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Tag: Rita Calvert

line of deviled eggs

The fun begins when you have a slew of hard cooked (not the rubbery hardboiled). Mix and match a lot of condiments as you wish for a hand at “designer,” but try to keep a theme in mind – to not get too much fusion happening (you know… culinary confusion). Go for Cowboy style… black beans and salsa, Thai or Greek.

The great thing about eggs and “local” is that more and more of our farmers are now selling them then ever!

I’ve included this cooking procedure from a website on How To Boil An Egg (Don’t Skip This Part says Buster Bucks!) It’s the way I have always cooked a hard or soft cooked egg.

Make sure your eggs are at room temperature. Otherwise, the shell will split once you lower them into the boiling water, and you’ll have egg white leaking from the shell.

Bring your water to a boil FIRST, then add your eggs. The easiest way to do this is to use a soup spoon – put the egg into the spoon, then lower it carefully into the boiling water. Or, for many eggs, place them in a bowl and slowly slip them into the water.

Why boil the water first? Because when you put your eggs into boiling water, the hot water will cause the interior of the egg to shrink away from the shell, which makes it really easy to peel.

For boiling 10 eggs: after you bring a large pot of water to boil, lower your eggs into it using a soup spoon or bowl. Then set your kitchen timer for 10 minutes.

After 10 minutes, turn off the heat and let the eggs sit in the water for 5 minutes. Then pour off the hot water and add COLD WATER to cover the eggs. After a few minutes, pour off this water and add more cold water. In about 8 minutes your eggs will be cool enough to handle, and they’ll peel perfectly every time.

For ANY style of deviled egg, make sure to make the egg stuffing while the eggs are still slightly warm. That way the flavors will marry beautifully. If you make and chill the eggs a day ahead, douse them with some warm water to bring them to room temperature.

tray of deviled eggs

The World’s Best Deviled Eggs (again from Buster Bucks)

The following recipe is for making 20 deviled eggs — that is, from 10 hard-cooked eggs. Most deviled egg plates hold 18 deviled eggs. Make an extra 2 in case one of the egg white halves tears… or just to have as a treat for the cook.

  • 10 eggs (boiled per the instructions above)
  • 4 ounces cream cheese
  • 3 tablespoons sour cream
  • 2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons onion, minced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh dill, minced (or more, to taste)
  • 3 dashes Tabasco sauce
  • 3 dashes Worcestershire sauce
  • milk (usually a few tablespoons — this will be explained in the recipe that follows)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Use a sharp knife and slice each peeled boiled egg in half. Use a teaspoon to carefully scoop out the hard yolk, and place the yolks in a small mixing bowl.

Put the white halves onto your deviled egg platter. (If you don’t have a deviled egg platter, then you can cover a standard plate with lettuce leaves and put your eggs on them. The lettuce leaves keep the deviled eggs from sliding around.)

To your yolks, add the cream cheese, sour cream and all other ingredients. Use your hand mixer to beat them. Using a mixer makes the stuffing creamy – and it’s a lot easier on your arms than smoothing out the yolks and ingredients using a wooden spoon!

Add salt and pepper to taste. (The mustard and Tabasco add a bit of bite, so add only a little salt at first, taste, then add more if necessary. It’s easier putting salt in than it is taking it out!)

About that milk listed in the ingredients: add it in, a tablespoon at a time, until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Many people don’t realize how important the texture is for making excellent deviled eggs. Think about it — too many people make gummy deviled eggs. The best ones are creamy — and adding the milk will give you this creamy consistency.

deviled eggs with peas

Sweet Pea Deviled Eggs

This recipe and the following are my own creations to vary a bit from the expected. Go ahead and design your whimsy. The pea tendrils are more available these days as local farmers have started featuring them as a special crop.

  • 6 hard-boiled eggs
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon grainy mustard
  • 1 tablespoon chopped shallot
  • Sea salt to taste
  • Tiny sweet peas, fresh or frozen, very lightly steamed and cooled
  • Perky pea tendrils

Peel the cooled eggs and slice in half. Scoop out the yolks, place in a small bowl and mash, adding the mayonnaise, mustard, shallot and salt. Spoon some filling into the well of each egg white and then make a hole in the center of the filling. Mound some sweet peas in each hole and press down lightly so they don’t roll out. Garnish with pea tendrils.

antipasto deviled eggs

Antipasto Stuffed Eggs

A slew of Italian antipasto ingredients make these stuffed eggs a gorgeous appetizer.

  • 8 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons minced Kalamata olives
  • 4 tablespoons roasted red bell peppers, drained and chopped
  • 3 tablespoons artichokes, drained and chopped
  • 2 teaspoons capers, drained
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
  • Fresh chopped oregano plus small leaves for garnish

Coarsely chop the yolks and mix with olive oil. Lightly toss in olives, roasted bells, artichoke hearts, capers, garlic and the chopped oregano.

Spoon the yolk mixture back into the egg white wells and set on a plate. Top eggs with remaining oregano leaves. Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to serve.

deviled eggs with shrimp

Shrimp Deviled Eggs

My favorite, as it will be for many folks.

  • 6 hard-boiled eggs
  • 4 ounces cleaned cooked shrimp, chopped, plus extra for garnish
  • 1 tablespoon quality tartar sauce (such as Naturally Fresh-refrigerated)
  • 1 teaspoon horseradish
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon brandy or dry sherry
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic chives
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon thyme leaves
  • garnish with more chopped garlic chives

Half the eggs remove the yolks and mash; mix them with the shrimp and the other ingredients. Adjust the seasoning.

