Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Eating Seasonally (and Locally)

Over the last few weeks Chef Dale Hawkins has trained me in a manner similar to that of Pavlov and his dogs. The UPS truck arrives in front of my house weekly and its driver ascends the stairs to my front porch. The folks at Fish Hawk Acres in Rock Cave, W.Va have been able to pack a cardboard box full of such delightful produce that I’ve come to salivate, figuratively, when the brown uniformed deliveryman rings my doorbell. Inside the cardboard box culinary treats, carefully selected for my enjoyment, wait to be turned into fresh and original dishes. My produce drawer is stuffed with sweet young carrots in shades of cream, orange and red, tender lettuces, baby spinach, delectable pea shoots, and French breakfast radishes, even shitake mushrooms grown in French Creek, W.Va., all transcend my meals to a whole new level of tastiness. With Chef Hawkin's recipes included in the box, I've created dishes such as Spinach and Shitake Salad with Citrus Dressing, Fresh Carrot, Feta, and Black Olive Salad, Asparagus Frittata, and even an Orange-Basil Mojito!  

In addition to the locally grown produce, I’ve come to look forward to the locally made products that are included, almost weekly, in my CSA box. Recently I have received Granola made with organic cranberries and West Virginia honey from The Crazy Baker located in Renick, W.Va. which I enjoyed for breakfast.

Pecan Pie Jelly by “The Stewed Tomato” that I used to top off a dish of vanilla ice cream, and West Virginia Maple Syrup processed and bottled for your enjoyment by Richter’s Maple House in Pickens, W.Va. that we used on the French Toast and Berries recipe found in the upcoming summer issue of WV Living Magazine.

I still have several weeks left of my Spring CSA and have already signed up for the early summer share. I’m discovering some
wonderful local food products and learning to eat seasonally. Fish Hawk Acres CSA has turned into one of my favorite adventures!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Myla Bowman's Perfect Pie Crust

In less than 2 weeks the summer issue of WV Living goes to print and in it, we will be bringing you pages of recipe ideas for your summer berries. When editor Nikki Bowman assigned the berry article to me she said, “You have to include my mother-in-law’s piecrust recipe, it’s the best I’ve ever tasted!” And that got me thinking. Piecrust, in my opinion is an art. It’s not simply the recipe that is key to a flaky, melt in your mouth pastry, but the technique.  

A flaky piecrust is a lost art that I’ve never been able to master. “Do you think your mother in law would allow me to video her technique so we could share it with the readers of WV Living?” I asked. And the rest, as they say, is history!

In this video, Myla Bowman shares with the readers of WV Living her tried and true techniques for the perfect piecrust. I think you’ll also enjoy the stories she weaves into the lesson. Myla is like a cup of hot chocolate on a cold winter day (with homemade marshmallows)!

After you’ve watched the video, you'll see the secret ingredient to Myla’s perfect piecrust is really no secret at all, but instead a light hand mixed with a dash of patience.

Myla Bowman's Perfect Pie Crust from Joy Bell on Vimeo.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Happy Mothers Day

Cantankerous is the adjective that best describes my general disposition for each and every one of my teenage years. Today, many years removed from those rebellious, self-involved, eye rolling, foot stomping, door slamming days, I feel humbled by the woman that I call “mom.” And although she has given her love freely, and without judgment for my entire life, it is my teenage years for which I owe her my biggest debt of gratitude.  Thanks mom! 

She was here in West Virginia last week to visit my family, and me. Knowing that we wouldn’t be together for Mothers Day, I decided to do something special for her while she was here. We went on a road trip to Grafton, home of the first Mother’s Day celebration.

Grafton is situated on the banks of the Tygart River and is a 30-minute drive from Morgantown. If you’ve never been, you should go check it out. It is a great day trip destination.

Besides visiting The International Mothers Day Shrine, we were able to check out the visually stunning B&O Railroad’s train station, and on our way back to Morgantown we stopped at Tygart Lake State Park to do some exploring.   But no self respecting day trip would be complete without food! 

Around lunchtime, and before we headed to the state park, we asked one of the local residents his favorite place to eat. “Well if you ladies are hungry,” he said, “you ought to head over to The Stagecoach on Route 50, that’s one place I’ve never left hungry!” We were hungry (we’re always hungry) so to The Stagecoach it was, and I’m here
 to tell you, this gentleman was not exaggerating. We were served so
 much food; we needed a doggy bag for our doggy bags.  

Spending much of her youth in Mobile, Alabama I’ve never known my mother to turn away from the words “cornbread” or “grits” on any “specials” board.  While at The Stagecoach, my mother was able to experience yet another West Virginia tradition.  Seeing pinto beans and cornbread listed as the daily special, that is of course what she ordered.  Never having had the “quintessential West Virginia cuisine” myself, I was curious what she would have to say. Her reaction came as no surprise; she really enjoyed it, especially the cornbread which she said was the “most plump and moist she has ever had.”

If you’re ever looking for an interesting way to spend the day with your mom, head out to Grafton, the drive is beautiful, and there are some interesting things to see and do.

The International Mothers Day Shrine
Tygart River Dam
B&O Train Station, Grafton

If nothing else, you’ll be in excellent company for you’ll be with the truest friend your heart has ever known.

