The Secret to Great Cocktails is Right in Your Kitchen

Mixologists across the United States have been incorporating herbal elements into their cocktail creations with great results, but how easy is it to replicate some of that goodness at home? On August 5, Slow Food DC members and supporters came to find out at our “Grow Your Own Cocktails” event! Our partners shared terrific, hands-on tips to help us start our own container herb garden that can serve as the basis for unique and delicious cocktail creations at home.

Armed with a selection of rosemary seedlings and ceramic pots, District Hardware’s co-owner Jarrett Conway gave us a great tutorial about how to keep our rosemary plants – and other herbs – happy and healthy at home.

A few takeaways: First, make sure the pot is twice the size as the plant. Most plants suffer from too little space and too much water. Don’t suffocate your herbs! Second, pay attention to the specific care instructions that come with the plant, particularly how much light your herbs will need. Third, consider using a pearlite fertilizer to add more nutrients to the soil to help your plant thrive.

Then we were ready to get our hands dirty! After filling the pots with soil, we created space for the plant by pushing the soil up along the sides of the pot. Upon removing the plants from their seedling containers, we broke up the roots a bit with our hands before planting in the pot. This helped the rosemary take hold in its new home, ready to receive nutrients and water.

Proper harvesting can keep your herbs growing all year long! For rosemary, cut the top 2 to 3 inches of each sprig, leaving green leaves and being careful not to cut the plant too close to the roots. Give the plant time to recover before harvesting in the same spot.

When our rosemary was planted, it was time to explore our cocktail options with One Eight Distilling’s events manager Cara Webster. While there are several ways you can incorporate herbs into cocktails, Cara demonstrated how to make an infused simple syrup, which is also easy to make at home.

Combine equal parts water and sugar in a small saucepan, along with a tablespoon of rosemary leaves (or a couple of stalks of rosemary). Bring the mixture to a boil and stir until all of the sugar is dissolved. There’s also the option at this point to steep the rosemary in the liquid for 30 minutes (off the heat) for a more intense flavor. Strain the syrup into a heatproof container, allow the mixture to cool, and then its ready for cocktail glory! You can keep the simple syrup in the refrigerator for up to two weeks for use in different types of cocktails.

In a nod to the DMV region, Cara designed a riff on the lavender-hued water lily cocktail by mixing One Eight Distilling gin, orange liqueur, lemon juice, Crème de Violette, cherry blossom liqueur, and rosemary simple syrup.

Once transformed into the “Water Lily on the Bay” cocktail, the Crème de Violette gave the drink a unique dark purple hue, with the cherry blossom liqueur lending a fresh and floral note thatnicely balanced the herbal rosemary.

Cara shared a great pro tip on making drinks for a group, which is to batch cocktails instead of making each separately. Simply pre-mix your ingredients in a large container that’s easy to pour from – could be a punch bowl or a large mason jar, if you’re traveling – and you’re ready to roll. Great for gatherings of all types!

We can’t thank our partners One Eight Distilling and District Hardware enough for this fun and informative event! There are many other herbs that are great for both container gardening and cocktails – we sense an opportunity for future events!

Seasonal Recipe: Seasonal Recipe: Sweetened Blue Corn Tamales

Gailey Morgan, manager at Tesuque Farm NM

The Farm Department of the Pueblo of Tesuque works on sustainable living for Native American people with a focus on traditional farming. They have been able to provide pueblo members with crops cultivated naturally, free from pesticides and GMOs as well as teaching youth about natural and sustainable food practices. SFDC Vice Chair Reana toured the farm with Slow Food Turtle Island as part of Slow Food Nations. This recipe is featured in SFDC’s August 2018 newsletter.

Ingredients

(makes 30 mini tamales) 
  • 30 dry corn husks
  • approx 1 cup hot water (200 F)
  • 1/2 tsp culinary ash
  • 1/2 cup fine sugar
  • 2 cups blue cornmeal, fine ground

Directions

  1. Soak corn husks in hot tap water, husks must be completely submerged in water. In large mixing bowl, add cornmeal and sugar, whisk together. Set aside. Stir together 2 tablespoons of hot water with ask. Set aside. Stir in 1/4 cup hot water to cornmeal mixture. Using a fine mesh sieve, pour ask water into cornmeal mixture. Stir in ask water vigorously. The color of the mixture will change from a dark grey to a lighter color of blue or purple. The mixture should be consistent to a moist paste, like sticky cookie dough. Add small amounts of more hot water if necessary. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and set aside. 

