Ramble On

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Table Grapes at Wisteria

Even though the name of the place is Wisteria Farm and Vineyard, you might be thinking that all the grapes Moussa and Sue grow go into the wines.  That's not true - over the last couple of years or so, the vines over the grape arbors have matured, and now there is a nice crop of table grapes to boot.

These are the very same arbors that are used for the music under the arbor events at the vineyard.  You can check out the schedule here (about halfway down the page):  http://wisteriavineyard.com/

Mary and I visited two weeks ago and I saw that the table grapes are coming along.  By now, they may even be ready.  They're available by request in the tasting room.

...very reasonable and farm fresh!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

About the Trout

Last year I came across this great cookbook by Barton Seaver - he's a DC chef, and the book is peppered with photos from around town.  In the book he hits so many good points for me - local, seasonal foods, great ingredients.

Thumbing through it, I found some highlights like the recipe for butternut squash with dates, red onion, and chives - that is in the autumn section, by the way.  I was already sold, but then I found so many seafood recipes that I knew we needed to have this one in the house.

Recently I bought some trout fillets at Whole Paychex, and when I needed a tip on how to grill it, this was the book I reached for to get some ideas.
What I found was the secret to great fish - brining it before cooking it, to minimize the moisture loss from heat.  I'm going to share the recipe for the brine here - and you can find it on page 249 for times for different kinds of fish (BTW, there is a handy Amazon link at the end of the post).

To make the brine, combine two cups of cold water, 1 tablespoon of kosher salt, and 1 tablespoon of sugar.  Stir until everything's dissolved, and then pour it over the fish - there's a photo of some trout in brine here.  After the designated time - trout should be left in the mixture for only 15 minutes, and this is done in the fridge - remove the fillet from the brine and pat dry with a paper towel.

Most fish take longer than trout, but none of Seaver's recipes recommend longer than 40 minutes.  And he warns that leaving fish in the brine too long is likely to ruin your dish.

I've grilled trout twice since I discovered this technique.  I am pretty happy with it - and I am looking forward to grilling other varieties now.

Amazon link to the cookbook:

Page County Grown - the 2012 Season

I wanted to put up a second post about the Page County Grown Kick-off last weekend, which also was part of the Luray Bicentennial Celebration.  There were a couple of sponsors I wanted to make a note of, and then I’d also gotten the name of the band wrong.  So here you go.

The sponsors who made the sold out event possible were the Page County Farmers Association, MidAtlantic Farm Credit, Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative, and the Luray Bicentennial Committee.  The locally-raise meal was prepared by Mimslyn Inn Executive Chef Chris Harris, and the band was The Brennan Brothers Band – some of whom were previously in the band I mentioned in the earlier post.

The Kick-off event is where I first heard that the Page County Grown Second Annual Farm Tour and Wine Dinner has been scheduled for August 4.  This is a great way to spend a day at the local farms learning about what’s grown here in Page County.  A link to my posts from last year can be found here:

Finally, a quick check of the membership list of family farms that are part of Page County Grown shows some growth this year.  The members, by product category, include:

The Page County Grown website includes links to information about each of these farmers – so for more info, check the organization out at http://pagecountygrown.com/!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Page County Grown - Season Opening Event

The Page County Grown organization had a kick-off event for the summer season - a dinner on the plaza at the Luray Performing Arts Center.  The meal featured brisket and produce from local family farms - in this case, brisket from Skyline Premium Meats, and sweet corn and a green vegetable medley from Public House Produce.  Chef d' cuisine was Chris from the Mimslyn Inn, and several of his colleagues were there as well.

Here's a photo of the brisket on the grill.  I understand it, the gross weight, pre-cooking, was 90 pounds or so.  It had a nice pink ring from the smoke and was as tender as you could ask for - it was prepared the way I aspire to cook it!

Here's a photo of the plate showing the entree and sides.  And a last one of the cash bar in action - this being an outside event, the refreshments were a welcome treat!  Live music from the Bentwood Rockers was the final touch.

A quick check of the website for Page County Grown shows that there are a number of new members this year, and that there are a couple of events already in the works.  I'll put up a post on those items later in the week.

