Heady days for stands with local produce

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These are heady, easy-sell days for vendor stands featuring local produce, where aromas of sweet corn, buckets of cantaloupe and plates of fresh-cut peach slices are more effective marketing tools than any government-run campaign.

Still, Maryland, for example, likes to pat its farmers and vintners on the back with programs such as the Buy Local Challenge week and Maryland’s Best Agriculture.

“Jersey Fresh is the benchmark for this kind of brand recognition,” says Mark S. Powell, chief of marketing and agribusiness development at Maryland’s Department of Agriculture, referring to New Jersey’s 29-year-old program. Maryland’s Best began in 2001.

Other states have had success with this kind of marketing, including Virginia with its Virginia Grown promotion. And Powell figures his state’s efforts are on the right track: According to a 2010 University of Delaware study on brand recognition, Maryland’s Best scored 52.1 percent among consumers surveyed, compared with New Jersey’s 84.1 percent.

Ideas for how to enjoy all that Maryland bounty come together in the form of an online cookbook. Its recipes come from state chefs and farmers, with a select number showcased at an annual cookout hosted by the governor and first lady at Government House in Annapolis. While some are multi-component dishes that might dissuade novice cooks from trying them at home, the variety of seafood, vegetable and fruit options - with wine pairings - is broad enough to see us through September.

Grilled Peach Cobbler with Sage Sweet Corn Ice Cream

6 to 8 servings

We can certainly get behind the way this dish was designed to be presented, by executive chef James Barrett of Azure restaurant in the Westin Annapolis Hotel: ice cream topped with just-off-the-grill cobbler and a drizzle of caramel sauce. But the classic bowl of warm-stuff-with-ice-cream-on-top works fine. The ice cream base needs to be refrigerated for at least 4 hours before processing. Adapted from his recipe featured in the “2013 Maryland Buy Local Cookout Recipes” online cookbook.

For the ice cream:

4 ears of fresh corn

2 cups whole milk

2 cups heavy cream

¾ cup sugar

2 tablespoons fresh sage leaves, stacked, rolled and cut crosswise into thin ribbons

9 large egg yolks, at room temperature

For the cobbler:

6 ripe peaches

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter

8 tablespoons light brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ to ¾ cup homemade or store-bought granola

Slice the kernels off the corncobs, letting them fall into a large saucepan. Cut the cobs into thirds and add them to the pan, along with the milk, cream and ½ cup of the sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, then turn off the heat and remove the cobs. Use an immersion (stick) blender or a blender to puree the corn kernels (working in batches as needed and returning the puree to the pan). Steep for 1 hour, off the heat.

Add the sage and return the pot to the stove. Cook over medium heat until bubbles begin to form at the edges, then turn off the heat.

Whisk together the egg yolks and the remaining ¼ cup of sugar in a heatproof mixing bowl. Add a cup of the corn-sage mixture to the yolks, stirring constantly, to temper the yolks, then pour all the tempered mixture into the saucepan, stirring to incorporate. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until the ice cream base thickens enough to coat the spoon, about 10 minutes.

Pass the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer, pressing down on the solids, which you will then discard. Cool, then cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours to chill thoroughly.

Pour the chilled mixture into an ice cream maker. Process according to the manufacturer’s directions. Transfer the ice cream to an airtight container and press parchment paper against the surface of the ice cream; freeze until firm, at least 4 hours. The yield is about 3½ cups.

Prepare the grill for direct heat. If using a gas grill, preheat to medium (350 F). If using a charcoal grill, light the charcoal or wood briquettes; when they are ready, distribute them evenly over the cooking area. You should be able to hold your hand about 6 inches above the coals for 6 or 7 seconds. Have ready a spray water bottle for taming any flames. Lightly coat the grill rack with oil and place it on the grill.

Have an 8- or 9-inch baking dish at hand that can handle the direct heat of a grill.

Place the peaches cut side down on the grill. Cook uncovered for 10 to 12 minutes, until browned and lightly charred. Transfer to a cutting board to cool for a few minutes, then cut into wedges, arranging them in the baking dish as you work.

Add half of the butter, half of the brown sugar and half of the cinnamon; toss to combine.

Combine the remaining butter, sugar and cinnamon with the granola in a medium bowl; use a fork to blend well. Spread the mixture on top of the peaches, covering them as much as possible. Place on the grill and close the lid; bake until the peaches and granola are golden brown and bubbling, about 15 minutes.

