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County represented at cookout

July 22, 2009|By JULIE E. GREENE

When Natoma "Cookie" Vargason wanted to start her own catering business three summers ago, she began selling prepared foods using fresh local products.

"It allows me more creativity, and it is a challenge to look at what's available and to create a menu built around the freshest vegetables or fruits available," said Vargason, who owns Cookie's Cooking Co. in Sharpsburg.

"I also love the interaction between myself and the growers, developing those relationships," Vargason said.

Vargason's Washington County cabrito sliders with goat gouda and eggplant spread was one of two dishes at Gov. Martin O'Malley's Buy Local Cookout last week that featured products from Washington County.

The cookout in Annapolis last Thursday kicked off Maryland's Buy Local week, which runs from Saturday, July 18, to Sunday, July 26. During this time the governor challenges Marylanders to use at least one locally grown, produced or harvested product in their meals each day, according to the Maryland Department of Agriculture's Web site.

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Several local growers, along with Vargason and Leslie Hendrickson-Hart, Washington County's agriculture marketing specialist, went to the cookout.

About 300 people attended the cookout on the governor's lawn, Hendrickson-Hart said.

The governor's support helps local agriculture achieve greater recognition so people know they don't have to go far for their food, she said.

Vargason's dish is a tribute to the Greek heritage of her husband Chuck and daughters Hannah and Audrey. The eggplant spread is a variation of the Greek recipe for melitzanosalata.

The other dish featuring Washington County products was Antietam chicken and slippery dumplings. The dish is a recipe by Elizabeth
Gallery, chef and owner of Stone Soup Bistro in Shepherdstown, W.Va. Gallery, who didn't go to the cookout, grew up in Clear Spring.

Gallery uses products from local agricultural producers, including products from Washington County, and from a co-op that covers the East Coast so the ingredients come from 100 miles or closer, she said.

"It doesn't go through many different hands. ... I think it's healthier, more alive, being it's usually coming to you the same day it's been cut, or pulled from the earth," Gallery said.

For more recipes, check out the 2009 Maryland Buy Local Cookout Recipe Book at www.mda.state.md.us/article.php?i=19293 and click on the link for the cookbook.




Antietam Chicken and Slippery Dumplings



4-pound chicken
4 celery ribs, chopped
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cups white wine
4 medium carrots, coarsely chopped
5 heirloom tomatoes
2 tablespoons fresh thyme
3 tablespoons fresh tarragon

For the dumplings:

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt (optional)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
4 tablespoons, minced fresh parsley

Place chicken, celery, garlic and onion in a Dutch oven. Cover with water and wine; bring to a boil on stovetop.

Reduce heat; cover and simmer until chicken is tender, approximately 45 minutes.

Remove chicken and keep warm.

Skim fat from the pan juices; add enough water to pan juices so liquid totals 3 quarts. Set aside 1 1/2 cups of broth to cool for dumplings.

Return remaining broth to the Dutch oven; add carrots, tomatoes, thyme and tarragon.

For dumplings, in a bowl combine flour, salt if desired, and baking powder. Add enough reserved broth to form a stiff dough. Divide dough into thirds. Cover and let rest for 10 to 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring broth to a simmer. Roll each portion of dough to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut into 2-inch squares. Drop squares one at a time into simmering broth that contains vegetables. Cover and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Serve immediately with the chicken. Sprinkle with parsley.

Makes 8 servings

Courtesy of Elizabeth Gallery, chef and owner of Stone Soup Bistro in Shepherdstown, W.Va.

This recipe was prepared for the Buy Local event using products from Evensong Farm in Sharpsburg and Black Ankle Vineyards in Mount Airy, Md.




Washington County cabrito* sliders
with goat gouda and eggplant spread



*Cabrito is meat from young, milk-fed goats between 4 and 8 weeks of age. The meat is tender, juicy, very lean and tasty at this age.

For eggplant spread:

2 medium eggplants, about 1 pound each
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup minced white onions
1 medium heirloom tomato, peeled, seeded and chopped
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
8 to 10 pitted black kalamata olives, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste
3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Prick eggplants in a few places and place in a shallow baking pan lined with aluminum foil. Bake about 40 minutes or until soft. Cool.

Remove stems, and peel eggplants, scraping any flesh from skin. Remove excess seed, discard skin and chop eggplant.

In a bowl, mix the eggplant, tomato and olives. Season with lemon juice, salt, pepper and parsley. Mix thoroughly. Refrigerate, preferably overnight.

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