FOOD: Good Food Starts Fresh

July 6, 2012 by · 3 Comments 

Kathleen Nixon
July 6, 2012
Falls Church Times Staff

Even with all the tumult over the last few weeks in the City of Falls Church, some good things have been happening. If you are a foodie, you may be on social media, in particular Twitter and it was through Twitter that Chef Nathan Lyon reached out last week. Nathan is from Arlington, now living in Los Angeles and was coming back to the area to do a fundraiser for his elementary school Long Branch Elementary on July 8th.

Between power outages and non-working networks, Nathan and I were able to converse over Twitter to learn more about each other and set up an event on July 7th. As with any form of communication, how you respond and what you respond makes a big difference in the conversation. I have communicated with several chefs over the years via many forms of media and I was completely impressed with how gracious, courteous and responsive Nathan was in all of our communications.

After doing research on Nathan Lyon, I found that not only was his cooking style in line with what is promoted during the Falls Church Farmers Market Chef series but that he had recently completed a cookbook focusing on recipes for farmers market produce. With an impressive background of culinary school, international travel and television shows including PBS’s Growing a Greener World, Nathan’s demonstration and cookbook signing will be a great addition to the Falls Church Farmers Market Chef series.

Please join us this Saturday, July 7th from 9:00am to 11:00am at the Falls Church Farmers Market Chef demonstration where Chef Nathan Lyon will demonstrate spicy watermelon gazpacho from 9:00am to 9:30am and after that will be selling his cookbooks “Great Food Starts Fresh” and signing them.

FOOD: What’s on Tap? Fennel

June 22, 2012 by · 3 Comments 

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Falls Church Times Staff
June 22, 2012

In any business there are the folks you know you can count on. In the local restaurant community, it is commonly agreed that Steve Mannino is one of the folks you can count on.  Recently, a local culinary program cancelled for the Farmers Market Chef demonstration, and even though Steve had just taken over the culinary helm at American Tap Room, when called he stepped up.

Mishap after mishap plagued the launching of the demonstration on a gorgeous summer morning, but Steve and his team are well versed in turning things around. Steve was recruited to the American Tap Room collection of restaurants to build a team and take the restaurants to the next level. After watching Steve acknowledge, and embrace each challenge of the morning which looked more like a reality show gone badly or Candid Camera and turn the entire event around on a dime, you know he will do a spectacular job with American Tap Room.

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=”alignright size-medium wp-image-35668″ title=”even the kids are excited” src=”×300.jpg” alt=”” width=”237″ height=”300″ />Though the plan was to prepare two recipes- fried green tomatoes and watermelon, fennel and feta salad- another glitch prevented the fried green tomatoes demonstration, which was fine as there was plenty of salad for everyone. In fact the salad was quite a hit with the crowd. Many were surprised at the crisp, freshness of the texture and taste of the salad and looked forward to using it all summer. Quite a few customers were seen later in the morning over at Homestead Farms picking up fennel to give the recipe a try.

Fennel is one of those vegetables that has fallen out of our regular diet but is making a comeback in the gourmet circles. It has a light licorice smell and taste, and compliments many types of cooking including Mediterranean cuisine. Fennel is actually praised for its high Vitamin C content and having many anti-inflammatory and immune support system benefits. Fennel will be available for a few more weeks in the Falls Church Farmers Market and you can try many recipes with it including the Watermelon, Fennel and Feta salad presented by Steve Mannino of American Tap Room.


FOOD: It’s Grill Time!

June 15, 2012 by · 3 Comments 

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June 14, 2012
Falls Church Times Staff

Our local chefs have provided some new twists on what to do on the grill. Now you may want to flip a burger and throw on a steak, but if you are feeling interested in going out of the box, you may want to try some of these recipes from our local chefs.

