Rainbow Roots

Carrot Cake

Last Sunday was the return of Andy’s Burger Night, an annual mid-winter cookout held at Unity Nursery in Church Hill. Designed to showcase the abundance of local foods in winter, the event raised money for the agricultural program at Kent County high school. After getting frozen-out and snowed-out last year, everyone welcomed the 50F+ temperatures and feasted on three different grass-fed sliders, sides and desserts, all featuring ingredients from local farms.

Matt from Molly Mason’s worked the grill and I provided the sides and desserts. Purple and Fingerling Potato Salad, Local Greens Salad, Cole Slaw, Frittata with local kale, onions and eggs. I was happy with everything, but the things that seemed to get the most raves was my carrot cake. Vic Priapi from Priapi Gardens donated some of the most beautiful organic rainbow carrots I’ve ever worked with and Cedar Run provided the fantastic eggs. Based on a recipe I found in Saveur magazine, the mix of purple, orange and yellow carrots meant the cake didn’t have the distinct orange hue I usually associate with carrot cake, but the combination of the carrots, coconut and crushed pineapple made the cake moist and naturally sweet. So sweet in fact, that I cut back on the sugar in the original recipe.

I’m content to eat carrot cake plain or with a light dusting of confectioners sugar, but I know that for many, it’s not carrot cake if it’s not topped with swirls of cream cheese frosting, so I’ve included my favorite version of the recipe.

Amazing carrots of different colors from Priapi Gardens

Amazing carrots of different colors from Priapi Gardens

Carrot Cake

Makes about 12 servings

For the cake:

1-1/2 cups sugar

1-1/2 cups melted butter

3 eggs

2 cups flour

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon fine sea salt

8 ounces crushed pineapple (I like to take fresh pineapple and puree it in the blender, but canned is ok)

1-1/4 cups shredded sweetened coconut flakes

1 cup chopped walnuts

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

2 cups shredded carrot

For the Cream Cheese Frosting:

3 cups confectioners’ sugar

¾ pound cream cheese

4 ounces (8 tablespoons) softened butter

1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Prepare the cake:

  1. Heat oven to 350F. Brush the sides and bottom of a 9” x 13” cake pan with melted butter and line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper. Set aside. Combine the sugar, melted butter and eggs in a bowl and whisk until evenly blended. Sift the flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt together in a bowl. Add these dry ingredients to the egg mixture and stir until just mixed. Add the pineapple, coconut, walnuts, vanilla and carrots and gently fold to combine.
  2. Pour the batter in the prepared pan and bake for about 1 hour, or until the top springs back when pressed gently. Let the cake cool completely before frosting.

Prepare the Frosting:

  1. Combine the sugar, cream cheese, butter and vanilla in the bowl of a mixer and beat at medium speed until blended and fluffy.
  2. Spread the icing over the cooled cake.


Buy Local Cookout


Courtesy of the Maryland Office of the Governor

Courtesy of the Maryland Office of the Governor

Last Thursday I represented the Eastern Shore in the Buy Local Cookout at Government House in Annapolis. Part of the annual statewide Buy Local week, this food and drink event showcased chef-created dishes using local Maryland products. It was a treat to be at the Governor’s mansion and I managed to find a few minutes away from the grill to enjoy some of what the other chefs (and vintners) had to offer.

I used the grass-fed beef from Crow Farm and Vineyard and made Cumin-Chile Grilled Skirt Steak with Cornbread-Poblano Salad. The beef got lots of compliments– even the Governor had seconds!

Buy Local CookoutChile-Cumin Skirt Steak

All the recipes from the event were published in a cookbook put out by the Maryland Department of Agriculture.

