environment, and good for the people who grow, pick and prepare it, and how those practices look can vary from country to country and from culture to culture.

Terra Madre Salone del Gusto – or Terra Madre for short – takes this concept to the big stage every few years. A food advocate’s playground, Terra Madre is dedicated to the promotion of artisanal, sustainable food and the small-scale producers that safeguard local traditions and high quality products. This year’s gathering will take place from September 20-24, 2018, and thousands of delegates will hear speakers on food production, sustainable supply chain methods, and food gastronomy. Attendees will also be able to tackle the “Gusto” part of the agenda at The Market, where exhibitors from around the word share samples of their country’s gastronomic diversity.

Like many things, food does not exist in a vacuum. There are strong ties between our plates, the planet, culture, politics, and each other. Our choices can influence how food is cultivated, produced, and distributed, and the growth of the Slow Food movement since the 1980s shows that millions of others agree. Today, Slow Food is active in more than 150 countries, and there are more than 170 chapters and 2,000 food communities in the United States alone.

For our part, Slow Food DC invites everyone who eats food – and we think that’s literally everyone – to join us in supporting more good, clean, and fair food and beverages in our region. Our band of merry volunteers aims to promote local artisans, local farmers, and local flavors through a range of activities, including social gatherings, farmers markets, educational programs, and food access awareness. We look forward welcoming you at future events, to share in the conviviality that is at the heart of Slow Food, and maybe even share a bowl of penne.

Until then, check out our Instagram page for updates from our own board member Reana Kovalcik at Terra Madre! 

How Can We Get a Good, Clean, Fair Farm Bill?

Part of the Slow Food mission is promoting good, clean, and fair food and farm systems in any way that we can. Typically people think about good, clean, and fair food in the context of eating, but you can also support the type of food and food systems you value though policy engagement and advocacy.

Right now the 2018 Farm Bill is being debated in Congress – the farm bill is a MASSIVE package of legislation that is renewed every five years and affects everything about our food system. Contrary to what you might think from the name, this bill impacts all of us – not just farmers! If you care about local food, family farmers, and healthy food access for all families, the time to get involved and influence the 2018 Farm Bill is now. 

Take five minutes to influence the next five years of food and farming in America. Click here and tell Congress TODAY that you want a 2018 Farm Bill that supports good, clean, and fair food!

  • Additional Resources:
    • Slow Food USA Food and Farm Policy Portal: Check out Slow Food USA’s Food & Farm Policy page to learn more about Slow Food’s priorities and actions on the 2018 Farm Bill. You can also find policy related highlights and check out a very cool, interactive farm bill policy map showing all House and Senate Agriculture Committee members, as well as Slow Food Governor locations.
    • The Local Agriculture Market Program (LAMP) is currently being considered by the Farm Bill Conference Committee. This innovative program would support vibrant local food systems, farmers markets, and help hungry families access healthy food. Click here to learn more about LAMP, and you can click here to look up your members of Congress if you want to contact them and tell them to “Light the LAMP for local food!”. 

Seasonal Recipe: Squash Blossom Tempura

You’re undoubtedly familiar with zucchini, a popular summer squash. But did you know that on the end of every zucchini is another delicious treat? Squash blossoms are much more delicate than the squash itself, and therefore are seldom found in grocery stores. But they’re easy to grow at home* or, if you’re lucky, you’ll find them at your local farmers market. Squash blossom are often used as a pizza topping or they’re stuffed with cheese and fried. This recipe is a take on the latter. It appears in the SFDC August 2018 newsletter.

*Gardener’s note: while delicious, don’t go crazy harvesting all of the flowers on your home grown squash plants. Keep in mind that the flowers are necessary for zucchini plants (and other plants in the cucurbit family) to grow fruit. So your best bet is to pinch off the male flowers, and use the stamen to fertilize the female blossoms. Then feel free to cook the male blossoms. (Did you know that some plants have separate male and female flowers??) You can tell which one is the female blossom because it will look like there is a tiny squash attached to the bottom of it. If this female flower is not pollinated, the tiny squash will wilt; if pollinated, it will start to grow into a full-size zucchini.

Ingredients
  • 1 tablespoon ground sumac
  • Boiling water
  • ¼ cup ricotta
  • 3 tablespoons soft goat cheese
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped oregano leaves
  • 2 tablespoons chopped walnuts
  • 1 lemon, finely grated to get 1 tablespoon zest, then cut into wedges
  • Flaky sea salt and black pepper
  • 8 zucchini blossoms
  • About 1 1/2 cups sunflower oil, for frying
  • Scant 1/2 cup all-purpose flour (plain flour)
  • ⅛ teaspoon baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)
  • ⅓ cup plus 1 tablespoon milliliters ice-cold sparkling or soda water

Directions

1. In a medium bowl, cover 3/4 tablespoon of the sumac with 1 tablespoon of boiling water and leave to infuse for 5 minutes. Add both types of cheese, oregano, walnuts, lemon zest, 1/4 teaspoon salt and a generous grind of pepper. Mix well.

2.  Fill the flowers by carefully opening them and either spooning or piping about a tablespoon of the ricotta mixture into each, gently pushing the filling all the way to the bottom of each blossom but being careful not to fill them too much; if you can get someone to hold the flower open for you, it would make it much easier. Gently twist the tips of the petals to secure the filling inside and set aside until you’re ready to fry.

3. Pour enough oil into a medium (about 8-inch/20-centimeter) nonstick frying pan so that the oil rises about 1 inch/2 centimeters up the sides of the pan. Place on a high heat for 5 minutes and then turn the heat down a fraction.

