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"The Chesapeake Table:" Your Guide to Eating Local

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Johns Hopkins University Press
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Produce bins at the grocery stores are filled with fruits and vegetables from around the world. What about the bounty grown close to home? Renee Brooks Catacalos has written “The Chesapeake Table: Your Guide to Eating Local.”

She says beyond boosting Maryland’s economy by choosing locally grown and produced foods - foods that spend less time in transit just taste better.

You can catch Renee at the Pikesville Library next month - December 19th at 2:30 pm.

Easy Applesauce
I try to make applesauce at least once every fall. More of a technique than a recipe, it’s quite easy, but it does take some time. Peeling and coring the apples before cooking them, rather than cooking them all together and then straining the peels and cores out, results in a chunkier applesauce that’s ready to eat as soon as it’s cooked. I like to use Gala apples because they make a sauce that is sweet without adding any sugar, but feel free to use more-tart cooking apples or a combination of varieties to suit your taste. Look for opportunities to buy apples by the half-bushel (around 60 to 65 medium apples) or bushel (around 125 medium apples). Fruit that is oddly shaped or a bit dinged up is sometimes labeled as “seconds” and sold at a discount, which is good value for making applesauce. It takes a while, but opening of jar of homemade applesauce in February is worth it.

12-14 medium apples--Gala or a mix of Gala, Idared, Cortland, or other cooking apples
Juice of 1 large lemon
1 cup water
1-2 cinnamon sticks

Quarter, core, and peel the apples. Place them in a large stock pot, squeezing the lemon juice over them as you go. When all the apples are in the pot, add the water. Place the pot over medium heat. Once the water starts to simmer, stir the apples in the pot every few minutes, breaking them up as they soften. Add the cinnamon stick after about 20 minutes, when more than half the apples are cooked and mushy.

Continue simmering for another 20-30 minutes, stirring frequently until sauce consistency is reached, depending on the firmness of the apples you’ve used. Remove the cinnamon stick after cooking. You can mash the apples with a potato masher if you want to break up the chunks further.

If you want to preserve your applesauce, following canning instructions from your favorite cookbook or the Ball Blue Book of Canning. If you want to enjoy it in the short term, cool the applesauce, ladle into jars, and store in the refrigerator for up to a week. Makes about 2 quarts.
Creamy Potato and Kale Soup
This soup can be eaten as a hearty potage without the final step of puréeing, but the beauty of it as a creamy soup is the way it lets you slip kale in for kids or others who think they don’t like its flavor. It also makes it less difficult to digest for those who have a problem with the fiber in leafy greens, something I experience with Crohn’s Disease and a common symptom of many other gastrointestinal disorders.

2 slices bacon or 2 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
½ cup diced onion
3 cups chicken stock, vegetable stock, or water
4 cups diced baking potatoes (2 large potatoes)
1 cup chopped kale
½-¾ cup milk
Salt and pepper, to taste

If using bacon, cut the strips into ¼-inch pieces. In a heavy-bottomed 2-quart pot, fry the bacon, stirring frequently over medium-low heat until the fat is rendered and the pieces are crisp. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Set aside.

If not using bacon, put the vegetable or olive oil in a heavy-bottomed 2-quart pot over medium heat. Add the onion to the oil or bacon fat in the pot and sauté over medium heat until it softens and begins to turn translucent, about 5 minutes. Do not let the onion brown.

Add the stock or water, the potatoes, and the kale. The liquid should completely cover the vegetables. Turn the heat up to medium-high and cook until the potatoes break easily with a fork, 10-15 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat. If you have an immersion blender, use it to purée the soup in the pot. If using a countertop blender, let the soup cool slightly before carefully puréeing it in batches in the blender. Return all the puréed soup to the pot. Return the pot to the stove.

Over medium-low heat, stir in enough milk to reach a consistency that is creamy but will still pour off a spoon, and heat through without boiling. Season with salt and pepper, garnish with the reserved bacon if you like, and serve. Serves 4-6.
Maple Pecan Pie
Traditional pecan pie gets its texture from the combination of corn syrup and sugar. Here I’ve used syrup and sugar, both from local maple sap. It makes for a slightly softer filling that has a depth of flavor, not just a wall of sweetness. When you use local whole-grain flour, the crust has flecks of nutty bran and a crumbly texture that is a perfect foil for the richness of the maple filling. But it can be temperamental to handle; a purchased pie crust works well, too.

2 cups whole-grain all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon coarse salt
1 teaspoon sugar
¾ cup unsalted butter, cold
3-4 tablespoons ice water
3 eggs
¾ cup pure maple syrup
¾ cup maple sugar
2 tablespoons melted butter
1¼ cups chopped pecans

For the crust: Stir together flour, salt, and sugar, then cut in butter using a pastry cutter or two knives until it forms clumps the size of small peas. Sprinkle ice water over the mixture and mix swiftly until the mass comes together in a ball.

Divide into two halves. Pat each out into a disk on a large square of plastic wrap. Put one in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Put the other in the freezer for future use. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

After the dough has chilled, place it on floured board and roll gently to a circumference to fit a 9-inch pie shell. Keep the surface well floured. When the dough is at the right size, carefully roll it up onto your rolling pin to transfer it to the pie plate. This dough will be prone to breaking, but just squeeze any little holes together with your fingers and patch large holes with pieces of broken dough.

Place the pie plate on a cookie sheet. In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs slightly, then beat in the maple syrup, maple sugar, and melted butter. Add the pecans and stir to incorporate. Pour the filling into the crust, and move it around with a spoon a little to ensure the pecans are evenly distributed. Carefully place the cookie sheet on the middle rack of the oven.

Bake for 45-50 minutes or until the pie puffs up like a dome and does not jiggle when you gently shake the pan. Remove from the oven. The puffiness will shrink as the pie cools. Serve slightly warm or chilled. Serves 8-10.

Sheilah Kast is the host of On The Record, Monday-Friday, 9:30-10:00 am.
Maureen Harvie is senior producer for On the Record. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and joined WYPR in 2014 as an intern for the newsroom. Whether coordinating live election night coverage, capturing the sounds of a roller derby scrimmage, interviewing veterans, or booking local authors, she is always on the lookout for the next story.