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Celebrating Farm-to-Fork Chesapeake: An Autumn Feast

Oct 27, 2015 12:26PM ● By Cate Reynolds
Story and Photography by Rita Calvert

The Menu

Fall Frolic Hard Cider Martinis
Grilled Stone Fruit Salad with Greens, Bacon, and Feta
Rib Eye Steak Pizza with Fresh Mozzarella and Ribbons of Greens
Roasted Pear Plum Crostata

Make shopping at our local farmers markets a habit. Get to know your farmers and their story. Better yet, make a local meal a reason to celebrate in itself. Choose a theme or a holiday and ask each guest to bring a special locally produced dish or drink!

I often find my events waterside, which isn’t too difficult in the Chesapeake Bay region. The autumn season yields some of the finest weather for al fresco farm-to-fork events.

For autumn, let’s turn our attention to hard cider, the fermented alcoholic beverage made from the unfiltered juice of apples. It can be the perfect seasonal stand-in for bubbly or used to make an alluring cocktail. Bourbon, lemon thyme, mint, fresh lime juice, and apple slices all topped off with Great Shoals hard cider. Since this hard cider is aged in whiskey barrels, the fitting complement is bourbon, which lends another layer of rich fall flavor. This drink has all the party cocktail bases covered: it’s not too strong, it’s quite pretty, and it’s not too sweet to drink alongside food.

The star of this “local” show is really the pizza on the grill. As much as we like to explore exciting new recipes, most of us have a special place in our hearts for tradition—and pizza is one of them. If you count pizza among your favorites, you’re not alone. From a culinary perspective, pizza is a straightforward dish. Rustic (especially from the grill) and soul-satisfying. It even appeals to kids. Even better, it’s food that you can eat with your hands, which makes it convenient—anytime and anyplace—comfort food. Just start with the finest locally-sourced ingredients, a tamed flame, and let the sumptuous fun begin.

You can’t deny that a grilled pizza, crusty and smoky from a live fire, is one of the most tantalizing dishes imaginable. The preparation can be complex, but doesn’t have to be. Practice, practice, practice and find a grill stone or pan that works for you, which makes dealing with the dough easier. After that…it’s a carefree experience. (Note: I have listed a few farms in each recipe next to more difficult-to-find ingredients.)



Hard Cider Martini

Per cocktail

  • Fresh lemon thyme sprigs
  • Fresh mint sprigs
  • 1 jigger bourbon (1 ounce)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
  • Hard cider, about 1/2 cup (Great Shoals Wine and Hard Cider)
  • Fresh apple slices

Have the hard cider very chilled. In a shaker, muddle the lemon thyme and mint. Pour in the hard cider, bourbon, and fresh lime juice. Add ice cubes and shake. Strain into a martini glass and garnish with apple slices, lemon zest, and sprigs of thyme and mint.



Grilled Stone Fruit Salad with Greens, Bacon, and Feta

Serves 4

If you haven’t tried grilled peaches, nectarines, or apricots, you have a blissful taste experience coming. All of the textures marry beautifully with the bacon, adding a small crunch, and the feta finishes the flavor profile, along with the fresh greens.

  • 4 cups fresh lettuce greens, arugula, sorrel, and spinach
  • 4 peaches, halved
  • 1/4 pound nitrate free bacon (P.A. Bowen Farmstead), cooked and cut into 1/2-inch squares
  • 1/3 cup feta cheese, crumbled (Caprikorn Farms)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons lemon juice

Prepare grill to medium-high heat. Grill peach halves on direct heat, about 3–5 minutes or until a light char has formed, then remove to plate. When the fruit is grilled, toss the greens with the prepared olive oil and lemon juice, then crumble the feta on top. Add the bacon and then the still-warm peaches, letting their juices seep down into the lettuce. (If there are any extra juices on the peach plate after grilling, add those too.)



Rib-Eye Steak Pizza with Fresh Mozzarella and Ribbons of Greens

Serves 4

Pizza cooked on the grill may be an entirely new venture for you, but it’s a delightful skill to master. When you’re done you will feel like you’ve taken a culinary standard and made something earthy and original out of it. Freeform and natural is the way to go—you don’t want that production-line look with symmetrical crusts and mathematically spaced toppings.

