FOOD: It’s Spring! Where are the tomatoes?

April 6, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

BY Kathleen Nixon
April 6, 2012
Falls Church Times Staff

The warm weather start to the spring has brought out many folks to the Falls Church Farmers Market and no one can be happier than the vendors. At the same time the questions start as to when will we see some of the summer time fruits and vegetables? This happens every year as the warmer weather starts and we are accustomed to seeing all kinds of out of season fruits in the supermarkets like strawberries in January. You will find some tomatoes in the Farmers Market as many vendors start tomatoes in their greenhouses. For now you will have to wait a bit for your vine ripened tomatoes, strawberries and stone fruit. Since the weather has been so warm the Falls Church Farmers Market will be opening earlier this year on April 14th, but even before then some of the summer vendors are already part of the Farmers Market including are Clear Spring Creamery, and Sinplicity Catering.

There are some winter Farmers Market vendors who will not be returning for the summer season and you will want to catch them in the next two weeks, such as Cold Country Salmon which offers vacuum   packed salmon that is caught fresh by a father and son duo. You can purchase salmon now and shares of salmon for later similar to a CSA and they will be delivered at the end of the summer.

Some winter vendors have put on a serious marketing push to be able to come back in the summer and the competition has been fierce. Interesting tactics such as marketing flyers at stands to tell Farmers Market Director Howard Herman to let them stay or just telling customers to campaign the Director in person. The Farmers Market will be expanding some of its space to the sidewalk area along Park Avenue to accommodate the expansion of the market for a few, new vendors. The final list of new vendors is still being reviewed and there is an extensive waiting list. The biggest challenge is making sure that there is enough variety in the market to ensure good crowds for all the vendors to be successful. Which of the winter vendors would you like to see come back for the summer session?

The Farmer’s Market Chef program now in its fourth year will be returning on April 28th with Farmer’s Market Chef favorite Tracy O’Grady from Willow. There will be monthly Farmers Market Chef demonstrations from April to November with some special programs including two educational programs. The first will be the Culinary Program from Falls Church High School in neighboring Fairfax County and the Culinary Program of DC Central Kitchen with the Kitchen Director Chef Rock of Hell’s Kitchen fame.

As gas prices continue to go up, so will the cost to the farmers to produce their goods and bring them to market. The same pain you are feeling at the gas pump they are feeling triple fold to produce the fruits, vegetables, dairy, meat and baked goods that you have been waiting for all winter.

What to do with the leftovers?

November 25, 2011 by · 2 Comments 

By Kathleen Nixon

November 25, 2011

Falls Church Times Staff

Now that the big food day is over, the question now is: what to do with all the leftovers? You have shopped, prepared and presented all of this glorious food, but how many times can you reheat and eat it? Don’t get me wrong I love turkey sandwiches and reheating gravy and mashed potatoes but after a day or so, you would like to see these great dishes take on a second act.

With this in mind, I asked two of our local phenomenal chef’s Tracy O’Grady of Willow and Steve Mannino of Rustico to share with me their ideas of what to do with our Thanksgiving leftovers. Tracy came up with Turkey Stuffing Shepherd’s Pie and Steve blew me away with his Mashed Potato Chocolate cake.  If you don’t feel so inclined to do either of these, please consider at least  making a broth out of your turkey carcass and use it for soup or stew with your remaining turkey meat.

Broth has seems to fallen out of favor in our society because it takes so long to prepare but I firmly believe there is nothing better for our cooking or health than homemade broths. When I am feeling particularly frazzled, I will set aside a day of the weekend to make a broth so that the house smells heavenly and I have quarts of great broth sitting in my freezer to add to any dish. Many of us grew up on broths from bouillon cubes or from a can, but these miss many of the minerals and nutrients that come from the bones that are part of any great broth. The critical component of making a broth is time – just letting the bones simmer in a pot on the stove for hours – preferably at least 6 hours but more like 8. This doesn’t mean you have to sit and watch it, just let it simmer while you do other things around the house. I really liked these two methods of making broth from Cooking for Engineers and Cheap Cooking.

Now if you want to use more of the leftovers, Tracy O’Grady Chef and Owner of Willow Restaurant created this recipe for us using many of the ingredients that we will have left over from our Thanksgiving meals.

Turkey Stuffing Sheppard’s Pie by Tracy O’Grady – Willow Restaurant

Serves 6

Bake in an 8”x10” earthenware dish, dimensions do not need to be exact


4 cups picked turkey meat, use both dark and white or whatever is leftover

2 cups leftover gravy

1-2 cups turkey broth made for another meal of turkey soup, cook the turkey carcass very slowly over night in water with mirepoix of celery, carrot and onion

½-1 cup left over mashed potatoes

1 cup leftover glazed or roasted carrots

1 small onion, diced and sautéed until tender

2 stalks of celery, diced and sautéed until tender

4 sage leaves, roughly chopped

3-4 cups leftover stuffing

Salt and cracked black pepper to taste

  • Use leftover cranberry sauce as an accompaniment
  • Use leftover green bean as an accompaniment


Heat the gravy and mashed potatoes together whisking until smooth, add in turkey stock to the desired consistency.  The gravy mixture can be as thick or brothy as desired.  Fold in the turkey meat, carrots, onions, celery, sage, salt and pepper and place in the earthenware dish.  Spread the leftover stuffing evenly over the top of the stew (if the stuffing is too dry add some of the turkey stock).  Cover the Sheppard’s pie with foil and place in a 350* preheated oven and bake for approximately 30 minutes or until fairly hot.  Remove the foil and cook for another 15-20 minutes or until the stuffing is crispy and the pie is hot and bubbly inside.

I had always tried to think of ways to recreate something with mashed potatoes so when Steve Mannino shared his family recipe of Mashed Potato Chocolate Cake I was overjoyed and intrigued. Caution: this is not a recipe to use with garlic or cheesy mashed potatoes.


Chocolate-Potato Cake by Steve Mannino of Rustico
Makes one Bundt cake.


2 cups sugar
2/3 cups butter, softened
2 eggs, separated
1 cup skinless mashed potatoes, such as peeled Idaho potatoes mashed with cream, butter, and salt
1 cup whole milk
½ cup cocoa powder (such as Hershey’s)
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Optional: 1 cup chopped nuts such as chopped pecans, walnuts, almonds (to be folded into the batter)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Using egg beaters or a stand mixer, cream together the sugar and butter on medium-high speed. Add the egg yolks and beat until incorporated, about a minute. Blend in the potatoes and then the milk until thoroughly mixed. The mixture should have a thin mashed potato consistency at this point.

In another bowl, combine the cocoa, flour, baking soda, and cinnamon (if using). Fold these dry ingredients into the batter. Add more flour if the batter seems too loose—it should be the consistency of regular cake or brownie batter.

Using egg beaters or a stand mixer beat the egg whites on high speed until they form stiff peaks. Fold into the cake batter. Beat in the vanilla, and then stir in the chopped nuts (if using).

Pour into a greased Bundt cake pan and bake approximately 20 to 30 minutes. Stick a toothpick in the cake and if it comes out clean, it’s ready to eat. Frost with the cream cheese icing.

Cream Cheese Frosting

1 pound cream cheese, room temperature
1 pound butter, softened
4 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract


In a medium bowl, beat together the cream cheese and butter. Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar until the mixture reaches desired sweetness and smoothness. Mix in the vanilla extract and set aside.