Food as Art for Celebrating


Seasonal Cooking with Rita Calvert~The Local Cook

After all, the holidays are about conveying your heritage…showing off your best skills using creativity with local foods from your region. Even if you pick one item to put all your effort into-go for it. So, for my region, I created a gem that encompasses local number one ingredient- blue crab along with tiny potatoes, onions and what else can you say since Baltimore is the capital of the world for–mayonnaise!

The next two recipes are from my repertoire of crowd pleasers. The Cheese Lace Wafers can also be made with a locally produced cheese as long as it is firm enough to grate but not dry and crumbly. Bruschetta seems to be the generic hors d’oeuvre (or topping on toast) so you can take it in any direction that embellishes your party.

Crab Stuffed Mini Spuds

Makes 24

  • 12 (2-inch) tiny redskin or Yukon gold potatoes
  • 3/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
  • 1/2 cup green onions, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped frozen artichoke hearts, finely chopped
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 pound backfin crabmeat, picked of any shells or cartilage
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • Italian parsley leaves for garnish
  • Preheat oven to 400 F.

Add the whole potatoes and bake about 25 minutes or until soft when pierced with a fork. Remove until cool enough to handle.
While the potatoes bake, in a medium bowl, mix the Worcestershire, Old Bay,  green onions, artichoke hearts and mayonnaise. Gently fold in crabmeat and half of the Parmesan.
Cut the potatoes in half lengthwise. With a tiny rounded spoon, scoop out a small well in the center of the potato. This center can be chopped and added to the crab mixture. Mound the crab mixture iin the well of each potato and place on a sheet pan. Sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan cheese and a dash of Old Bay.
Return to the 400 F oven and bake another 15 minutes until golden. Let cool slightly and garnish with parsley leaf.



Cheese Lace Wafers

In Italy cheese crisps are called frico, which are traditionally thin, crispy, lace-like wafers about 3 inches in diameter and made of a quality firm cheese. Recommended cheeses include Asiago, Parmesan-Reggiano and other firm but not dry aged varieties.

This recipe calls for grating your own cheese and make sure to create long shreds for the lacy effect. You can add some spices such as coarsely ground pepper or the seeds mentioned below. I have also made the Lace Wafers with nuts included. Above all, make these wafers on a day with low humidity and also store in a very dry cool place. The wafers can be reheated briefly at 350 degrees to crisp again and dry out any moisture.

Makes about 15 wafers

  • 1/4 pound  firm but not dry cheese (I used Talbot Reserve from Chapel Creamery) or high quality Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
  • optional: add fennel seeds, a little cumin or caraway seeds

Preheat oven to 400 F. Prepare a baking pan by lining with a Silpat nonstick sheet or parchment paper and spray lightly with cooking spray.

Grate cheese on the large holes of a box grater. Sprinkle with black pepper.

Place level tablespoons of cheese on baking sheet and spread slightly, with spoon or spatula. Do not crowd as they should not touch.

Bake on middle rack of oven for 6-8 minutes or until just golden brown.

Let rest a moment on the pan, then gently remove onto paper towels to cool.

Crisps can be prepared two days ahead and stored in an airtight container, in single layers between wax paper at room temperature.



Mediterranean Bruscetta Triangles

Serves 8 as an hors d’oeuvres

To Make bruschetta:

  • 1 (1-pound) baguette, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices and then trimmed into triangles, if desired
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano

For Topping:

  • 1 cup fresh wild arugula leaves, very finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped kalamata olives
  • 2 small green onions, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons freshly chopped basil leaves
  • 8 ounces sheep Feta cheese, crumbled
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 whole roasted red bell pepper, chopped for garnish

Preheat oven to 375F.

Drizzle the bread with the olive oil and place on a sheet pan and bake about 10-12 minutes until golden and crisp. Remove from oven and sprinkle with oregano.

In a medium bowl, combine arugula, olives, green onions, basil, Feta, salt and pepper.

Place Feta mixture on top of the bread, garnish with red bell pepper and serve.


A Top Ten for 2010 for the Local Food Hub from Charlottesville

As the year draws to a close, many are the superlative lists for 2010. Many of us turn our focus  to the positive progress of local sustainable food in our region. Virginia has eight Buy Fresh Buy Local chapters which are making remarkable strides to connect folks with their farmers and provide access to this food for the under served. Here is the impressive list from a group in Charlottesville.

Top 10 Favorite Things that Local Food Hub Did in 2010:

10. Moved more than 45,000 pounds of local watermelons.

Oh, my aching back!  This one speaks for itself. Our warehouse moved more than 45,000 pounds of watermelons grown by local farmers this summer.  You folks like your melons!

9. Hosted the Southwood Photography Project.

Turning loose a group of kids armed with cameras on a farm has never been so fun.  Check out a firsthand account of the day and view a slide show.  Oh, did I mention they made a book?!

8. Benefited from a Dave Matthews concert.

Thanks to the generosity and creative thinking of our hometown rock stars and their adoring fans, this concert raised more than $75,000 for Local Food Hub.  What an impact.

7. Graduated three apprentices and four high school interns.

Brian, Sarah and Tess spent eight months living and working (and sweating) at Maple Hill. And our interns, oh where do we start?

6. Garnered some pretty excellent national attention.

USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan toured our warehouse.  NRCS Chief Dave White visited the farm.  Know Your Farmer Know Your Food wrote about usTom Philpott came to see us, and we got a shout-out in the WaPo. We’re making waves, people!

5. Supplied more than 45 schools with fresh fruits and vegetables.

We deliver fresh fruits and vegetables to schools in Albemarle and Greene County, the City of Charlottesville, three UVA dining halls, St. Anne’s Belfield and Charlottesville Day School. And during Farm to School week, more than 11,000 kids had the option of a fresh, local lunch.  Yum.

4. Partnered with Boys & Girls Club to host pop-up farmers markets.

These farmers markets, hosted weekly in the Southwood Mobile Home Park, are helping to get fresh, healthy food into traditionally under served neighborhoods, also called food deserts.  We’re expanding the program in the spring to include the Cherry Avenue neighborhood!

3. Donated more than 50,000 pounds of produce to food banks.

We think everyone deserves access to fresh, healthy food grown in their community. That’s why we donate 5% of warehouse sales and 25% of food grown on our farm to places like the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank, the Haven and Bread of Life.

2. Inspired Perry Foundation to double your gift.

Thanks to some creative thinkers at this local foundation, every gift we receive between now and the end of 2010 will be matched, dollar for dollar.  These funds keep our truck on the road, our farmers in business, and fresh food in your community. Please help us take advantage of this opportunity by donating today.


1. Delivered more than $460,000 worth of local fruits, vegetables and eggs from 50 family farms to more than 100 buyers.

In just 15 months, we’ve delivered almost half a million dollars worth of local food to our hospitals, schools, restaurants and grocery stores. That’s food that was originally being shipped in from out of state; money that’s staying right here in our local economy; and fresh healthy food for our kids, our families and our community.

Congratulations Charlottesville, and thanks to all the big thinkers that have supported our efforts so far.  You made this entire list possible!

The Local Food Hub is non-profit service organization located in Charlotesville, VA, working to strengthen and secure the future of a healthy regional food supply by providing small, local farmers with concrete services that support and advance their economic vitality and promote stewardship of the land.