FOOD: Great Finds at the Farmers Market – Friends and Food

March 2, 2012 by · 3 Comments 

By Kathleen Nixon
March 2, 2012

I wax poetic frequently about our Falls Church Farmers Market, much to the chagrin of my readers. Celebrating food and community has become one of my greatest pleasures in life second only to my family and home. Recently I was poignantly reminded of this little gem in our little city, when someone stopped me at the market to ask about my Farmers Market bag from San Francisco.

From there started a fabulous conversation about a new family that has returned to our area. Claire McConnell grew up in our area and after high school attended the Culinary Institute in New England. There she met her husband and they worked for several years at restaurants throughout the country, most recently Napa California.

While raising her two young girls, Claire writes her own blog creating recipes that focus on health, taste and budget. She will be sharing some of these posts with us from time to time.  It is with great pleasure that I share Claire’s first article and recipe that focuses on some of the greens – Collards -that we will find in the farmers market this week as well as the sausage and the french bread.

Farro with Stewed Collard Greens with Grilled Sausages and Grilled Bread



 Farro is a grain that is a lot like barley, in fact if you can’t find Farro in the store barley will work just fine. It is high in fiber, high in protein and low in fat. And like rice at little bit cooks up to feed the whole family. It has an excellent nutty flavor that makes it a bang of flavor for your buck.

Collard greens are members of the cabbage family, but tend to be more bitter. That bitterness will decrease as the greens cook. Collard greens are an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium and Folic acid. They are also low in fat and calories. And unlike spinach let’s say, collards really hold their body and don’t shrink down to nothing.

Equipment: Large dutch oven (similar to a Le Creuset) and a grill pan.

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil — $0.15
1 medium onion – small dice — $0.65
3 garlic cloves – sliced thin — $0.10
1 1/2 cups Farro – rinsed under water — $2.30
1 large bunch collard greens – remove stems, rough chopped (about 6 cups) — $2.50
1/2  cup white wine — $1.00
2 1/2 cups chicken stock  — $2.00
2 tbsp butter — $0.40
1/2 cup Pecorino Romano cheese – grated — $0.75
4-5 of your favorite raw Italian sausages — $3.95
1/2 loaf of french bread  — $0.75
Total ingredient cost =$14.55


Heat 2 tbsp of oil in dutch oven on medium heat, add diced onion and saute until translucent about 5 minutes. Add sliced garlic and saute for an additional minute. Add collard greens, Farro, wine and chicken stock and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, stir, and then reduce heat to simmer, cover, and cook for 1 hour on med-low heat.

While the Farro is cooking, heat a grill pan without any oil. Brush sausages with 1 tbsp oil and when grill pan is very hot grill the sausages until cooked. Remove from grill pan and let sausages cool. Slice baguette and grill bread (crust side up) on the same grill pan, but turn the heat down to medium. The bread will soak up the oil and the juices from the sausages. Grill bread to your likeness, be careful not to burn. Once sausages have cooled slice them into 1 in rounds.

After an hour the Farro should be cooked and have no bite to the grain and the collards should be soft but not falling apart. Remove from the heat and stir in butter, Pecorino and sausages.

Serve with grilled bread.

Makes 4 large portions

How to modify for:
Vegetarians: Replace chicken stock with vegetable stock and take out sausages. Replace with roasted wild mushrooms, such as king trumpets or Mitakes.
Vegans: Replace chicken stock with vegetable stock, take out sausages, butter and Pecorino. Replace with roasted wild mushrooms, such as king trumpets or Mitakes.
Pescatarians: Replace chicken stock with vegetable stock and take out sausages. Replace sausages with firm, white fish such as Halibut. Grill each side and finish in 375* oven for 8-10 minutes.
Lactose Intolerance: Just remove the butter. Pecorino is a sheep’s milk cheese and does not contain lactose.
Gluten Intolerance: Unfortunately Farro contains gluten as it is a grain. Use a grain like Arborio or Carnaroli rice and make this dish more like a risotto. Follow the steps on the bag for cooking advice. And omit the grilled bread.

Claire McConnell

VIDEO: Concussion Victims Speak at GMHS

March 2, 2012 by · 3 Comments 

March 2, 2012

George Mason High School Trainer Vicki Galliher included student concussion victims and their parents in a compelling presentation at GMHS last week on the causes and effects of this common traumatic brain injury.

Galliher also included detailed representations of healthy and concussed brains and a video of former LaSalle University athlete Preston Plevretes, who in failing to allow a first concussion to heal before resuming play, set himself up for a tragic “second-impact” syndrome.  Once a specimen of athletic prowess, the hard hit that Plevretes took in his fourth game following the initial injury left him extremely disabled and barely able to speak.  Today he spends most of his time silently sitting in a wheelchair in his parents’ home.

To help avoid second-impact syndrome among GMHS students, Galliher became a pioneer in the adoption of “neurocognitive” testing among high schools.  Using a computer-based program developed at the University of Pittsburgh Health Center, Galliher tests GMHS athletes before they begin high-risk sports in order to form a “baseline” of their healthy-state cognitive abilities, allowing her to retest an affected athlete later if a concussion is suspected in order to look for changes in their cognitive abilities which would indicate a brain injury.  One parent and youth coach related that it was Galliher’s testing, rather than a doctor’s examination, which detected his son’s concussion.

An significant part of the presentation focused on detection and recovery.  When Galliher’s testing methodology shows a concussion has occurred, Galliher has the athlete retake the test periodically until he or she has again reached the baseline performance level, indicating full recovery.  In the interim, the Mason trainer supervises a modified study curriculum for the student, excluding physical activity and brain-draining everyday activities like using a computer or watching television.

But it was the words of two current GMHS athletes who have suffered concussions, and the accounts of their parental care requirements, that left the audience spellbound and teary-eyed.  One of the young men, still recovering from the injury, described the difficulties he has faced while his brain heals.  The second student, a victim of four concussions, related his decision to give up a sport he loves rather than risk long term memory loss.

The video, provided courtesy of FCC-TV, is one hour 30 minutes long.