Fill the eggs with the mix and garnish each one with additional shrimp and garlic chives.

Asian deviled eggs

EurAsian Deviled Eggs

Delightful as the mellow seasonings meld together while the colors are springlike.

  • 8 hard-boiled eggs , peeled
  • 1 teaspoon toasted Asian sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped cucumber, plus extra for garnish
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped avocado
  • 1 scallion, finely sliced
  • Salt, if desired
  • curry powder to sprinkle over the top

Boil eggs in water for 10 minutes. Drain water and let eggs cool.

In a small bowl, mix the sesame oil, soy sauce and lemon juice together.

Peel the shell from the eggs after they have cooled. Cut eggs in half, lengthwise. Scoop out the yolks, place in a medium bowl  and mash. Add the cucumber, avocado and scallion; pour in the oil mixture and toss lightly. Add salt if desired.

Place mixture by teaspoonfuls inside each egg well and garnish with extra cucumber.

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bowl of soup

In the winter months after the flurry of holidays, the timing is perfect to delve into foods in a bowl, or yes… comforting bowl food with a sense of Hygge. That strange Danish word, Hygge, represents an ambiance or mood of coziness with feelings of wellness and contentment. Food plays an important part in the feeling of cozy comfort.

Winter Squash Coconut Curry Soup
Serves 4

soup bowlOne small warning is that the green curry paste can be very spicy so you may want to start with 1/2 teaspoon and add more heat from there. Sometimes it’s the topping that makes the soup sing. These roasted apple rounds are also a fabulous snack along with the pumpkin seeds.

  • 1 cup diced sweet onion (like Vidalia)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds winter squash (like butternut or acorn), peeled and chopped
  • 2 apples, peeled and chopped
  • 1 teaspoon Thai green curry paste
  • 3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 14-ounce can coconut milk (not sweetened)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Roasted and salted pumpkin seeds

In a large heavy-bottomed pot set over medium heat, sauté the onions in olive until translucent, about 10 minutes.

Add squash and apples and continue cooking until soft and slightly browned, about 10-15 minutes (getting a little caramelization on the vegetables, which will give the soup a greater depth of flavor). Stir in the curry paste, continuing to cook until vegetables are coated, about one minute longer.

Increase the heat to high, and add the stock and coconut milk. Once the mixture comes to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes or until vegetables are very soft.

Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until very smooth.

Adjust seasoning as desired with salt and pepper, then ladle into bowls and serve piping hot topped with a mound of pumpkin seeds.


Roasted Broccoli, Garlic and Cheddar Soup
Serves 6

Rbowl of soupoasting transforms the broccoli by caramelizing it and adding a touch of sweetness, and even the garlic mellows after some time in the oven.

  • 3/4 pound broccoli, washed and ends timed, tender stalk peeled, diced, cut into florets
  • 5-6 garlic cloves, peels left on
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried mustard
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded plus extra for garnish
  • Additional salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.

Add the broccoli florets and the garlic to a baking pan and drizzle with the olive oil. Toss and season with the salt and pepper. Place in the oven to roast. The garlic will finish before the broccoli, so check on it at about 15 minutes into cooking. Remove the garlic when the peels pull away and they are golden in color. Continue to roast the broccoli for about 25-30 minutes total, tossing once or twice as they cook. When finished, the florets will be dark in color where they have come in contact with the pan.

Bring the vegetable broth and water to a boil in a Dutch oven or stockpot. Add the broccoli and garlic, reduce the heat to simmer and cook for 8-10 minutes with the lid partially on.

In a small bowl, whisk together the milk, flour and dried mustard until smooth. Whisk the mixture into the liquid mixture until well combined. Cook on low until slightly thickened. Remove the pot from the heat.

Use an immersion blender to puree the broccoli and garlic in the soup, leaving it quite chunky. You can also use a blender to puree the soup, but wait until it has cooled and work in batches before returning the soup to the pot to warm it.

After pureeing the soup, add the cheese and stir until it has melted.

Serve the soup immediately, with extra cheese as garnish.

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vegetarian chili

Many of us love soup year round and winter is the prime time. Super Bowl is even a more prime time as you can have the meal in a bowl and offer lots of goodies for topping! Folks love adding their own goodies.

black bean soupFrancine’s Favorite Black Bean Soup with Toppings
Serves 4 to 6

A very good friend and savvy cook with a beautiful veggie garden says: “I only use organic vegetables if I can’t use the ones I grow.”

Note: An immersion blender is used once the soup cooks down so vegetable pieces dont have to be precise plus no need to clean a big blender.

  • 3 tablespoons organic olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 medium yellow onions sliced roughly
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 sticks organic celery, diced
  • 2 organic carrots cut into one-inch chunks.
  • 1 (14-ounce) can fire roasted organic tomatoes
  • 2 (16-ounce) cans organic black beans
  • A little red wine if you like (the alcohol cooks off but wine warms the taste)
  • Kosher salt to taste and freshly ground black pepper
  • Cayenne, dash
  • 1 teaspoon oregano leaf
  • Dry cilantro 1/2 teaspoon or to taste

Toppings to offer when serving:

  • 1/2 bunch fresh cilantro chopped
  • Limes and lemons wedges
  • Spring onions, chopped
  • Grated cheddar cheese
  • Sour cream
  • Good quality salsa

Heat olive oil to medium heat. Sprinkle cumin into it and heat until the aroma comes up, about one minute. Add onions and sauté about two or three minutes. Add garlic and sauté about two minutes. Add celery and sauté about two minutes. Add carrots, tomatoes, black beans, and stir all together. Add vegetable stock and remaining spices and allow to simmer, but not boil, for an hour, stirring occasionally. Do not let it stick. Add wine if desired.