Makes 4 servings:

2 pounds boneless sirloin steak, trimmed


½ cup orange juice

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

1 tablespoon finely chopped chipotle peppers in adobo

1 tablespoon Spanish smoked paprika

1 tablespoon ground cumin

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

½ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


Juice of 1 lime

1-2 tablespoons coarsely chopped cilantro

  1. In a bowl, combine the ingredients for the marinade and mix briefly until blended. Add the steak and coat it with the spice mixture. Cover and refrigerate. Marinate the steak for a minimum of 1 hour, but ideally 6-8 hours. Turn the steak several times to help it marinate evenly.
  2. When ready to cook, preheat a grill (or broiler) and remove the steak from the marinade. Pat dry with a paper towel and reserve the excess marinade. Grill the steak for about 4 to 5 minutes a side for medium rare, or until the internal temperature of the steak is 125F. While the meat is cooking, briefly boil the remaining marinade and brush on the steak. Rest the meat for 5 minutes.
  3. Slice the steak against the grain into ½” slices. Sprinkle the lime juice and cilantro over the steak just before serving.

Cornbread-Poblano Salad

Makes 4 to 6 servings


1 pound (about 3-4 cups) cornbread, cut into 1-inch cubes

2 poblano peppers, roasted, peeled and sliced

1 red bell pepper, roasted, peeeled and sliced

1/4 cup scallions, thinly sliced


1 clove garlic, peeled and minced

1 tablespoon minced oregano

1 teaspoon toasted cumin seeds

1 jalapeno, seeded and minced (optional)

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/4 cup tomato juice

3/4 cup olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

2 tablespoons chopped parsely, for garnish

1. Heat oven to 300 F. Spread the cornbread cubes on a sheet tray in one even layer. Toast in the oven for about 10-15 minutes, or until the cubes are dried and lightly brown around the edges. Cool. Mix with the remaining salad ingredients. Set aside.

2. Combine all the vinaigrette ingredients in a bowl and whisk to blend. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Dress the salad right before serving with enough vinaigrette to moisten the cornbread, but not make it mushy. Garnish with the chopped parsley.



Big Harvest

I marked World Food Day by participating in a great event at ICE that focused on ending hunger and food waste in America. Hosted by Beaulieu Vineyards, the Give & Give Back Chef Challenge kicked off a fundraising campaign for Ample Harvest, a brilliant non-for-profit that pairs gardeners that have extra food with nearby food pantries.

Mr Big

I helped judge a contest that challenged four top chefs to create a nutritious and delicious meal in 30 minutes using ingredients regularly found in a food pantry. My fellow judges included Cindi Avila of ICE, Gary Oppenheimer of Ample Harvest and Mr. Big, Chris Noth, who spoke passionately about his belief that hunger in the United States is a problem that can be solved. He also kicked off a new fundraising campaign for Ample Harvest. From now until the end of the year, if you text “Give” to 79008, BV will donate $1 up to $50,000 to AmpleHarvest.org to aid in hunger relief.


Chef Luke Venner from BLT Fish Shack with his recipe of Warm Potato and Kale Salad with Green Goddess and Poached Eggs was the winner and a $10,000 donation was made to Grow NYC in Venner’s name on behalf of Beaulieu Vineyards.

You can read more about the event here. Start texting!

Tasty Town


Today is Taste of the Town in Chestertown. I’m making a pork bun: its a riff on David Chang’s famous steamed buns from Momofuku, but mine use an update of a Maryland beaten biscuit and local vegetables from Colchester Farm. Hope to see you there!

Maryland Pork Bun: Roasted Pork Belly with Vegtable Slaw

Makes about 12 buns

For the Biscuits:

1 cup warm water

¼ teaspoon sugar

½ teaspoon yeast

2 cups all purpose flour

½ teaspoon salt

2-1/2 ounces chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Extra flour for kneading

  1. Stir together the warm water, sugar and yeast. Let stand until foamy, about 5-10 minutes.
  2. Place the flour and salt in a small bowl. Using your fingertips or a pastry cutter, blend the butter with the flour, breaking it into small pieces until the mixture looks like “coarse meal”. Stir in the yeast mixture until a dough forms.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead until the dough is elastic and smooth, but still soft, about 5 minutes. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise in a warm place until the dough has      doubled, about 2 hours.
  4. Punch down the dough, then transfer it to a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into 12 pieces. Roll each piece in your hands to form balls. Place the biscuits on a sheet tray and prick the surface several times with a fork.  Cover the tray loosely with plastic wrap and allow the biscuits to rise again, until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
  5. Heat oven to 400F. Remove the plastic wrap and bake the biscuits for 12-15 minutes, or until the tops begin to turn golden brown. Cool the biscuits before using.