For now, here's the web site:

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

I Scream for Berry Garcia

So, for our 160th anniversary, we got one of those Cuisinart ice cream makers.  This thing is really handy.

Last night I made my first batch, a take off on that Ben and Jerry variety "Cherry Garcia" - except mine is called "Berry Garcia."

Here's the recipe:

1.5 cups of berries (I used a bag of frozen berries, store brand)
1/3 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup of whole milk
2/3 cup granulated sugar
pinch of salt
1.5 cups heavy cream
1.5 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1.  You can chop the berries in a food processor if you want, I may next time.  Set them aside.
2.  Mix the milk, sugar and salt until the sugar is dissolved.  Stir in the cream and vanilla.  Stir in the berries and chocolate chips.  Cool the mixture in the fridge at least an hour, better two, or even overnight.
3.  Put the chilled mixture in your Cuisinart ice cream maker and let it do its thing for 20 minutes.

You can store this in an airtight container in the freezer - since its soft when you first make it, you may prefer to make it ahead anyway so it will firm up.

Easy peasy lemon squeezy!

(Here's a link to the machine on Amazon:)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Hawksbill Greenway, A Ritual

After a pause to reflect yesterday, I'll return to the subject of the ritual Tessie and I enjoy on weekend mornings, walking along the Hawksbill Greenway in Luray.

Here's a photo of the old swimming hole - reader Posumcop and I have had some exchanges about this little pool in the Creek near the railroad overpass.  On most summer afternoons you'll see kids down there swimming and horsing around, but when the dog and I come strolling by, it's usually pretty quiet, as in this photo.

Luray has a tradition of having murals around town. There are some rules that they go by, generally so that nothing is too much of an advertisement.

This is a new one going up on the exterior wall of a sawmill that is along the Creek here.  The mountains are the Blue Ridge section that runs from Mary's Rock on the left to Hawksbill Mountain on the right - Luray's Skyline, so to speak.  The other items in the photo, becoming clearer day by day, are references to the tradition of sawmills in the Valley.  I'm looking forward to seeing the finished mural.

The Greenway is a pathway that follows the Creek through town for nearly two miles.  You can get a nice walk in there, nearly four miles if you do the whole thing.  Tess and I usually take in about two miles of it, though, on these weekend walks.

Monday, June 11, 2012

An Accident on the Hawksbill Greenway

One of the nice amenities in the town of Luray is the Hawksbill Greenway.  I've posted about it before, and was planning to put up a short post today about the walk Tessie and I took yesterday morning.

However, there was news last week about a tragic accident on the Greenway, and I wanted to make a note of it.

A tree fell on June 1 and struck a pedestrian as she walked along the pathway.  Her name was Patricia Lee Shanks Davis; she was 66 and very active in the community, according to the Page News and Courier and her obituary.

The tree that fell was 30 inches in diameter and 80 feet tall.  Apparently the trunk snapped off at about four feet, and the tree fell across the creek and struck Ms. Shanks.  They're still trying to figure out what went wrong with the tree - I suspect a combination of stress from being undermined by the creek (it was on a section with a steep bank), and possibly the earthquake last year.

In any case, here's a note in honor of Ms. Shanks. I was very sorry to hear this.  There's a memorial web page up for her at http://www.forevermissed.com/pat-shanks.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Meet the Trouts (not Roy)

Last weekend I wanted to grill something different, so I picked up a few trout fillets from Whole Paychex.  After blazing up the big unit, I grilled the fillets with a mix of lemon juice, butters, capers, and salt and pepper.  Here's a photo of them, accompanied by sprigs of fresh basil from Mary's truck patch.

I thought it might be nice to pair these up with a few sides.  From my friend Rick in Tampa, I'd gotten the idea to grill some tomatoes - these are stuffed with basil and garlic.  There were also yukon gold potatoes in the mix, and zucchini squash (the squash and tomatoes are from Pennsylvania, according to the sign in Whole Paychex).

This weekend there won't be much grilling in store for us.  The season's inaugural Page County Grown event will be held in town in Luray Saturday night - so that's our plan.

