Seasonal Cooking with Rita Calvert~The Local Cook

Cheers to a happy and delicious 2011 of eating locally, seasonally and sustainably! This is the time to renew those good  intentions for a healthy, vibrant new year. I’ve compiled a list of pertinent food predictions for the new year which surpasses the tiki bar and cupcake issues but tells us some real food information.

Meat Moves to the Side of the Plate

There is a trend towards eating less meat and even thinking of it as a garnish. School districts are embracing the movement and in my upcoming, The Grassfed Gourmet Fires It Up, my co-author, Michael Heller and I recommend eating 100% pastured meat and poultry while eating smaller portions of it. We'll explain why. Consider the slider-that luscious little burger!

Chefs Undertake Valiant Effort to Make Local, Sustainable Food Available

Rob Weland, is the executive chef of Poste Moderne Brasserie in Washington, D.C. Chef Weland grows approximately 20 percent of what the restaurant uses in the restaurant's onsite courtyard garden, as well as composts about 40,000 pounds of food a year. He is on a campaign to see good, clean fair food for all. We salute you, Chef Weland.

Humane Foods

Cage-free poultry, 100% pastured beef, lamb, pork and goat are all part of the consumer awareness for making sure the animal is treated fairly with a pleasant life as nature intended. This trend is predicted to surpass organic.



This is truly going retro to antiquity. Beyond the farmers market and food with a farmers face is the new chef perusing the forest for wild mushrooms, berries, thistle and nettles. Purslane is another and those wine berries growing along the road-go for it!


Foodtrucks and Pop-Up Cafes

If you follow the food news in national newspaper food sections and magazines, you’ve been entertained by the plethora of movable/portable cuisine of 2010. Well, it’s not about to stop now. You may have read about those so-called underground dinners which circumvent the pricy restaurant real estate as well as the codes and conditions. It’s a real challenge to keep afloat in a fixed restaurant in this economy but these new food gypsies keep movin’ and stay in touch via Facebook and Twitter. Time will tell!


Beyond the seasonal farmers markets are the permanent halls of food which are so prevalent in Europe. Yippee, it’s coming to our region! Irish born, Cathal Armstrong of Restaurant Eve is opening
Society Fair in Alexandria, Virginia spring 2011. He is an awarded advocate of the local food movement.


Cooking with Locally Sourced Food at Home

No surprise here! The movement continues and I just ask why did it ever go away?


Urban Wineries

Wineries within the city are predicted as an upcoming trend. Hello upscale wining school. Sounds like a good time in a ‘make your own vintage’ school for the grape lover.  This not only makes the wine a signature for the winery but enables you to create your own designer label.


Ethnic Foods Continues

Korean cuisine is predicted to be the next  offshore food of choice. Kimchee and ribs anyone?


Food Crafting

The food artisan is hot news-be it wine, cheese, and the simplicity of good things made in small batches. The gems of these food entrpreneurs are often incredibly simply yet overflowing with quality ingredients. TaTa mass production!     Being a mustard maven myself, I salute you-it takes dedication!


Hello Sweets!

What’s not to love about the sweet potato?  Cited as the veggie for 2011, this vibrant orange to yellow spud is both heart-healthy and satisfying. It’s loaded with beta carotene and fiber, the price affordable, is available year ‘round, can be stored in the root cellar, has little waste, the kids love it and is simple to prepare.


Showcasing the Sweets!


Curried Sweet Potato Dip

Yields about 3 cups

The spices of the dish along with the coconut milk resonate of flavors from southern India. The recipe is extremely simple and makes one think of new flavor profiles for the sweet potato.



  • 2 medium sweet potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 scallions, chopped fine
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 small fresh jalapeño chile, seeded and chopped fine
  • 2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1-2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • Garnish: 1/4 cup plain thick yogurt, additional chopped scallions, additional curry powder


Preheat oven to 400° F.


Prick potatoes with a fork and place on a baking sheet bake in middle of oven for about 1 hour, or until very soft. Cool potatoes slightly and scoop flesh into a bowl.


In a food processor purée potatoes with remaining ingredients except yogurt. Serve dip with crostini, flatbread and crudités.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Olives

Serves 4

As a side dish or salad this dish can become a full blown entree with the addition of a bit of lamb, ground turkey, beef or poultry. The contrasting flavors of the salty olives, spicy hot sauce and sugary sweet potatoes is superb.



  • 3 medium sweet potatoes
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced
  • Dash Sriracha Thai hot sauce
  • 1 teaspoon roasted cumin seed, ground
  • 1 teaspoon roasted coriander seed, ground
  • juice of 1 medium lemon
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 12-14 small stuffed green olives, halved
  • 1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.


Peel the sweet potatoes and cut them into 2″ cubes and place them on a greased sheet pan. Toss with one tablespoon of the olive oil.


Bake on top rack of hot oven for about 35-40 minutes, until golden brown.

Place the roasted potatoes in a bowl and while still warm add the remaining ingredients except the parsley. Toss gently and let come to room temperature and then toss in parsley.


Serve immediately.

Baby Spinach, Sweet Potato Salad, Walnut, Blue Cheese Salad with Maple Vinaigrette

Serves 6

For the vinaigrette


  • 2 tablespoons minced shallot
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste



  • 6 cups baby spinach
  • 2 cups cubed roasted sweet potatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups cubed fresh pear or apple
  • 1 cup walnut halves, toasted
  • 6 tablespoons crumbled bleu cheese


Whisk first 4 ingredients in a bowl to blend or in a glass jar and shake. Drizzle in the olive oil while continuing to whisk. Season with salt and pepper.


Place the spinach in a large salad bowl. Add the sweet potatoes, fruit, walnuts and drizzle vinaigrette on the salad. Toss well. Sprinkle cheese all over and serve.


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