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/

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.”