For the Pork Belly:

½ cup kosher salt

½ cup sugar

2 tablespoons Old Bay

4 cups water

1 pound skinless pork belly

  1. Stir together the kosher salt, sugar, Old Bay and water until the sugar and salt have dissolved. Put pork belly in shallow pan and pour in the brine. Cover and refrigerate for at least 12 hours.
  2. Heat oven to 300 F. Discard the brine and put pork fat side up in a small baking dish. Cover dish tightly with foil and roast for 3 hours or until pork is tender. Rest the pork for 15-20 minutes before slicing into 2-inch pieces. The pork can be cooled and refrigerated for 2-3 days before using.


For the Vegetable Slaw:

2 cups coarsely grated vegetables (I used watermelon radishes, turnips and asparagus)

1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion

1 clove garlic, peeled and minced

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup rice wine vinegar

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

  1. Combine the grated vegetbles and sliced red onions and sprinkle with the salt. Place the vegetables in a colander and leave for 1-2 hours. Toss the vegetables with the remaining ingredients.

To Assemble


Pork Belly

Vegetable Slaw

Hoisin Sauce

  1. Split the biscuits. Place  2 slices of pork belly on the bottom of each biscuit. Top with vegetables and a small amount of hoisin. Serve warm.

Big Cheese, Local Festival

Fresh Homemade Goat Cheese and Mozzarella are easier than you might think!

Fresh Homemade Goat Cheese and Mozzarella are easier than you might think!

If its true, as Monty Python said in Life of Brian, “Blessed are the cheese makers…”, then this week has left me with good karma to spare. Wednesday I taught The Basics of Cheesemaking at the Institute of Culinary Education in NYC and last night I did a demonstration of cheesemaking as part of a kickoff event for the Locavore Lit Festival  taking place this weekend in Chestertown. The fesitival features authors in a series of talks about how local foods can be a catalyst for healing our enviroment and strengthening local communities– something I truly believe in. My thanks to Andy Goddard and Tara Holste for inviting me to participate in such a great local event!

Below are the cheeses we made and tasted.  I get most of my cheesemaking supplies from either http://www.thecheesemaker.com or http://www.leeners.com. If you don’t want to make your own mozzarella curd and your local cheese shop doesn’t carry curd, you can buy it from www.dibruno.com (An expensive source, but good quality and it freezes well.)


1 gallon whole milk (preferably not ultra-pasteurized)

2 teaspoons citric acid dissolved in ¼ cup unchlorinated water

¼ teaspoon liquid rennet diluted in ¼ cup unchlorinated water

1 teaspoon kosher salt

    1.Place the milk in a large saucepan or small stock pot. Heat the milk over low heat, stirring occasionally. When the temperature reaches 55º F, add the citric acid and mix thoroughly. Continue to heat the milk until the temperature reaches 87º to 89º F. Remove from the heat.
    2. Gently stir in the diluted rennet with an up-and-down motion. Allow the milk to stand until the curds form, 15 to 20 minutes. Cut the curds.
    3. Once the curds form, reheat the milk slowly to 108º F. Turn the heat off and let the curds stand for 20 minutes while the whey is dispelled. The whey should be clear and the curd should be sliceable.
    4. Scoop out the curds and gently press to release the excess whey.