Take off the heat and let soup rest for about 15 minutes and then put an immersion blender into the pot directly and blend to desired consistency, moving blender around carefully. Add salt, pepper and cilantro and put back on heat. Continue to simmer about 45 minutes. You may add a little water if you think it gets too thick and add some fresh lemon juice. Stir. Preferably, put in refrigerator when cool to flavor overnight.

Serve with a splash of lime in each bowl and place a lime slice in center of bowl. Let people select their options for toppings. Yummy with corn bread or hearty rough type of bread.

Vegetarian Chili with Sweet Potatoes
Serves 6

As an extraordinary vegetarian chili containing sweet potatoes, black and pinto beans, peppers and cocoa powder, this is a delicious, hearty and healthy vegan meal. You won’t miss the meat.

  • 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1⁄2-inch pieces
  • 4 garlic cloves, pressed or minced, or 1 heaping tablespoon of minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (more or less, depending on how spicy you like your chili)
  • 2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Ground sea salt and black pepper
  • about 28-ounces canned diced tomatoes, including the liquid
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • about 2 cups OR one 14 oz. can vegetable broth

Garnishes: sour cream, sliced scallions, sliced radishes (optional)

In a 4- to 6-quart Dutch oven or stockpot, sauté the chopped vegetables (onion, peppers and sweet potatoes) in one to two tablespoon of olive oil on medium-high heat. You’ll need to stir the ingredients every few minutes so they can cook evenly.

Once the onions start turning translucent, turn the heat down to medium-low. Add the garlic and spices (chili powder, cumin, cayenne, cocoa powder, cinnamon, and a dash of salt and pepper) and canned ingredients (tomatoes, beans and broth), and stir. Cover and cook for 45 minutes up to two hours, stirring occasionally.

By the time your chili is done, the sweet potatoes should be nice and soft and the liquid should have reduced a bit. Season chili with salt and pepper to taste. Divide the chili into individual bowls, garnish as desired and serve.

With over three decades in the food, media production, marketing & public relations fields, Rita Calvert has created myriad programs, events, cooking sessions on national television, the stage & The Annapolis School of Cooking. She has partnered in writing cookbooks and product lines to showcase the inspiration & nourishment of food. In her cookbook with Michael Heller, The Grassfed Gourmet Fires It Up, Rita supports the effort for Regenerative Agriculture.

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Apples, Apples and Applesauce

crates of applesRight about now you are spying apples everywhere and nothing could be cozier for kids and adults alike than some simple homemade applesauce.

But don’t stop there! Apples work in so many ways… adding nutritious sweetness to baked goods, roasted as a versatile side dish, or enlivening a roasted vegetable combo.

Crockpot Applesauce

Makes 3 cups; from Skinny Taste

Nothing beats homemade applesauce, making it in the crock pot is easy and your house will smell divine while the apples and cinnamon simmer all day long. The hardest part about making this sauce is peeling the apples (which is not hard at all!).

  •             8 medium apples, combination of Golden Delicious, Honey Crisp, Fuji, Gala, etc.
  •             1 strip lemon peel – use a vegetable peeler
  •             1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  •             3-inch cinnamon stick
  •             5 teaspoons light brown sugar, unpacked (you can leave out for sugar-free)

Peel, core, and slice the apples. Place them in the slow cooker.

Add the cinnamon stick, lemon peel, lemon juice and brown sugar. Set crock pot to low and cook for 6 hours.

Stir apples occasionally, apples will slowly become a delicious applesauce.

Remove cinnamon stick and use an immersion blender to blend until smooth or if you prefer a chunky sauce, leave sauce intact.

Double Ginger Baked Apple Slices

Serves 2

apple slices in dishThis marvelous dish can be served as a side dish for poultry or meat or a flavorful dessert… especially decadent with the addition of ice cream.

  • 2 large apples of your choice, peel if they are not organic, but if they are, keep the skin on as it is full of nutrients
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoons sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon candied ginger, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 350F.

Wash the apples and slice into thin wedges. Place the wedges in a baking tray, sprinkle ground ginger, lemon juice, and salt on the top and gently mix the ginger in. Dollop butter on top of the apples.

Bake for about 20 minutes. Check the apples after 10 minutes, mix them around with a spatula, add candied ginger and place them back in the oven.

Take them out of the oven once they soften up and start to brown .

Serve warm or cool. You can serve as a side dish, a topping for oatmeal, pancakes or dessert with whipped cream, plain yogurt, vanilla ice cream or just serve plain.

Roasted Sweet Potato, Apples and Brussels Sprout

Serves 4

apples and vegetables in a dishIn this recipe you want to prepare the vegetables and apples so they can bake for relatively the same amount of time. If you are thinking of serving for a special meal like Thanksgiving when the oven is loaded, the dish is good even at room temperature.

  • 2 sweet potatoes, peeled cubed in 1” pieces, lightly steamed but still firm
  • 2 apples, skin on, cored and cut into half-moon slices
  • 8 oz Brussels sprouts, cleaned, halved & lightly steamed
  • 1 medium sweet onion, cut into 1/2-inch wide wedges
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 tablespoon pure maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • freshly cracked black pepper

Preheat oven to 425F.

In a medium bowl, toss sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts with 2 tablespoons oil and sprinkle with salt.

Bake on a lined cookie sheet for 20 minutes, stirring halfway through.