As in all grilled pizza recipes, you may need to transfer the pizza back and forth from direct to indirect heat until you have conquered the balance. Here, balance means golden brown dough, nicely melted cheese, warm toppings, and nothing seared dry. You are actually learning the artisan technique…you need to feel the cooking process.

Bok choy, related to cabbage (of the crucifer family), is loaded with nutrients and cancer fighting antioxidants. It works beautifully roasted on top of a pizza. This delightful recipe can be used as an appetizer, lunch, or dinner. The olive oil-tossed bok choy adds a deliciously rich flavor to the ingredients. This is a fast grilled pizza because the dough has been partially baked. You actually can build the pizza before putting it on the grill.

  • 1 twelve-inch par-baked pizza shell
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 8 ounces grilled rare beef (rib-eye is divine), cut into 1/2-inch-wide strips
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced (Blue Ridge Dairy, Sterling, Virginia)
  • Mixed finely chopped fresh herbs of your choice
  • 2 cups fresh bok choy ribbons tossed with extra-virgin Olive oil
  • 1/3 cup shredded Parmesan

Prepare grill to medium-high heat. Brush the oil and garlic onto the pizza shell. Sprinkle the meat strips over, follow with slices of the mozzarella, and sprinkle the herb mix over the cheese. Top with the bok choy, and then the Parmesan.

Place the pizza directly over the heat for 2–4 minutes to brown the bottom. Move the pizza to the indirect-heat side of grill and close the lid. Continue grilling until the cheese melts and the crust crisps (about 2 minutes). Sprinkle with a bit more of the herb mixture. Cut, serve, and enjoy.



Pear & Plum Crostata with Mascarpone

Serves 8

Fall fruits perfumed with citrus, fresh ginger root, and spice top a remarkable filling. If making the pastry shell is too tedious, use a quality purchased pie crust.

  • 2 firm-ripe pears (1 lb. total)
  • 4 plums
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • Zest of 1 lemon, plus 2 tablespoons fresh juice
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped, peeled fresh ginger
  • Dash cinnamon

Place ingredients in a medium bowl and toss. Let sugar “melt” while preparing pastry.

Pastry Shell
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 6 to 8 tablespoons ice water
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten

Whisk together flour, salt, and 2 tablespoons sugar in a large bowl. Blend in butter with your fingertips or a pastry blender (or pulse in a food processor) until mixture resembles coarse meal. Drizzle evenly with 6 tablespoons ice water and gently stir with a fork (or pulse) until incorporated. Squeeze a small handful: If dough doesn’t hold together, add more ice water to dough, 1 tablespoon at a time, stirring (or pulsing) until just combined. (Do not overwork mixture, or pastry will be tough.)

Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 6 portions. With heel of your hand, smear each portion once or twice in a forward motion to help distribute fat. Gather all of dough together with scraper and press into a ball, then flatten into a disk. Chill dough, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, until firm, at least 1 hour. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin into a 14-inch round, then fit into tart pan (do not trim).

Brown Sugar Filling
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup confectioner sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 375°F. Put a large flat baking sheet in middle of oven to catch any drips. Beat together butter and sugars in a large bowl using an electric mixer at high speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in vanilla. Reduce speed to low, then add flour and a pinch of salt and mix until just combined. Spread evenly in pastry shell.

Assemble and bake pastry by scattering roasted fruit with any juices over filling. Fold edge of pastry over filling to partially cover (center won’t be fully covered). Pleat dough as necessary. Brush folded pastry edge lightly with egg and sprinkle with remaining tablespoon sugar. Bake on preheated baking sheet until filling is puffed and set, and pastry is golden brown, 50–60 minutes. Cool to warm, about 1 1/2 hours. Remove side of tart pan and slide crostata onto a plate. Garnish and serve.

  • Mascarpone sweetened with a bit of confectioners’ sugar

  • Pastry shell can be chilled up to 1 day
  • Fruit can be roasted 1 day ahead and chilled, covered
  • Crostata can be baked 6 hours ahead and kept (in tart pan) at room temperature


With a deeply rooted passion for nature and food, Rita will travel to any small sustainable farm to explore the local family, experience the produce and talk to the critters. The explorer in her loves to share the integrity of an exceptional meal produced by those who raise the food and skillfully turn it into art. She writes, photographs, and blogs of international Farm-to-Fork experiences from Turkey, the Nordics, and Spain to her home turf in the Chesapeake Bay region.