Yield: Makes about 1½ pounds

1 gallon (4 cups) water

½ cup salt

2 pounds (about 4 cups) mozzarella curd , cut into small pieces*

  1. Prepare the water: Place the water and salt in a large saucepan. Heat the water until bubbles begin to appear on the surface, or an instant read thermometer registers 180º F. Turn off the heat.
  2. Heat the cheese curd: While the water is heating, place the cubes of cheese in a large bowl. When the water is ready, carefully pour the hot water over the cheese. Let the cheese cubes sit in the water for about 1 minute without stirring them. After 1 minute, gently stir them with a wooden spoon and look at the curd. If the cheese is heated through the curd will look smooth (like melted mozzarella) and is ready to be stretched. If the cheese curd is not completely heated through it will look grainy and still have some of the cubes. If so, it needs to sit in the hot water for another few minutes until soft.
  3. Stretch the curd: Working quickly, before the cheese cools down too much, stretch the curd with the wooden spoon until the cheese is smooth and elastic. Lift and stretch the curd to develop a stringy texture. Be careful not to overwork the curd: this will make you cheese heavy and too chewy. As the cheese cools it will begin to stiffen and become harder to stretch. The cheese is ready to be shaped before it cools completely.
  4. Shape the cheese: Divide the cheese into two or three pieces and wrap each piece tightly in plastic wrap, twisting the ends of the plastic wrap to help the cheese form a round shape. Place the cheese in an ice bath, if desired, to help hold its shape.
  5. Serve the cheese immediately or store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week


Yield: This recipe makes about 1 pound of cheese.

The yield in this recipe can easily be increased, without requiring extra time for the curds to form.Making any fresh cheese consists of three steps: preparing the milk (usually with an acidic starter and rennet), forming the curds and draining. While no one step is difficult, the process takes about 24 hours. This allows the proper flavor and consistency to develop. Care must be taken to follow the recipe: errors in temperature and with the rennet can affect the quality of the curds. Rennet (like yeast) can expire, so be sure to check the package before using.

Ingredients: (to make about 1 pound of cheese)

½ gallon goat’s milk

½ cup buttermilk (or 1 ounce mesophilic starter)

1/8 teaspoon liquid rennet, dissolved in ¼ cup unchlorinated water

1 teaspoon salt

  1. Place the goat’s milk and buttermilk in a clean saucepan or stock pot. Gently warm the mixture, stirring frequently to help it warm evenly. When the mixture reaches between 65º and 70º F, remove it from the heat.

    2.Add the dissolved rennet to the milk and stir well to mix thoroughly.

Formation the Curds:

1. Transfer the mixture to a clean bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let the mixture sit undisturbed overnight (12 to 14 hours) at a temperature that should not exceed 70º F.
Allow the milk to sit covered until the curds have formed. The curds should be thick enough to cut.

Draining the Curds:

1. Cut the curds into ½-inch pieces. Ladle the curds into a cheesecloth-lined colander to drain the whey. Pour the remaining whey through the cloth.

Place the curds in a cool place to allow the whey to drain out: Twist the ends of the cheesecloth together and tie with a piece of string. Hang the cheese over a bowl in the refrigerator another 6 to 8 hours.


Remove the cheese from the cheesecloth and mix in the salt. The goat cheese will keep in the refrigerator for 2 weeks.

Mid-Winter Burgers

photoYesterday I helped out at Andy’s Burger Night –an annual Chestertown event that showcases local food and was inspired by Andy’s, the local hangout that operated on High Street for many years. Held at Unity Nursery, this was the third year for the cookout which offered five burger samplings, produce, milk, cheese and bread, all from local producers. 16 Mile Brewery and Cassinelli Winery provided local beer and wine.

photo (3)It was a cold day and while my chef friends Robbie Jester and Kevin McKinney cooked the burgers on the grill outside, I worked in the kitchen helping prepare the other food. The Chestertown Spy posted an article about the event that includes great photos: http://chestertownspy.com/2013/01/28/andys-burger-night-a-mid-winter-fresh-and-local-outdoor-picnic-4/