BREAD & BEAUTY: A YEAR IN MONTGOMERY COUNTY’S AGRICULTURAL RESERVE
Listen to the Big Blend Radio interview with Claudia Kousoulas and Ellen Letourneau who discuss their new cookbook “Bread and Beauty” that’s inspired by local farming in Montgomery County’s Agricultural Reserve in Maryland. Then try their Plum Upside-Down Cake recipe, that’s featured in the summer collection of recipes in the book.
Montgomery County, Maryland’s 93,000-acre Agricultural Reserve is a nationally recognized model of farmland and open space preservation, and a thriving diverse place. From this remarkable act of stewardship, especially in the face of intense development pressure in the Washington, DC area, the Reserve has generated clean air and water, natural habitat, diverse jobs, a connected community and lots of good, local food.
Independent writer, Claudia Kousoulas and producer, Ellen Letourneau have created more than a cookbook. Its recipes, profiles, essays and photographs trace the Reserve’s history, but also the contemporary challenges faced by family farms trying to establish a new generation, new farmers seeking land and markets, and the shared community efforts required to preserve this special place.
“We knew there were great stories out here,” said Letourneau “and that we’d have no shortage of material.” Kousoulas agrees, pointing out that there’s also no shortage of Reserve food on the table. “People might be surprised how much food is grown in the Reserve, almost an entire menu.”
The book’s more than 120 recipes are inspired by this local bounty as well as by historic foodways and recipes. They are arranged seasonally, to guarantee you can eat the best food all year long. More at www.BreadandBeauty.org
Plum Upside-Down Cake Recipe in “Bread & Beauty”
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp mace
¼ tsp ground dried ginger
1 stick unsalted butter, divided
¾ cup sugar
6 plums, halved and pitted
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp brandy
Serves 6 to 8
Pineapple upside-down cakes are brilliant, but why not vary them with seasonal fruit? Caramelized fruit and a lightly spiced batter, cooked casually in your skillet works all year round. But don’t dawdle over unmolding the cake—the sugar will harden and make it hold the cake in the skillet.
In a small bowl, blend the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, mace, and ginger. Set aside.
In an 8-inch cast iron skillet, melt together 2 tablespoons of butter and ¼ cup of the sugar. Swirl to evenly cover the bottom of the pan and place the plum halves, cut-side down, evenly in the pan.
Mix together the remaining 6 tablespoons of butter and ½ cup of sugar until creamy. Beat in the egg and vanilla.
Stir the brandy and milk together. Add half the flour mixture to the batter, mix until incorporated. Add the milk and brandy, mix again, and then add the remaining flour to make a smooth batter.
Spoon the batter over the plums and smooth gently. Bake at 350° for 30 to 35 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.
Run a knife around the edge of the cake, let it cool for five minutes, then unmold it by placing a plate over the skillet and quickly flipping it. Re-set any dislodged fruit. Serve with Buttermilk Whipped Cream.
To make Buttermilk Whipped Cream, whip together ½ cup heavy cream, ¼ cup buttermilk, 1 tablespoon sugar, and ¼ tsp vanilla extract until it forms soft peaks. Boil your skillet clean to gently remove the baked sugar.