In a separate bowl, add apples, remainings 1 tablespoon oil, and maple syrup, stirring to combine.

After baking the sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts for 20 minutes, add apple mixture to tray. Bake for an additional 15-20 minutes until golden and tender, stirring halfway through. Toss in rosemary and freshly cracked black pepper – serve immediately.

With over three decades in the food, media production, marketing & public relations fields, Rita Calvert has created myriad programs, events, cooking sessions on national television, the stage & The Annapolis School of Cooking. She has partnered in writing cookbooks and product lines to showcase the inspiration & nourishment of food. In her cookbook with Michael Heller, The Grassfed Gourmet Fires It Up, Rita supports the effort for Regenerative Agriculture.

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Seasoned gardeners break into a smile
when they talk about planting edibles in the fall

By Rita Calvert

For your second harvest: Start late summer and fall months and you can double your yield this year and enjoy homegrown flavor into fall and winter.

When I tracked down Homestead Gardens’ expert Gene Sumi to ask him about THE SECOND VEGGIE PLANTING, he broke out in a huge smile and said, “This is the best time to plant!”

Why? The sun and soil have worked diligently through the summer to prepare for you. The soil is warm enough to burst those seeds to germination. Seeds can be sown into the warm soil or you can simply plop in bedding plants. If you had a spring/summer edible garden, you most probably have already done the major soil amendments and of course, plotted out the garden. Now it’s just the gravy! You can see from Gene’s long list of veggies, below, this can be enough food to see you through most of the winter (given a bit of preserving the harvest).

lettuceTime to Start some Cool-Season Vegetable Seeds for Fall Planting

Fall is the best time to grow cool cool-season vegetables – even better than spring because in spring, the seeds need to be started indoors under artificial lights. In August the temperatures are warm enough to start the seeds outdoors, many sown directly in the soil. Follow the instructions on the packages. Gene encouraged us to at least grow some lettuce (everybody loves lettuce) but you really will appreciate all of those other greens such as kale, Swiss Chard and the Asian Greens! You can easily grow them in containers.

  • Arugula
  • Asian Greens
  • Beets
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Bunching Onions
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Collards
  • Kale
  • Lettuce
  • Mache
  • Mesclun
  • Mustard
  • Peas
  • Radish
  • Scallions
  • Spinach
  • Swiss Chard
  • Turnips

With over three decades in the food, media production, marketing & public relations fields, Rita Calvert has created myriad programs, events, cooking sessions on national television, the stage & The Annapolis School of Cooking. She has partnered in writing cookbooks and product lines to showcase the inspiration & nourishment of food. In her cookbook with Michael Heller, The Grassfed Gourmet Fires It Up, Rita supports the effort for Regenerative Agriculture.

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Fig Frangipane
Fig Talk on the World’s Most Ancient Fruit


Figs are my passion – the fruit and the tree. Figs just have a certain cachet! Maybe it’s the ancient history, or the Mediterranean origin which makes them so alluring, or possibly the exotic ingredients which complement them in pairings. Different varieties of figs can be paired with varietal wines. This is some brief chit-chat on a topic aficionados love to go on about. If you want to talk figs, contact me on Facebook or through Annapolis Green.

I am happy to say I’ve had some great fig education this year during an especially robust harvest. Recently  I met the farmer who, by arrangement, picked up 35 pounds of figs from me for her CSA members. What a huge learningexperience this year! Refrigeration was a key roadblock as there is just never enough space and these East Coast delicate figs must be refrigerated. Rain taught me the other lesson – big time! At near ripeness it will crack due to the rain as the inside fruit grows too fast for the skin to manage. So for trying to fill this large order for me I had to pick, pick, pick when I knew a rain storm was coming.

Fig plant

Then there is packaging. How do I get 35 pounds to a farmer and how will she store and distribute to her many CSA customers. Also, there was juggling on how to keep supplying my accounts such as restaurants and individuals.

Now the major bearing trees are winding down and I have some later figs coming from a black mission and another tree of unknown variety.

I’m sharing a recipe I developed as a special birthday fig tart/cake. It complements the exotic caché of this ‘fruit of the internal flower.’ I am told by Facebook the photograph of my Fig Frangipane Tart is the most popular from all of my posts. I’ll give other fig ideas after the very special tart recipe.

Fig Frangipane Tart

I used a rectangle tart pan just because it is different enough to be an extra attention- getter! I have also made this more freeform as in a rectangular gallette.

This frangipane recipe makes enough almond cream for 1 large tart or several small tartlets.

figs in basketsIngredients
1 dozen large fresh figs (about 1 full pound) more if figs are small, cut in half
Sea salt
1 sheet puff pastry, thawed but still cold

1/2 cup ground almond meal (can use almond flour)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
pinch salt
1 egg
3 tablespoons butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Dash almond extract
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

Using a food processor, combine all the ingredients until a smooth, creamy paste is formed.

First make the Frangipane.
Preheat oven to 375ºF and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Unroll the puff pastry and place it on the parchment paper. Refrigerate to keep cold.

Spread Frangipane on puff pastry sheet, leaving 1/2 inch border around the edges. Bake 10 minutes on rack positioned lower in oven to get bottom crust completely baked.

Place fig halves, cut side up, on top of frangipane & sprinkle very lightly with salt, return to oven & for the final 30 minutes bake on a rack placed in the middle of the oven. Puff pastry edges should be crispy and golden brown.

Cool for a 10 minutes, then brush with melted black currant jelly to glaze. Let cool to solidify.