  2. Remove husks from water. Gently pat excess water with a paper towl. Tear a few corn husks into “strings” for the tamale ties. Take 2 strings and tie together for a slipknot hold. Make approx 30 ties.

  3. To assemble a tamale, take 1 husk and place a generous tablespoon of the cornmeal mixture into the middle of the husk. Locate the long side of the husk and fold that over, then the other side so they overlap. Fold the wider end of the husk over then the narrow end over the wide end. Tie carefully but snuggly with the “strings”.

  4. In a large saucepan, bring water to a boil. Once the water boils, add the tamales into the water for 15 minutes. Tamales are done when they become buoyant and float to the top of the water. Drain tamales and let cool before eating.  

Full Belly, Full Heart: A Slow Food Nations Reflection

Whenever you attend a Slow Food event, no matter what part of the world you may be in, you know one thing for sure:  the food is going to be spectacular. At Slow Food Nations, however, the food was just one of many amazing experiences.

2018 marked the second year of Slow Food Nations, an annual event put on by Slow Food USA that celebrates all things good, clean, and fair food. Over the course of the 3-day event, there were 16 opportunities to gather together and enjoy a meal, six summits, 11workshops, one jam-packed Delegate Day, and over 20,000 total attendees. With so much to taste, see, and do and so many folks in attendance, there’s no doubt that everyone went home with their own unique takeaway. And although I have no doubt that for many folks the memory of the delicious meals they partook of will be what lingers most in their minds, for me it was something different. My biggest takeaway was this:  relationships move mountains.

As a Slow Food Nations Delegate, I not only represented my Slow Food Community (Slow Food DC) at the event in Denver, I also had the honor of presenting about one of my greatest passions – public policy. I know policy doesn’t sound that sexy, especially when you put it up against the opportunity to taste sample Okanagan Sockeye Salmon or cook with renown regional chefs, but to those of us who understand the impact policymaking can have, there are few things more exciting.

On the first day of the event, as part of the Slow Food Leaders’ Summit, I presented as part of a panel entitled, “Food Activism Beyond the Fork.” Led by former Slow Food USA Policy Intern, Taylor Pate, I joined Kevin Scribner (Forever Wild Seafood), Jennifer Casey (Fondy Food Center), and Fatuma Emmad (Groundwork Denver) in exploring policy, civic action, and grassroots initiatives that support a good, clean, and fair food and farm system. I was also fortunate to present at another policy panel during the main conference, “Intro to the Farm Bill”. This event, which was co-presented by Jeni Lam Rogers and Kelleen Zubik, was an opportunity to chat with the public and answer their questions about how the 2018 Farm Bill could impact their lives and what they could do to get engaged in the policy process.

Outside of my own events, I of course had many opportunities to connect with new friends, allies, and good food leaders. It was these connections, in fact, that I think were the most impactful part of the entire Slow Food Nations experience. Denver’s Chef Paul C. Reilly showed me what embodying your values in the food you make looks like, Matthew Koster of Corner Post Meats reminded me the value of the hustle and that you can accomplish anything if you put enough energy toward it, and Gailey Morgan of Tesuque Pueblo and all the participants from Slow Food Turtle Island reconnected me to the core reasons I do this work – we are not only the descendants of our ancestors, but the ancestors of our descendants. Good food, Ch’iyaan Ya’at’eehégii in the Diné language, is much more than just nourishment; it is also pleasure, culture, and identity.

I value events like Slow Food Nations because they afford us the opportunity to connect both with longtime friends, and also to forge new connections that will feed our personal and professional lives. I thank Slow Food USA for allowing me to serve on the National Policy Committee and to present for the second year in a row at this amazing event. And I thank everyone who presented with me, supported my efforts, and helped me to continue to grow. I hope to have the opportunity to meet many more of you out there working to make our food and farm systems as good, clean, and fair as possible. Perhaps at Slow Food Nations 2019, or if you’re in the DC area, maybe we’ll connect at a Slow Food DC event in the future!

