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Fresh ingredients figured in travel time

Woman shops for hard-to-find items during regular commute

Woman shops for hard-to-find items during regular commute

July 23, 2006|by TIFFANY ARNOLD

DARGAN - Today, it's a Caesar salad with dressing made of anchovy paste and crushed avocado. Tomorrow's meal might involve something with Italian mozzarella made of buffalo milk.

"Who knows," said Pat Hamilton, an advocate of quick gourmet. "It all depends on what I have in my refrigerator."

Hamilton, a former Washington, D.C., resident, said she was accustomed to acquiring fresh food - anytime, anywhere. But now Hamilton, 51, and her partner, Lynn Coddington, 55, live in Dargan, where there really is a road called Back Road. The nearest grocery store is a long drive through the hills.

Even though both of them work from home, a good number of their weekdays are spent meeting with clients in the District. Hamilton is a marketing consultant. Coddington is the executive director of the Maryland Mid-Atlantic region of the U.S. Tennis Association.

Hamilton said when she's away for work, she travels with a small cooler just in case she happens upon a hard-to-find ingredient - imported mozzarella made of buffalo milk, for example. She also has developed a local network of "sources" for fresh foods via farmers' stands and roadside peddlers. Occasionally, she'll venture to Common Market in Frederick, Md., for gourmet cheese.

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"There's something about the hunt," Hamilton said.

Hamilton's Dargan Caesar Salad recipe evolved partly from her circumstance. The rest, she said, has more to do with experimenting - like when she discovered mashed avocado was a great substitute for coddled egg - and letting the food speak for itself.

"If you're constantly on the search for fresh food, it becomes less about being a cook and more about not hurting the really nice food," Hamilton said.

Q: How much time do you spend cooking?

A: I have to be honest and say that I am lucky when I am here because I can come up here (to the kitchen) and, for instance, put a chicken in the oven and go back downstairs and work for another hour.

Q: OK. So you can cook and work simultaneously?

A: Well, no. I mean I can put this in, and then I can go back down and work. But someone's going to say, "Hey I just drove, commuted, from home. I can't do that." But you can put a chicken in for an (hour) because there will always be kids who, you know, need help with their homework or something else that you have to do. You're going to spend that amount of time waiting to get up to start cooking.

Q: So, tell me about this Caesar salad.

A: One of the reasons I picked this to cook is because it really is easy. It's so simple and people worry about coddled eggs. Coddled eggs are supposed to make the dressing thick. So, in order to make this thicker, we use avocado (instead). We got this idea in Mexico. Another thing people don't like are the anchovies. You just use the (anchovy) oil from one of those cheapy (cans).

Q: Really?

A: It makes the dressing richer. You won't even taste it. It's kind of like the stuff in soup that makes it richer. Although there are probably some people who would say, "Agh, anchovies! I can taste it."

Q: So how did you come across this recipe? Did it just evolve over time?

A: Yeah. The base of the recipe came from an old McCormick's cookbook recipe from the 1970s.

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