Fig Frangipane

Other Fig Ideas

Splendidly Simple – Use abundantly on charcuterie trays

With Mascarpone
Cut large figs in half lengthwise
Spread generously with mascarpone

With Carambola
Cut large figs in half lengthwise
Spread each half with a large soft dollop Saint Andre or Carambola cheese
Drizzle with balsamic glaze (not vinegar)

With Prosciutto
Wrap whole medium size figs with a band of prosciutto
Bake in 375ºF oven for 5-7 minutes

Fig Toast
Brioche bread, mascarpone, crumbled crisp bacon, figs-bake briefly – 400ºF

Figs in Salads
Figs pair beautifully with cheese, nuts, arugula, lettuces, homemade croutons so use your imagination

Sautéed halved figs with a dash of red wine and caramelized onion complement chicken, lamb and pork beautifully.

With over three decades in the food, media production, marketing & public relations fields, Rita Calvert has created myriad programs, events, cooking sessions on national television, the stage & The Annapolis School of Cooking. She has partnered in writing cookbooks and product lines to showcase the inspiration & nourishment of food. In her cookbook with Michael Heller, The Grassfed Gourmet Fires It Up, Rita supports the effort for Regenerative Agriculture.

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peach salad

Stone fruits—peaches, apricots, cherries, nectarines, and plums—are some of the great mouth-watering joys of summer. They are packed with phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals plus they are low in calories. Stone fruits are super fruits, with plums as emerging stars. One of the benefits found is that plums inhibit breast cancer growth in lab cells. Now is the time to get your fill because the height of the season will soon be upon us.

For ease in separating the halves, the free-stone varieties come into season later and are well worth the wait.

peach salad

Peach Salad with Lemon Thyme Vinaigrette 

Serves 4

salad radishes
A salad turnip eaten raw.

Any of the stone fruits work with sweet or savory preparations. This salad is a winner as the succulent white nectarines pair beautifully with the lemon thyme dressing. The thinly sliced salad turnips-no they ARE NOT radishes, give a great crunch along with the hazelnuts.

  • 3 ripe peaches, sliced into thin wedges
  • 3 cups baby lettuces (mesclun)
  • Salad turnips, thinly sliced
  • 4 tablespoons chopped hazelnuts
  • 3 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon thyme
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 ounces fresh chevre, crumbled
immersion blender making dressing
Using an immersion blender and a canning jar makes preparing vinaigrette a breeze.

In a large bowl, toss together nectarine slices, mesclun, sliced turnips and hazelnuts.

Put vinegar, lemon thyme, salt and pepper in a mason jar, blender or food processor and combine until smooth.

If using the jar with an immersion blender, puree while slowly adding the olive oil.

Divide peach salad among serving plates and drizzle with the fresh vinaigrette. Sprinkle with the chevre crumbles.


gorgonzola dish

Grilled Stone with Balsamic Glaze and Gorgonzola

Just because I found them fresh and at Grauls Market, I decided to add a simple dessert to the grilling class I conducted recently. It turned out these grilled jewels were the hit of the class as the flavors couldn’t be more perfect together. Three ingredients are all you need here – amazing! The trick here is to add the room temperature gorgonzola while the peaches are hot.

  • Peaches, scrubbed and cut in half
  • Balsamic Glaze
  • Crumbled gorgonzola (or blue cheese), at room temperature

Light the grill to high heat.

Place the prepared peach halves on a tray (to carry to the grill) with cut side up. When the grill is hot, drizzle the peaches with the balsamic glaze. Quickly place glaze-side down on the grill. Sear until nicely browned. Immediately place on a serving plate and sprinkle with gorgonzola so that it melts.

Stone Fruit Salsa on Salmon

Here you go with a savory treatment for stone fruit. For this very fresh salsa I used a lot of what was happening from my kitchen and herb garden. You can interchange any other stone fruit here. Serve it with seafood as I love it, or with chips, beans, or in sandwiches or just by the spoonful!

  • 2 white nectarines, diced
  • 1/2 diced cup cucumber, diced
  • 1/2 cup diced red tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup diced orange tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon fresh cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon fresh garlic chives, thinly sliced

Mix ingredients together and refrigerate for 20 minutes to let season before serving.

With over three decades in the food, media production, marketing & public relations fields, Rita Calvert has created myriad programs, events, cooking sessions on national television, the stage & The Annapolis School of Cooking. She has partnered in writing cookbooks and product lines to showcase the inspiration & nourishment of food. In her cookbook with Michael Heller, The Grassfed Gourmet Fires It Up, Rita supports the effort for Regenerative Agriculture.

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tasty squash dish

Garden Leadership/Garden Eating

with Rita Calvert

Before we get to recipes, look at this gardening inspiration on showing the way to be a creative leader. To those of us who garden, the lessons are rewarding and incomparable.

“There is a lot that gardening, design, and creative leadership have in common,” states Tim Brown, Executive Chair at IDEO, Vice Chair at kyu Collective. His profound thoughts can, in turn, get us pondering all the benefits of our gardens.

Gardening is generative, iterative, and user-centered – You might be interested in planting a “Grab and Go Garden” that contains only fruits and vegetables that could be eaten straight away… more plants were eaten, less were wasted. A good garden, like good design, needs to meet the needs of its users.

Gardening helps us frame future design challenges – The old assembly-line metaphors of the Industrial Revolution won’t help us design the future. Our world is complex. Like a garden, we must tend it, cultivate it, steward it, and encourage it to meet our needs instead of always trying to be in control of it. Our solutions must accommodate the competing needs of humans and the rest of nature. Successful design, like successful gardening, is never finished and is constantly changing.