To see Reana’s photos from Slow Food Nations, check out the album on our Facebook page.

– Reana Kovalcik
Associate Director, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
Vice Chair, Slow Food DC

Locally Made Ice Cream and Spirits Make for Sweeter Summer Nights

Slow Food DC had a great time partnering with Wardman Wines and Bri’s Brookland Creamery on June 28, for a tasting of locally made ice cream and spirits that guarantee a prefect summer evening!

Founded in 2017, Bri’s Brookland Creamery produces small batch traditional ice creams right here in DC, using season flavors inspired by owner Brianna’s southern roots. Owned by a native Washingtonian, Wardman Wines offers a range of small production and locally made bottles in the Brookland neighborhood. To highlight some of the best the District has to offer for summer refreshment, Wardman’s Spirits Manager Briana created two fantastic pairings for this event.

Amaro delle Sirene Float led off the tasting, featuring Bri’s brown sugar vanilla ice cream, Thunder Beast root beer, and Don Ciccio  & Figli Amaro delle Sirene. Don Ciccio & Figli produces small batch, handcrafted, artisanal amari, aperitivi and Amalfi Coast cordials in DC. Also based in the District, Thunder Beast makes craft soda with great flavors, quality ingredients, and patient craftsmanship.

The second pairing was a refreshing Strawberry Banana Hammock Milkshake, starring Cotton & Reed’s limited release Banana Hammock Rum and Bri’s strawberry ice cream. Only 500 bottles of Cotton & Reed’s Banana Hammock Rum were produced to coincide with June’s Pride festivities and for every bottle sold, 10% of sales benefit Whitman-Walker Health. Tasters snatched up almost every last bottle in Wardman’s stock – it’s that good!

To give attendees some extra incentive to bring some of these terrific local products home, Slow Food DC raffled off two pints of ice cream and a wine class for two, generously donated by Bri’s Brookland Creamery and Wardman Wines. Additionally, a portion of the evening’s sales from products featured in the tasting will go to support Slow Food education programs in the DMV.

Our sincere thanks to Wardman Wines and Bri’s Brookland Creamery for their generosity and the great summer vibes! Slow Food DC was thrilled to partner with these two wonderful, locally owned businesses that strive to provide good, clean, and fair food and beverages for our region.

Know of other businesses that embody 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/

 

June 27: Celebrating Current and Future Snail of Approval Winners!

To mark the opening of our next round of Snail of Approval nominations, Slow Food DC hosted a happy hour at Snail of Approval winning Urbana Dining & Drinks at the Hotel Palomar on June 27.  Urbana’s Executive Chef Ethan McKee is an active supporter of the Slow Food philosophy, keeping a 1,000-square-foot garden on the hotel’s roof as well as a beehive! All produce from the rooftop garden is used for Urbana’s dishes or by the Hotel Palomar for events.

Slow Food board members and supporters were able to sample the fruits of that  garden labor when Chef Ethan generously brought out several pizzas laden with veggies and herbs, as well as beautiful arancini stuffed with rapini sourced from Chef’s rooftop garden.

Chef Ethan also partners with Snail of Approval winner FRESHFARM’s Foodprints program, teaching cooking classes to elementary school students at nearby Francis Stevens Elementary. As recently as April, Chef Ethan and the Francis Stevens third grade class harvested spinach grown by the students and made beautiful spring ravioli. Urbana’s dedication to sustainable practices and food education are a few of the reasons why Urbana has been a Snail of Approval winner since 2016.

And now we need your help to identify other businesses that also practice and/or support the Slow Food philosophy of good, clean, and fair food! Snail of Approval nominations are now open through September 30. Anyone can nominate a food or beverage provider serving the National Capital Region that supports good, clean, and fair food in our area. You can find more information about our award criteria on our website, along with a full list of previous Snail of Approval winners.

Our sincere thanks to Chef Ethan and the entire Urbana team for their hospitality and continued commitment to the Slow Food philosophy. Now we’re looking forward to hearing from all of you, about who you think should become Snail-approved in 2018!