4. Meanwhile, mix the flour and baking soda together in a medium bowl. Slowly pour in the sparkling water, whisking continuously to form a smooth batter.

5. When bubbles start to surface in the oil, test it by dropping some batter into the oil: if it sizzles, you are ready. (The oil should hover between 320 and 350 degrees Fahrenheit/160 and 180 degrees Celsius.)

6. Lower a zucchini blossom into the batter, turning to coat completely, before carefully placing in the hot oil. Repeat, cooking a few blossoms at a time, adjusting the temperature between batches so they take about 30 seconds on each side to turn a golden brown. Use a slotted spoon to transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and then sprinkle with salt and the remaining 1/4 tablespoon sumac. Serve at once with the lemon wedges alongside.

Finding the Funk at 3 Stars Brewing Company

Tucked away off a busy street among several auto mechanics and industry supply companies, you’ll find a welcoming spot to enjoy some of the most interesting beer being brewed right in the District. With a recent win at DC Beer Week’s Battle of the Barrel-Aged Beers and celebrating their six-year anniversary on August 12, it’s evident that 3 Stars Brewing Company is shaping the landscape of the DC beer scene.

Once inside the brewery, visitors are warmly welcomed by the urban farmhouse tasting room sporting ten beers on tap, some of which are only available on-site. You can also wander out onto the brewery floor, where the growler tap, picnic tables, and games of corn hole invite hanging out awhile. This is where Slow Food DC members and supporters gathered on August 25 to get a taste of this Snail winner’s success.

We tried four beers currently in production, starting with the Peppercorn Saison, a Belgian-style farmhouse ale that’s the brewery’s most popular and best selling beer. Brewed with red, white, and green peppercorns, this beer is fruity, with hints of peppercorn and citrus, and very refreshing. This was the first beer 3 Stars ever produced, and it’s just as good now as ever.

Next up was the Ghost White IPA, bright and citrusy with a little bitterness on the finish thanks to the hops, but not overwhelming.  The Southern Belle, an imperial brown ale described as “not quite a stout,” uses roasted malt and chocolate to impart toasty notes of coffee and cocoa. Delightfully smooth!

And last we moved into the land of sour beers, where 3 Stars is known to dabble, tasting the Trouble in Paradise American Wild Ale that had light and tart tropical fruit notes (guava and mango) perfect for summer.

In addition to their regular lineup, 3 Stars has a number of different collaborations with area producers and restaurants. They make an Irish amber for the Dubliner Pub near Union Station. They have also undertaken a series of mixed brews, including a barrel fermented sour paired with mead from Baltimore-area Charm City Meadworks they’re calling Sabertooth Unicorn. Much like real unicorns, it’s almost impossible to get your hands on one. Keep an eye out for another collaboration with the National Arboretum coming soon: a special beer spiked with herbs grown on the grounds of the Arboretum.

3 Stars is a Snail of Approval winner for many reasons, including their sustainability practices. Spent grain is sent to farms for use as animal feed, and the brewing team makes generous use of old whiskey, bourbon, and wine barrels to age their beers and impart unique flavors. Much of this happens in the brewery’s “Funkerdome,” a room where sour beers are born and aged. The beers can be aged up to two and a half years but there are no hard and fast rules – the Funkerdome is all about experimenting and discovering new flavors.

In fact, die-hard sour beer fans can sign up for the “Funkerdome Society” to get limited edition releases not available to the general public. Likewise, membership in the 3 Stars “Illuminati Society” will also net you limited edition beers throughout the year. If you’re interested in getting in on the action, Funkerdome and Illuminati membership sign-ups for 2019 will be announced at the end of year.

Know of other businesses that personify the Slow Food philosophy? Nominate them for a Snail of Approval award! Nominations are now open through September 30 and can be submitted through our website at: http://www.slowfooddc.org/snail-approval-nomination/. Cheers!

 

Eating the Joys of Summer at Snail Winner Garrison

While summers in the city can be very rewarding (no restaurant lines! no crowds on metro!), they can also feel a bit languorous by the time August rolls around. A mid-summer cool down was just the antidote to wake up our palates and celebrate the best of summer’s bounty.

On August 15, Slow Food DC members and supporters gathered at Garrison Restaurant on Barrack’s Row to sample some of the city’s best seasonal fare, prepared by Chef Rob Weland and his team. Garrison’s focus on locally grown, seasonal dishes, as well as their unwavering support for regional producers, are a few of the reasons Garrison is a Snail of Approval winner.

Chef Rob is known for putting vegetables front and center, and just a few bites of his inspired dishes will tell you why. Among the delights we sampled were stuffed squash blossoms with smoked provolone and Romesco sauce; One Acre Farm eggplant terrine with tomato and basil; and heirloom tomato gazpacho with Dijon mustard ice cream and basil seeds. These dishes and others were bursting with the flavors of summer, and gave the sudden urge to start planting our own urban gardens pronto.

In addition to the restaurant’s partnership with One Acre Farm in Maryland, Chef Rob keeps a garden at the restaurant and actively encourages guests to think creatively about vegetables. In a recent Washington Post article about what do with an excess of summer tomatoes, Chef Rob aptly shared: “I think the best advice is always buy a large variety and have fun with them.” We couldn’t agree more.

Know of other businesses that personify the Slow Food philosophy? Nominate them for a Snail of Approval award! Nominations are now open through September 30 and can be submitted through our website at: http://www.slowfooddc.org/snail-approval-nomination/