Gardening teaches us how to be creative leaders – A gardener helps living things thrive through attentiveness and dialogue. Good leadership starts by finding talented people, giving them a safe space to cultivate their creativity, and letting them grow into their full potential under careful guidance—not a controlling thumb.

Recipes from your garden

Summer squash is what most gardeners and farmers in the region are finding in abundance this time of year. That’s the produce focus this week. Grill, roast, shred, can, pickle or freeze that crookneck, Zephyr, zucchini, yellow zucchini, or pattypan to extend your season. Some tasty ideas are below.

Roasted Zucchini Baton Salad

Serves 2

vegetable mix

Although the zucchini are roasted to bring out the flavor this is a fresh, cool and very filling salad. Basil leaves are used for flavor impact instead of lettuce leaves.

  • 2 medium zucchini cut into “batons” (see photo)
  • 1/2 cup chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 3/4 cup small red and orange or yellow tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup halved pitted Kalamata olives
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • About 1/4 cup small fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup Marcona almonds

zucchini batonsPreheat the oven to 400F.

Place the zucchini batons on a baking pan and brush with olive oil. Bake on the top rack of the oven for about 18-20 minutes, until nicely brown. Let cool.

In a large bowl toss together the zucchini, chickpeas, tomatoes, olives, lime juice, salt, pepper and olive oil. Place each portion on a serving plate. Tuck in basil leaves and sprinkle with the almonds.

Crookneck Gazpacho with Cannelini Beans

Serves 4

yellow & green squash

A yellow gazpacho over the traditional red is a delight and simply says summer. This is a chilled soup even though the squash is first simmered and pureed to form the light foundation.

  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 1/2 cups diced crookneck squash
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups chopped seeded unpeeled cucumber
  • 1 cup finely chopped freshly roasted yellow bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped sweet onion
  • 2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
  • Sour cream or plain Greek yogurt for topping soup

Bring broth to a boil, add squash and boil gently for 10-12 minutes or until very soft. Add the garlic, salt and pepper. Using an immersion blender directly in the pot, puree the squash and let cool.

Stir in the cucumber, roasted bell pepper, onion, balsamic vinegar and Old Bay Seasoning. Taste and adjust spices.

Ladle into individual bowls and garnish with a tablespoon of sour cream or thick yogurt.

Pattypan Ricotta Galettes

Makes 4 personal-size galettes

savory squash dish

Summer Squash galettes seem to be enticing for summer’s lush bounty. I’ve traded out basic pastry dough for the extra special puff pastry and made individual tartlets. The galettes need to cool before adding the basil leaves.

  • 6 medium pattypan squash, cut horizontally into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced, (use divided)
  • 3/4 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme or lemon thyme
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • egg wash-1 large egg beaten with 1 teaspoon water
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400°.

slices of yellow squashCombine squash, 1 tablespoon oil and half of garlic in a bowl.

Combine ricotta, egg, remaining garlic, thyme, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a medium bowl, stirring to combine.

Brush the egg wash ONLY on smooth dough surfaces-not cut edges (or it won’t rise).

The points are pulled up; brush the edges with egg wash and pinch together.

squash filled pastryUnwrap puff pastry sheet and place flat on a lightly floured surface. Cut into 4 equal squares. Place first square on ungreased baking sheet pan. Place a scant 2 tablespoons ricotta mixture in just the center of square. Arrange 4 squash slices overlapping, over ricotta mixture. Sprinkle squash with salt and pepper. Fold points of dough toward center, brushing the center of the edges with egg wash and pressing gently to seal (see photo). Brush the outside and the folded tips with egg wash. Repeat with remaining 3 pieces of puff pastry dough.

Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool 5 minutes.

Top with grated cheese and a few small fresh basil leaves. Serve.

With over three decades in the food, media production, marketing & public relations fields, Rita Calvert has created myriad programs, events, cooking sessions on national television, the stage & The Annapolis School of Cooking. She has partnered in writing cookbooks and product lines to showcase the inspiration & nourishment of food. In her cookbook with Michael Heller, The Grassfed Gourmet Fires It Up, Rita supports the effort for Regenerative Agriculture.

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grilled sliders

Local & Seasonal Cooking

with Rita Calvert
from The Grassfed Gourmet Fires It Up!

The Grassfed Gourmet Fires it Up! book cover

We’re well into grilling season, so here is one of my favorite recipes from The Grassfed Gourmet Fires It Up!, which you can find at Annapolis Green on Maryland Avenue in Annapolis. First comes a Grilling 101 section, a primer actually, from the book and then a recipe where I made fun and efficient work of mouth-watering sliders for a crowd.

Grilling 101

I want to share this confession from a dear friend who loves farm-fresh food and vows to spend as much time outdoors as possible. “As much as I adore grilled food, I do not know how to do this myself. I don’t even know how to turn on the gas grill or build a charcoal barbecue fire.”

She’s game to try it now with the same easy tips I am sharing here with you. You can find more details in many other books and websites but this basic primer will get you started and reduce the stress of this oh-so-versatile cooking method that makes food so tasty. With this primer and the recipes you’ll find in The Grassfed Gourmet Fires It Up!, you will be barbecuing all summer (or year-round) like an old hand. Start by practicing on yourself or with a small group.

Plan ahead
You can cook just about anything on the grill. With just a little planning, you will have your indoor kitchen clutter-free and cleaned up, even before serving the meal, regardless of whether you’re cooking for yourself, your family, or a whole gang of friends. Best of all, you won’t be washing loads of pots and pans in the wee hours after a relaxed meal. If you plan side dishes that are safe to serve at room temperature, such as breads and simple vegetable and potato side dishes, you will have even more freedom to prepare ahead and then relax.