Good weekend y'all!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Pork Diaries: Another Go at Pulled Pork

Last month I had a go at roasting one of the pork shoulder cuts on the big unit.  The post, located here:  http://hawksbillcabin.blogspot.com/2012/05/pork-diaries-pulled-pork.html, worked through the process and really kept track of my first attempt at this noble activity.  It was a relaxing thing to do, and I have to admit, the product was so good that I couldn't wait to try it again, and I did on Sunday.

The first time I did this, I was winging the rub recipe, basing it on cumin, for the most part.  This time, I looked up a recipe, repeated below - the major changes were to leave out the cumin, substituting in some powdered mustard, and including a few herbs - oregano and sage.  In fact, here is the list of ingredients from the recipe I used (you can find it on "cookthink.com"):

2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper2 tablespoons granulated sugar3 tablespoons garlic powder2 tablespoons onion powder3 tablespoons paprika1 tablespoon ground sage 2 teaspoons dried oregano1 teaspoon dry mustard1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

My grill was hot when I started out - the early temperatures were over 300.  Over the course of the first hour it settled into the mid-200's, where I managed to keep it for the next five or six hours.  I had to restoke the grill once, in the fourth hour - there's got to be a technique to this and I haven't gotten the hang of it.

I kept the hickory smoke going for the first hour.  After the first 90 minutes, I also "mopped" the roast once every half hour while it was cooking, with a mixture of unfiltered apple juice, salt and chili powder.  

Finally though, that roast was done - the picture at the top of the post is how it looked when I finally took it off of the heat.  Then the second post...I let the pork rest in the fridge over night before pulling it.  I called it claw hammer pulled pork.  We've been enjoying it for a couple of nights now.

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Big Unit

Has it been a couple of months since I bought this new grill?  I don't know, I don't really remember.  But I have to wonder why I waited so long.

I have been posting on grilling and barbecue quite a bit lately, and this big unit is the reason.  It's a Brinkman that has charcoal and gas sides, and there is even a side burner.

I had a number of folks ask me to let them know how I liked it after I used it...well, I can answer that one now:


If you've been thinking about springing for one of these, I don't think you can go wrong.

Stay tuned for a couple of posts this week about cooking out adventures - one post on cooking trout on this grill, and then a second one about a smoked pork shoulder roast.

Oh and here's a photo of an Air Force C-17 that flew over while I was cooking out yesterday!

Friday, June 1, 2012

The Brisket Adventure

I have enjoyed every brisket that I have cooked on the grill, but there is so much literature on the topic about this cut of meat that it's probably a natural response to develop a dysfunctional relationship with the enterprise of preparing one.

That was my mental state as Memorial Day weekend approached.  I knew I would see my friends from Skyline Premium Meats at the Luray Farmers Market, and I'd planned to pick up a few New York strips from them - and there was a desire to smoke a brisket on the brick terrace in the back of my mind too.  I succumbed.

Now I should admit that part of the motivation was that smoked pork I did a few weeks ago, and the status reports that Bobby Flay tweeted all day Saturday as he roasted a whole shoulder in the Hamptons.  I ended up with a 3.5 pound half brisket, which I thawed and then prepped with olive oil, salt and pepper, and garlic - that's the first photo here.

Then there are a couple of in progress shots.  One is when I first put the meat on the grill, there were white coals and my plan was to use hickory chips for smoking.  Second is about halfway through - the first time I checked on the meat.  I had the grill steady at 250, hoping that wasn't too high and rushing things.  The brisket looked pretty good at that point, I must say!

I recharged the coals at that point and continued cooking.  All totaled, this effort took about 3 hours, and the final product was the one in the last photo.  It was pretty good, and we had some fresh pak choi and corn with it.

Later in the weekend, another of the twitter accounts I was following put up a link to this recipe on another website:  http://eatocracy.cnn.com/2012/05/28/risk-a-brisket-on-the-grill-this-summer/

I think I'll take some of these tips to heart on my next attempt.  It's a food I want to perfect, so that I make it the same each time.  We're just not there yet.