From Steve Mannino, Corporate Executive Chef,  American Tap Room who will be doing two recipe  demonstrations tomorrow at the Falls Church Farmers Market Chef, we have:

Grilled Caesar Salad

4 romaine hearts, split in half, tops cut off
3 oz Parmesan cheese and a little for garnish
2 tbsp Fresh lemon juice
8 oz good quality Caesar dressing
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt to taste
Grilled chicken, shrimp or steak (optional)


1. Rub 4 halves of romaine lettuce with 2 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil and salt. Grill for about 3 minutes each side.
2. Chop the other 4 romaine halves (except for the core) and place in a medium to large bowl.
3. Once the grilled romaine is done let cool slight

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ly and chop all but the inner core and add to bowl.
4. Add the remaining 2 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil and toss lettuce to coat.
5. Add dressing, cheese and salt. Mix well.
6. Divide among 4 bowls and garnish with more fresh-grated Parmesan

From Mad Fox Brewing new Executive Chef Andrew Dixon, we have:

Flame Grilled Oysters

Shuck enough large Virginia oysters to feed a crowd. Top the shucked oysters with garlic butter, grated Parmesan cheese, and bread crumbs. Grill over high heat until the butter simmers and the edges become golden brown. Serve with French bread.

From Tracy O’Grady Chef and Owner of Willow, we have two choices of grilled flatbread: the world famous Willow, which features sauté mushrooms which you can get at the Falls Church Farmers Market or Barbecue Chicken flatbread.

If you still would like to have chicken, burgers or steak, I recommend the Gypsy Mill rubs available at the Local Market.


Season 4 of Falls Church Farmers Market Chef Kicks Off

April 29, 2012 by · 1 Comment 

Falls Church Times Staff
April 29, 2012

The cold and chilly morning did not dampen the kick off of the fourth year of the Falls Church Farmers Market Chef. Willow Restaurant’s Tracy O’Grady and Kate Jensen all bundled up prepared a sweet and savory pairing of ricotta pancakes topped with sautéed asparagus and roasted strawberries. And while many thought that the morning would not be a success as the sun decided to hide behind some clouds shortly after 8am, you could tell it was another success by the more than 500 ricotta pancakes served by 10:30am.

Tracy chose the pairing of the asparagus and strawberries to show consumers that with a little creativity you can create savory or sweet dishes to highlight local seasonal food. The asparagus was blanched for 3- 4 minutes and then sautéed in butter with salt and pepper. The strawberries were trimmed and then roasted. To roast the strawberries, you wash and trim them, toss them in white balsamic vinegar and then place them on a shallow baking dish at 250 degrees in the oven for an hour. Roasting intensifies the sweet flavor to the strawberries which sets off the savory of the asparagus.

The ricotta pancakes were very light and Tracy recommends using the farmers’ market ricotta rather than the commercial ricotta as the farmers’ market variety is sweeter and lighter. The commercial ricotta due to the preservatives will have much more of a sour taste. The pancakes are super easy to make and can be used as an appetizer or a light lunch. The recipe can be found on the Farmers Market Chef website.

It is always a pleasure having Tracy O’Grady as part of the Falls Church Farmers’ Market Chef demo as she has so many fans in the local community due to the many organizations she and Willow support. Willow is also a favorite of many of the local community for a dining experience and it is a treat to get to see Tracy and Kate in action. What is also very special is the Curtin family tradition of supporting local chefs and Ciara Curtin donning her chefs toque to help out with the line and dress the pancakes with the roasted strawberries.

The next Falls Church Farmers Market Chef will be on Saturday, May 19th featuring Chef Bertrand Chemel.

SATURDAY 4/28: Farmers Market Chef Demo with Tracy O’Grady

On Saturday April 28, the Farmers Market Chef demonstration will feature Willow Restaurant’s Tracy O’Grady creating a seasonal favorite with the produce in the market.  This time Tracy will be doing Asparagus Crepes with Ricotta Mousse and Sauteed Strawberries.  As with all Falls Church Farmers Market Demonstrations, recipes and tasting will be available from 9am to 11am at 300 Park Avenue in Falls Church City.  Recipes also can be found at

FOOD: Exploring Options in Early Spring Farmer’s Market – Cabbage

By Claire McConnell
April 20, 2012
Special to Falls Church Times

Exploring the Falls Church farmer’s market in April can be a little tricky. The more common vegetables are out of season, and you’re left with lots of root veggies and dark, leafy greens. And after eating root vegetables and leafy greens for the last three months, it’s challenging thinking of new and exciting ideas with the same produce. But on a recent visit, I saw a beautiful, large head of cabbage; a vegetable that is usually under-appreciated for its versatility.