Tomorrow for Mother's Day my husband, and children are taking me on a Sunday drive to Fayetteville (no doubt getting a head start on the alms for their impending teenage years) where we'll surely find a great place to grab a bite to eat.  Leave us a comment and let us know what great food adventure you had for Mother's Day.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Happy Cinco De Mayo!

May 5th is a day to honor and celebrate Mexican tradition and culture. And what better way to celebrate than with food, and libations? My Cinco de Mayo drink of choice? The margarita of course!  But not the manufactured, neon concoctions you see lining the isles of your local grocery store, no sir. Call me a purist, I’ll take my margarita made with fresh, natural, make your lips pucker ingredients.

Here is one of the smoothest, most enjoyable margarita recipes that I’ve come across, which in my book pretty much epitomizes margarita greatness.

The Purist Margarita
Adapted from a recipe (Top Shelf Margarita Grande) by Emeril Lagasse


Coarse kosher salt
Lime slice or wedge
2 ounces tequila, Cuervo Gold or Patron is my recommendation
1-ounce Grand Marnier or Cointreau
1 1/2 ounces fresh squeezed lime juice
ice cubes

  • Place the salt in a small shallow bowl or rimmed saucer
  • Run the lime slice around the rim of a stemmed, wide mouthed glass to moisten it, then turn the glass upside down and press the rim in the salt mixture. Set glass aside.
  • In a cocktail shaker combine all remaining ingredients and shake well to chill. Strain into the prepared glass and serve immediately.
P.S. Please, please, please resist any temptation you may have to put this drink in the blender. On the rocks, shaken, not stirred, is how this drink shines.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

What's Old Is New

My very thoughtful, and wonderful neighbors brought me over a container of soup today. Red Pottage…a soup that is so old it can be traced back to the bible (Genesis 25:30), now that’s old!

Up until a couple of years ago, I had never even had a beet. I remember when I was a little girl my grandfather used to eat them and always tried to get me to have a taste, “try them,” he’d say, “they taste like candied apples.” I didn’t bite, ever! I just crinkled up my nose, and went to see what my grandmother had baking in the kitchen. Today, I look forward to discovering the different ways in which I can enjoy them!

When my neighbor left, I started to think of my grandfather, then instinctively of the vegetables that seem to be so sought after these days, and the lifestyle that is once again gaining popularity. Heirloom vegetables, and a newfound focus on locally grown produce seem to be the order of the day.  It seems as if we have come full circle in my lifetime.  Having gone from a life of modest simplicity to one where there is access to abundance.  But today, I am seeing a subtle change where seemingly many are leaning toward simplicity once again.    It makes sense, in the complexity, and challenges of our world, that old, is once again new, that we are embracing the simplicity of our parents and grandparents.

I really enjoyed the pottage and the memories that came with it.   The texture was similar to split pea soup, and it had a rich, sweet, earthy taste that paid tribute to both beet, and bean.
Red Pottage ala Therese and Eric
Adapted from Sundays At Moosewood Restaurant

1-½ cups dried kidney beans
½ cup dried black beans
7 cups water
2 medium beets, peeled and cubed
1 cup chopped onions
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup chopped celery
1 tsp. salt
¼ tsp. black pepper
1/8 tsp. cayenne
2 ½ cups un-drained canned whole tomatoes (28-ounce can)
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

  • Sort and rinse the beans. In a medium saucepan, bring the water, and the beans to a boil.
  • Cover and simmer gently for 1-½ hours. Add the chopped beets, and continue simmer for another ½ hour or until both the beets, and beans are tender.
  • Add more water if needed, to keep the beans covered in liquid.
  • Meanwhile, sauté’ the onions in the oil until translucent, add the celery, salt, black pepper, and cayenne, and continue cooking until the celery is tender.
  • Add the tomato, and lemon juice. Lower the heat and gently simmer until the tomatoes are well stewed.
  • Stir the stewed vegetables into the beans. In a blender or food processor, puree soup, stirring frequently. Adjust the salt, and pepper to taste.
  • Serve garnished with a mint leaf, and a dollop of sour cream or with croutons.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Stainless Shines

Stainless has been the trend in appliances for about two decades and according to WV Living Food’s latest poll, stainless is still the shining star in many kitchens indicating that 66% of readers appliances are stainless steel.

Kitchen appliances are a major investment and as someone who is considering investing in new kitchen appliances I wanted to know, does stainless have staying power? I decided to contact two of the states premiere kitchen dealers to ask them, what is the new stainless?

Joe at Mike’s Kitchen and Bath in Clarkburg maintains, “stainless steel is still the hottest color on the market, and it continues to be the trend.” He continues, "Our most popular brand of appliances are Thermador, Viking, and Jenn Air.”

Rob Stepp, president of Creative Kitchens in Charleston, Huntington, and Lewisburg echoes Joe’s sentiments maintaining, “I don’t see stainless leaving the scene anytime soon.” He did add however, “If you’re looking for the next big trend, it is not in a different color, but in a different type of cooking system. The magnetic induction cooking surfaces are the most dramatic change we’re seeing in cooking trends.”

And there you have it folks, it's not bronze or titanium , not even the awful olive green of your youth (well my youth anyway). Keep an eye on magnetic induction, coming to a kitchen near you!

Be sure to vote in our latest WV Living Food poll, "what is your favorite condiment?"