Divide the cobbler among individual bowls. Top each portion with a scoop of the ice cream. Serve right away.

Per serving (cobbler only, based on 8): 200 calories, 1 g protein, 24 g carbohydrates, 12 g fat, 7 g saturated fat, 30 mg cholesterol, 10 mg sodium, 2 g dietary fiber, 20 g sugar

Mint and Sage Lemonade

photoMint and Sage Lemonade.

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Makes 1 gallon (16 servings)

This refreshing take on a summer classic is great on its own for all ages or enhanced with a splash of alcohol for adults. The juice-herb base needs to steep for 3 hours. The lemonade can be refrigerated for up to 3 days, but the herb flavors will diminish. Adapted from Dana Sutton, chef at Evensong Farm in Sharpsburg, Md., featured in the “2013 Maryland Buy Local Cookout Recipes” online cookbook.

1½ cups fresh lemon juice (from 6 to 9 lemons)

12 sprigs mint, preferably different varieties, such as chocolate, apple and spearmint

6 sprigs sage

1 cup sugar

Cool water

Combine the lemon juice and herbs in a nonreactive (glass or plastic) bowl; steep at room temperature for 3 hours.

Pour the juice mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into a 1-gallon pitcher or container, discarding the solids. Stir in the sugar until dissolved, then add enough water to yield 1 gallon of lemonade.

Stir just before serving, over ice.

Per serving: 50 calories, 0 g protein, 14 g carbohydrates, 0 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 0 mg sodium, 0 g dietary fiber, 13 g sugar

Tandoori Beef With Honeydew Tzatziki

6 to 8 servings

Soak at least 8 bamboo skewers in water for at least 30 minutes, or have at least 8 metal skewers at hand. The meat needs to marinate overnight. The tzatziki needs to be refrigerated for at least 30 minutes and up to 3 days before serving. Toast the cumin and coriander seed (together) in a small, dry skillet over medium heat for a minute or two, just until fragrant. Cool completely before grinding.Adapted from “2013 Maryland Buy Local Cookout Recipes” online recipe.

For the beef:

2 cups plain low-fat yogurt

2 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons peanut oil

1½ teaspoons cumin seed, toasted and ground

1½ teaspoons coriander seed, toasted and ground

1½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

2 teaspoons garam masala

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1½ teaspoons kosher salt

4 scallions, trimmed and chopped

2 teaspoons peeled, freshly grated ginger root

¼ cup chopped cilantro

2 pounds beef tenderloin cut into large bite-size pieces

For the tzatziki:

1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded and finely diced

1 cup finely diced honeydew melon

Kosher salt

2 cups plain low-fat yogurt strained (to reduce liquid)

¼cup finely diced red onion

1 medium jalapeño, seeded and minced

Combine the yogurt, honey, peanut oil, cumin, coriander, black pepper, garam masala, turmeric, crushed red pepper flakes, salt, scallions, ginger and cilantro in a gallon-size zip-top bag. Add the meat and seal the bag, pressing out as much air as possible. Massage to coat evenly. Refrigerate overnight.

Prepare the grill for direct heat. If using a gas grill, preheat to medium-high (450 F). If using a charcoal grill, light the charcoal or wood briquettes; when the briquettes are ready, distribute them under the cooking area for direct heat. You should be able to hold your hand about 6 inches above the coals for 3 or 4 seconds. Have ready a spray water bottle for taming any flames. Lightly coat the grill rack with oil and place it on the grill.

While the grill is heating up, make the tzatziki: Combine the cucumber and honeydew in a fine-mesh strainer seated over a bowl. Sprinkle with a teaspoon of salt and use a spoon to work it in. Let the mixture sit for 5 minutes, then press out as much liquid as possible; discard the liquid.

Transfer the cucumber and honeydew to a medium bowl, then add the yogurt, red onion and jalapeño, stirring to incorporate. Taste, and add salt as needed. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. The yield is 3 cups.

Skewer all of the meat and wipe away the marinade as needed; discard the marinade. Place the skewers on the grill; cook (uncovered) for 4 to 6 minutes (for medium-rare), turning them as needed, until the meat is browned and a bit charred on the edges. Transfer to a platter to rest for 5 minutes.

Serve the skewers warm, with dollops of the tzatziki.