For a crowd, you can prepare side dishes ahead (or assign sides to your guests), present them on serving platters, then completely clean up your indoor kitchen before the meal.

If you’re cooking for a party, get the basics—such as the centerpiece, plates, flatware, serving pieces, and some condiments—on the table before guests arrive. This will save time later in the evening when your food is ready for serving.

Set the stage for grilling
Before you fire up the grill, be practical. Position your grill away from all shrubbery, overhangs, grass, or other flammable surfaces or materials. Don’t even think about a closed area like a garage. Your grill should be on a stable surface. Never use gasoline or kerosene to start your fire. And make sure the grill is clean and the vents are open and airy—they should not be clogged with old ashes.

Choose your grill
When it comes to quick and easy cooking, a gas grill is probably the most convenient way to go, but nothing beats the flavor of foods cooked over real wood or charcoal. Not to worry, though, because you can do both at once.

Add real wood flavor to your gas-grilled foods by placing small green or water-soaked wood chips on foil that has been punctured with a few holes to let air circulate. Start the grill and then place the package on a portion of the gas element and let it start to smoke. If you are using a charcoal grill, be aware of the time it takes to prepare the fire and heat the grill before you start cooking. This can vary depending on the type of wood or charcoal you use, so test different brands beforehand and stick with the one that works best with your grill.

Prepare your grill
Prepare the grill by rubbing clean grates with cooking oil using a paper towel. Food won’t stick and cleaning up is far less messy and stressful.

Always preheat your grill—with the lid closed—for the time recommended for the brand and style of your grill or to the suggested temperature in the recipe you’re following. Gas grills need to be turned on at least 10 minutes before cooking. If you use a charcoal grill, allow the coals to burn for at least 30 minutes or until the flames subside before cooking.

Note: Always keep the bottom tray and drip pan of your gas grill clean and free of debris. This not only prevents dangerous grease fires, but it also deters visits from unwanted critters. A sprinkle of red pepper in the pan is another safe way to discourage animals.

Light your Grill
For gas grilling: Read all grilling instructions that came with your grill first; every grill ignites differently. In general, however, you start by opening the grill lid, then opening the tank valve, then turning the front/first burner to high heat. Allow 2 to 3 seconds for the gas chamber to fill. Then push the igniter button firmly. The burner should light after only one or two pushes of the button. Once the first burner is lit, turn the middle/next burner to high heat and repeat with the other burners until all burners are lit. Close the lid. Allow the grill to preheat on high to 500° to 550°F. Place your food on the cooking rack and adjust burners to the temperatures and cooking method given in the recipe.

Consult your grill’s instructions about what to do if there are flare-ups. In my experience, when flare-up occurs, I turn all burners to the off position and then move the food to another area of the cooking grate. Then, I light the grill again. Never use water to extinguish flames on a gas grill.

For charcoal grilling: I have found the best method for firing up a charcoal grill is with a quick-start chimney. They usually sell for about $12-15 where grills are sold. Fill the bottom of the chimney with some crumbled newspaper, then place charcoal or briquettes on top of that, and ignite. In about 25 minutes, your coals should be ready. The charcoal will be lightly coated with ash. Carefully pour the heated charcoal out of the starter and into the grill. Arrange it evenly across the charcoal rack for the “direct method” of grilling or on either side of grate for the “indirect method” of grilling. New terms? See below.

Another option for starting your charcoal grill is to place crumpled newspaper or fuel cubes on the charcoal grate. Cover the paper with charcoal briquettes to form a pyramid (not too huge) and then light the charcoal. It should be ready in about 25 minutes when a light grey ash coats all of the briquettes. We recommend learning to do this without using lighter fluid to keep your grilling simple, clean, and safe.

Choose your grilling method
Before preparing your grill, decide if the food you are grilling requires “direct” or “indirect” heat. With a little practice, these two approaches to cooking will become second nature—and you will have mastered one of the most important grilling techniques. Remember, though, whether you are cooking with the direct method or indirect method, always grill with the lid on.

Grilling with direct heat is similar to broiling except that the heat source is below the food; in other words, the food is cooked directly over the heat source (thus “direct” heat cooking). Use the direct method for foods that take less than 25 minutes to cook, such as steaks, chops, kebabs, sausages, and vegetables. Direct cooking is also necessary in order to sear meats.

The indirect method is similar to roasting but with the added benefit of grilled texture, flavor, and appearance, which you can’t get from an oven. This is best for foods that require 25 minutes or more of grilling time or foods that are so delicate that direct exposure to the heat source would dry them out or scorch them. Use the indirect method for roasts, ribs, whole chickens, turkeys, and other large cuts of meat as well as for delicate fish fillets.

Direct-heat cooking: how-to
To grill on a charcoal grill using a direct-heat method, spread prepared coals evenly across the charcoal grate. Set the cooking grate over the coals and light the coals. Once the coals are ready, place the food on the cooking grate. Close the lid, lifting it only to turn food or to test for doneness at the end of the recommended cooking time.

To grill on a gas grill using a direct-heat method, preheat the grill with all burners on high. Place the food on the cooking grate and then adjust all burners to the temperature noted in the recipe. Close the lid of the grill and lift only to turn food or to test for doneness toward the end of the recommended cooking time.

For even cooking, food should be turned once halfway through the grilling time. Searing creates that crisp, caramelized texture where the food hits the grate. Those nice grill marks add more than visual appeal, they flavor the entire food surface. Steaks, chops, chicken pieces, and larger cuts of meat all benefit from searing.