 

Seasonal Recipe: 4-Ingredient Stovetop Rhubarb Compote

Love the bright, alluring color of rhubarb at the farmers markets, but not sure what to do with it? Molly Wizenberg of Orangette gives us this ultra simple way to maximize the best of this spring vegetable (yes, vegetable!). In 15 minutes, you can spoon this delightful compote over ice cream or cake, or even swirl it into your morning oatmeal. This recipe appears in the June 2018 SFDC newsletter. It makes @ 2 cups.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound rhubarb, trimmed, and cut into roughly 3/4-inch chunks
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cups sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons salted butter (or use unsalted and add a pinch of salt)
  • 2 Tablespoons orange liqueur, like Cointreau or Grand Marnier

Directions

In a medium bowl, mix the rhubarb with the sugar. 

In a heavy medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. When the butter has melted, add the rhubarb and sugar mixture and the orange liqueur. 

Allow to cook, undisturbed, for 2 minutes. Then gently stir and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the rhubarb is tender and beginning to fall apart and its juices are thick, 10 to 15 minutes. 

Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Seasonal Recipe: Grilled KimCheese

This recipe appeared in our April 2018 SFDC newsletter. It comes from Caitlin of Snail of Approval winning No. 1 Sons — host of our spring potluck and board meet & greet!

Ingredients:

  • bread
  • American cheese or mayo
  • two other types of cheese
  • butter
  • No. 1 Sons kimchi or sauerkraut

Directions:

  1. Get a half fistful of kimchi. Squeeze the liquid. No soggy sandwiches here! Do a coarse chop on the kimchi.
  2. Butter the outside pieces of your bread! Bread — for a decadent grilled cheese use thick slices of bread like Texas Toast. For a more “everyday” grilled cheese, I like sourdough. But any bread will do!
  3. Time to cheese your bread! We like to use three types of cheese: one slice of American for ultimate melt-iness and two other types of cheese that you like or have on hand. We often do cheddar and provolone. My mom always reprimands me for using processed cheese but it does create the most melty grilled cheese! If you are like #1 mom, you could use a bit of mayo instead.
  4. Time to layer the grilled cheese! The order is: bread, cheese, half of kimchi, American cheese, half of kimchi, cheese, bread.
  5. Put a bit of butter in a medium warm griddle. Cook till one side is brown and a bit crispy. Flip. Make sure that all cheese is melted before removing the grilled cheese!

Other options from Caitlin: “I love doing a sauerkraut grilled cheese and using a dark break and all white cheeses for a more subtle flavor compared to the Grilled Kimcheese.”

Urbana cooks up seasonal pasta with some young sous chefs

“It’s important to any good chef to use what’s grown nearby. It’s fresher and it tastes better,” Chef Ethan McKee explained to Ms. Burkett’s 3rd grade class as the group stood at the entrance to the school garden at Francis Stevens Elementary, with me, their FoodPrints* teacher, nodding enthusiastically and passing out harvest scissors. “That’s why today we’re going to use what’s growing in your garden to fill the raviolis and make the sauce for the fettuccine noodles. It’s early spring, so we have spinach and collards and fresh herbs to work with. If we were making pasta at my restaurant, Urbana, in the summertime, we’d be using lots of tomatoes. But it’s too cold for tomatoes to be growing now. Speaking of cold weather, what do you think we could use in the fall? Can anyone think of a fall vegetable?”

“Pumpkin?” a shy 3rd grader offered.

“Yes!” Urbana’s executive chef beamed, “It’s one of our most popular ravioli fillings in the fall. Nice work. Okay, now let’s get harvesting some spinach for our spring pasta!”

 

Twenty minutes later,  we were back in the FoodPrints teaching kitchen giving our hands a good scrub with soap and water before student groups dove hands first into the flour set up at the cooking stations around the room. Over the next two hours, the Snail of Approval-winning chef talked us through separating eggs, making the dough and then rolling it through a series of settings on the pasta machines he’d brought along, then cutting and filling our fresh pasta.