When most people think of cabbage, they usually think of two things: over-dressed coleslaw or some overcooked mush served with corned beef.  Unfortunately, cabbage has become somewhat of an afterthought, a poor-man’s side dish if you will. But cabbage is an incredibly versatile vegetable that when utilized properly has incredible flavor. Cabbage also is an excellent source of vitamin C and folic acid and is a good source of potassium and B6. It is extremely low in fat, calories and carbohydrates, but high in fiber. Cabbage is said to have cancer-inhibiting properties and has been used for centuries as an anti-diarrheal and as an antibiotic for stomach ulcers.  But best of all, cabbage is very inexpensive. Most stores usually charge around 30 cents per pound. Even organic cabbage tends to be fairly inexpensive.

This recipe for Golabki (go’wompki), or stuffed cabbage, stemmed from a conversation I had with my grandma, who apparently use to make them for her family years ago. Golabki is a traditional Polish dish made from boiled cabbage leaves, stuffed with ground pork and seasoned rice and baked in a tomato-cream sauce. This dish is a twist on the classic and perfect for chilly spring nights, and even though it may already feel like summer has arrived, it will still taste delicious.

Three of the ingredients for this dish are from the Falls Church farmers market. The cabbage is from Sunnyside Farm and Orchard, in Charlestown, W.V., The grass-fed ground beef is from Smith Meadows Farm in Berryville, Va., And the apples are from Black Rock Orchard in Lineboro, Md.

Equipment: 1 medium skillet, 1 medium saucepan, 1 large stockpot and 1 9 X 13 baking dish.

1 cup long-grain white rice — $0.73

2 cups water — $0.00

1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil — $0.05

½ medium onion – small dice — $0.37

3 garlic cloves – minced — $0.07

1-pound ground beef (I used no hormone added, grass-fed) — $7.55

1 Tbsp smoked paprika — $0.04

1 large head of cabbage, around 5-7 pounds — $2.00

1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil — $0.05

½ medium onion – small dice — $0.37

1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes — $1.49

1 tbsp. smoked paprika — $0.04

1 cinnamon stick — $0.12

1 large apple, such as golden delicious – cut into ½ inch dice — $0.69

¼ cup golden raisins — $0.38

½ cup sour cream — $0.60

Chopped parsley — $0.16

Total cost of entire meal = $14.71

Okay, so this recipe has more than a handful of steps, but isn’t as difficult as it seems. Just make sure to read the entire recipe before getting started.

Cook off the rice like you usually would. I always use a 2 to 1 ratio, but it’s best to follow the directions on the package. Allow the rice to completely cool and then set it aside for later.

For the beef mixture, heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in a skillet, add onion and sauté until translucent — about five minutes. Add garlic and sauté for an additional 1-minute. Add ground beef and cook until no raw pieces remain. Season with smoked paprika, salt and pepper and allow the mixture to completely cool.

For the cabbage, start off by bringing a large stockpot to a boil. With a small pairing knife, cut the inner core out of the cabbage, so as the cabbage boils the leaves will easily peel off.  Plunge the whole head of cabbage into the boiling water and allow it to boil for about five minutes. After five minutes, the leaves should begin to peel back, soften and feel pliable. Remove 12 -14 large leaves from the cabbage and dry them on towels. Allow the leaves to cool completely.

For the sauce, heat 1 tbsp. of olive oil and add onion and sauté until translucent — about five minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes, smoked paprika, and cinnamon stick. Cook over medium heat until the sauce has reduced and the flavors have combined — about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and add diced raw apple and golden raisins. Remove the cinnamon stick. Season the sauce with salt and pepper and then set it aside.

Now that all the steps are complete, you are ready for stuffing. Mix the plain rice and the ground beef mixture together until well combined. Season mixture with salt and pepper if necessary. Take each cabbage leaf and cut a V-shape where the bottom core is to help aid with stuffing (reference the picture above.) Put about 1/3 cup of the mixture in each leaf and roll tightly like you would a burrito.

Cover the bottom of your baking dish with about ½ cup of sauce. Add each finished rolled cabbage bundle into your sauced baking dish (reference picture below.) Cover the stuffed cabbage with remaining sauce and cover pan with aluminum foil. Bake the stuffed cabbage in a pre-heated *350 oven for 90 minutes. This may seem like a long time, but the cabbage needs this long to cook to become soft and fork tender.

Top each finished stuffed cabbage portion with 2 tbsp. of sour cream and a sprinkle of chopped parsley.

Makes 10-12 stuffed cabbage rolls.

Claire’s Culinary Connection

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.

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

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