Indirect-heat method: how-to
To grill on a charcoal grill using the indirect-heat method, arrange hot coals evenly on either side (or around the perimeter) of the charcoal grate. A drip pan placed in the center of the charcoal grate between the coals is useful to collect drippings that can be used for gravies and sauces. It also helps prevent flare-ups when cooking fattier foods, such as chicken or turkey with the skin on, goose, duck, or certain roasts. For longer cooking times, add water to the drip pan to keep drippings from burning. Place the cooking grate over the coals, light the charcoal, and once the grill is heated, place the food on the cooking grate, centered over the drip pan or charcoal grate. Close the lid and lift only to baste or check for doneness at the end of the suggested cooking time.

If you are using a gas grill, preheat the grill with all burners on high. Then adjust the burners on the sides to the temperature noted in the recipe. Turn off the burner(s) directly below the food. For best results, place roasts, poultry, or large cuts of meat on a roasting rack set inside a disposable heavy foil pan. For longer cooking times, add water to the foil pan to keep drippings from burning.

In some cases, it is best to sear the food first to obtain grill marks and then place the food in a cast iron or an aluminum pan to catch the juices for the rest of the cooking time. Heat rises, reflects off the lid and inside surfaces of the grill, and slowly cooks the food evenly on all sides. The circulating heat works much like a convection oven so there’s no need to turn the food.

Prepare meat, poultry or seafood for grilling
For steaks and chops, trim excess fat, leaving only a scant 1/4-inch of fat, which is sufficient to flavor the meat. For poultry, note that the skin has enough fat to feed the flame, potentially leading to flare ups. Less fat is a virtual guarantee against flare-ups and it makes cleanup easier.

After trimming the meat, marinate according to the recipe or rewrap and chill. About an hour before grilling (but for food safety, no earlier), allow meat to come to room temperature.

Cooking tips
Create two temperature zones in your grill: one warm and one hot. If you use a gas grill, turn one side to high heat and keep the other on low. If you use a wood/charcoal grill, the trick is to push most of the embers toward one side. This will help cook pieces of food more evenly by allowing you to periodically move them from low heat to high.

Hold the sauce. If you’re using barbecue sauce or any sauce that contains sugar or fat, wait until about the last 15 minutes before slathering it on (if you’ve marinated your meat in advance, just blot it with a paper towel before placing it on the grill). Since sugar and oil will cause lots of flames and char the food, plan to reduce the heat a bit after you add the sauce.

Allow more cooking time on cold or windy days or at higher altitudes, and less time in extremely hot weather.

Once you put the food on the grate, allow it to cook a bit before any turning. Your food needs about 10 minutes of cooking time for its surface to cook enough to release from the grill easily without sticking and tearing.

Always use a spatula or tongs when you handle the meat on the grill. Using a fork to pierce meat while it is cooking will cause all the yummy juices to escape, thereby drying out your meat.

Use a meat thermometer and a timer so you know when it’s time to take food off the grill. Checking meats for internal temperatures is the best way to determine when food is properly cooked or when done is about to become overdone.

Soon after you finish cooking, use a wire brush to scrape and clean the grates—it’s so much easier to clean it up when it is still warm.

Spicy Ground beef or Bison Sliders
with Talbot Reserve Cheese and Curry Ketchup

Serves 8

grilled slidersEach of these sliders weighs about 1 ounce so the ground beef or bison goes a long and tasty way as small bites or hors d’oeuvres. I have served these at my River Dinners and at a local cooking class because everyone loves a great burger. I topped each slider with a rich, cave-aged cheddar from Chapel Country Creamery in Easton, Maryland. You can garnish and build these sliders as you wish… adding to the bread or letting your guests add their own toppings, such as sliced onions, pickles, and lettuce or arugula. It’s a good idea to make the curry ketchup in advance and keep it refrigerated.

For the sliders:
• 12 ounces ground beef or bison
• Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
• 1 ciabatta loaf of bread, sliced horizontally, but not through, to open like a book
• Freshly grated Talbot Reserve or other full-flavor aged cheddar cheese, room temperature

Heat the grill to medium-high.

Place the beef or bison in a bowl and add salt and pepper, stirring briefly with a fork. Form the meat into 2 rectangular burgers, ¾-inch thick, so they fit neatly onto the bread.

Grease the grill rack and add the burgers without crowding. Grill on one side until nicely browned, then turn and brown the other side, making sure that the burgers remain rare and juicy. While the second side browns, top the burgers with the cheese to allow it to melt. Place the opened ciabatta bread on the grill until just golden and warm. Then, while still warm, spread one side liberally with curry ketchup.

Remove the burgers to a cutting board and let rest for a moment. Lay the open ciabatta on the cutting board. Place each burger on the bottom half of the bread. Close the bread firmly and cut crosswise into 2-inch thick slices. A toothpick in each slice holds it all together and makes it easy to pick up.

For the curry ketchup:
• 1 12-ounce bottle chile sauce
• 1/3 cup sweet onion, finely chopped
• 1 teaspoon curry powder
• 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

Combine all.

With over three decades in the food, media production, marketing & public relations fields, Rita Calvert has created myriad programs, events, cooking sessions on national television, the stage & The Annapolis School of Cooking. She has partnered in writing cookbooks and product lines to showcase the inspiration & nourishment of food. In her cookbook with Michael Heller, The Grassfed Gourmet Fires It Up, Rita supports the effort for Regenerative Agriculture.

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