We were a good team: I washed and minced our garden harvest and cooked things up with lots of garlic for the ravioli filling (it was a FoodPrints class after all, and we always use lots of garlic) and the sauce while Chef Ethan moved about the room offering guidance and suggestions, pointing out how nice and smooth one group’s dough had become, complimenting another group on their patience as different students rolled it through the machine, smiling reassuringly at our parent volunteers who had never made noodles from scratch before. As Ethan dished up our freshly cooked up pasta, ours mouths all began to water, and I marveled at this wonderful 3rd year of partnership between a public elementary school, a nearby restaurant, and a local nonprofit.

Seriously, though, third graders making pasta from a pile of flour and eggs? How did it all come out?? 

Delicious!

 

*FoodPrints is the education program of FreshFarm, another DC-area Snail of Approval winner! If you’re interested in volunteering with FoodPrints classes at one of the program’s 13 DCPS partner schools, contact FreshFarm.

Seasonal Recipe: Pot roast with Kim Chi

Adapted from the Washington Post Food Section, Feb 2018. Recently taste tested and approved by SFDC board co-chair, Ibti Vincent (and her carnivorous boyfriend). It took about 3 1/2 hours to cook, but SO worth it. Best valentine’s day meal EVER.

Ingredients

  • One 2-pound boneless chuck roast (we got ours from Snail of Approval award winning farm, Smith Meadows, at the Dupont farmers market)
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp or so of freshly ground black pepper
  • A generous glug (2 TBSP?) of olive oil
  • One 12-ounce tub of cabbage kim chi (we used some from Number One Sons, another Snail-winning purveyor at the Dupont market)
  • 1/2 cup apple cider (the non-boozy kind, available at any farmers market)
  • 2 pounds of sweet potatoes (you guessed it, from the farmers market), scrubbed and cut into large-bite chunks
Directions

Preheat the oven to 300F. Pat the meat dry and season with salt and pepper.

Heat the oil in a deep cast iron skillet until it shimmers, and sear the roast on all sides until browned. This takes about 10 minutes total.

Move the meat to a plate, then add kim chi and cider to the pan and bring to a boil, scraping any delicious meat bits from the bottom of the pan. Nestle the roast back on top, cover tightly with an ovenproof lid (or tinfoil) and bake for 90 minutes.

Uncover the pan, flip the meat over, and tuck the sweet potatoes around the edges of the pan. Re-cover and cook an additional 90 minutes, until beef and sweet potatoes are quite tender.

Scoop out servings — you may need, oh, a butter knife to cut the meat — onto plates or shallow bowls, being sure to top meat and potatoes with the delectable kim chi sauce on the bottom of the pan.

This recipe serves 4… or two people with the most anticipated leftovers ever.

Bountiful Gardening

It may still feel like winter, but gardeners in the region have our sights set on springtime….

Last weekend, many hundreds of DC-area gardeners and food activists converged on Wilson High School in Tenleytown for Rooting DC — a free, day-long conference that has been going since 2008. SFDC has been a part of this event for a number of years, with board members hosting an info table and hands-on workshops on seed saving and pickling.

At this year’s RDC, board members Mark Haskell and Ibti Vincent led a group of nearly 50 beginning gardeners through the process of planning an urban, small space garden plot. The group shared ideas and anecdotes about selecting plants and configuring small spaces to maximize food production. From basic considerations about sunlight needs to more advanced planning for succession planting and interplanting for low-input, high-yield production, we looked at ways to keep our gardens growing through all four seasons. We offered suggestions to cut down on labor and costs, and to increase the likelihood of success in the garden for beginners: using some perennials and self-seeding varieties, limiting the number of crops during times we tend to be out of the area (deep winter, summer vacation), companion planting to deter pests without chemicals, and finding friends and neighbors to help with the garden. (Who are we kidding, they are tricks useful for experienced gardeners, too.) It was a lot of fun, and we’re looking forward to using some of these strategies with our school garden partners in the coming year.

Interested in volunteering at a garden-based SFDC event and flexing your (experienced or aspiring) gardening muscles after a long winter? Sign up for our free SFDC monthly e-newsletter to keep up with events we’re planning.

Happy (almost) springtime, DC gardeners!