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Eating at Mother Nature’s Table

She’s ringing the dinner bell

If ever you’re going to eat local, now’s the time.

            The miracle of the resurrection of vegetable from seed is on full display. Apricots, blueberries, cantaloupe, corn, cucumbers, garlic, green beans, herbs, okra, onions, peaches, peppers, raspberries, squash, tomatoes, watermelon and zucchini are popping from stalk, tree and vine in Mother Nature’s midsummer magic show.

            In the barnyard, hens are laying, cows are milking and animals are laying down their lives to feed us such delicacies as these Maryland chefs and farmers concocted for the 2018 Maryland Buy Local Cookout.

            Slow-Roasted Pork Belly on Cornbread Crostini with Peach Compote, and Black and Blue Goat Cheese …

            Dawson’s Lamb T-Bone with Ratatouille and White Bean Gratin …

            Slow Cooked Baby Back Ribs with Berry Bourbon BBQ Sauce … and

            First Lady Yumi Hogan’s Kimchi Burgers.

            The annual Buy Local Cookout Recipes is an inspiring source of new dishes, each produced by chefs and farmers for the governor’s annual July cookout. From this year’s lineup, I’ve chosen three irresistible recipes, one featuring cheese, another beef and one more Maryland crab.

            Find many more recipes in cookbooks from this year back through 2009 at


Eastern Shore Ham and Cheese Sweet Potato Biscuits

Chef Linda Brown from the Talbot County Public Schools Culinary Programs created this delicious tea or party sandwich.


Sweet Potato Biscuits

3 cups sweet potatoes, mashed

3 tablespoons yeast

3⁄4 cup water warmed

2 teaspoons sugar

71⁄2 cups flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 tablespoon salt

11⁄2 cups sugar

1 cup shortening

1⁄2 cup margarine or butter

            Dissolve yeast in warm water with two teaspoons of sugar. Let sit for approximately five minutes for yeast to grow. Warm mashed sweet potatoes to 110 degrees then combine with yeast mixture and set aside. Sift the dry ingredients together. Cut in shortening and margarine/butter to a coarse crumb. Stir in sweet potato mixture. Knead until smooth. Cover and let rise in a bowl in a warm place for 40 minutes. Roll out dough on a floured surface to approximately 1⁄2 inch thickness. Cut a dozen biscuits with desired cutter and place on a baking sheet, lined with parchment paper. Let rise for 15 minutes in a warm place. Bake at 375 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes. Biscuits will be thin.


Honey Butter Spread

4 ounces butter, softened

3 tablespoons honey

1 tablespoon mustard

            Blend ingredients in a small bowl



Roasted ham, sliced Artisan cheese cut to desired thickness; a local blue cheese was particularly good.

            Spread a small amount of honey butter on a cooled biscuit. Stuff biscuit with ham and cheese.


Crab and Tomato Duo

Chef David Wells of Evolution Craft Brewing Company & Public House of Wicomico County laid butter-sautéed Softshell Crab on a Corn Ragu.



1⁄4 cup shallots minced

1⁄2 cup fish peppers, diced

1⁄4 stick unsalted butter

1⁄2 cup chicken stock

3 cups of fresh corn, shucked

1⁄2 pound lump crabmeat

1 tablespoon chives, chopped

Salt and pepper, to taste

            Sweat the shallots in a tablespoon of butter, then add corn, peppers, and chicken stock. Cover and simmer until corn is tender. Add crabmeat, herbs and 1⁄4 stick of butter. Season to taste and reserve for later.


Tomato Coulis and Pickled Tomatoes

3 pints heirloom cherry tomatoes

1⁄2 cup sherry vinegar

1 tablespoon sugar

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1⁄2 cup chicken stock

2 teaspoons tarragon

2 teaspoons thyme

1⁄2 teaspoon salt

            Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Bring vinegar, salt, and sugar to a boil and pour over one pint of tomatoes. With the other two pints, toss with olive oil and half of the herbs. Roast in oven until the skin blisters. Remove and blend with two tablespoons of butter. Add chicken stock to adjust thickness and season to taste. Reserve for later use.


Soft Crabs

4 jumbo softshell crabs, prepared

1⁄2 stick unsalted butter

            Heat frying pan over medium heat. Add butter and cook until it begins to brown. Season soft crabs with salt and pepper and add to pan, be careful not to splash the hot butter. Cook over medium heat for two to three minutes per side, turning as needed so the crabs don’t burn. They should be a bright brick color when done.

            Divide the ragu over four plates and top with a soft crab. Drizzle with tomato coulis. Garnish each plate with a few of the pickled tomatoes.


Slow Cooked Baby Back Ribs with Berry Bourbon BBQ Sauce


Dry Rub and Ribs

6 slabs baby back ribs

11⁄2 pounds brown sugar

11⁄2 tablespoons paprika

11⁄2 tablespoons granulated garlic

11⁄2 tablespoons granulated onion

21⁄2 tablespoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

1⁄2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

            Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In mixing bowl, mix all dry ingredients. Pat ribs dry. Using paring knife, score back of ribs to prevent warping during cooking. Apply rub generously. Lay ribs flat on baking sheet and cover with aluminum foil. Cook ribs for 31⁄2 hours, rotating 11⁄2 hours into cooking for even browning. The bones should be showing and meat be soft to the touch.


BBQ Sauce

3⁄4 cup white onion, chopped

1⁄4 cup serrano pepper, chopped

1 tablespoon butter, melted

3 cloves of garlic

11⁄2 pounds fresh local berry mix (strawberry, blackberry, raspberry, blueberry)

1⁄2 cup bourbon

1 1⁄4 cup ketchup

1 1⁄4 cup dark brown sugar

1⁄4 cup apple cider vinegar

1⁄4 cup molasses

1⁄4 cup pineapple juice

1⁄4 cup water

11⁄2 tablespoons hickory liquid smoke

1 tablespoon ground mustard

2 teaspoons paprika

1⁄2 teaspoon granulated garlic

1⁄4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 tablespoon tamarind paste

            Prepare BBQ sauce while ribs are cooking. In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium-high heat. Sauté onions, serrano and garlic until brown. Add a pinch of salt for caramelization. Once brown, deglaze with your favorite Maryland bourbon. Once bourbon is reduced, add berries and set heat to low. Cook for six to seven minutes until the sauce has a marmalade-like consistency. Remove from heat and allow sauce to cool before blending. After blending, pass sauce through mesh strainer to remove seeds. Return berry mixture to saucepan and add last of the ingredients. Bring to a simmer for five minutes while occasionally whisking to prevent burning. Once sauce reaches its desired consistency, set aside and let cool.

            Carefully place ribs on hot grill top side-down for extra char and crispiness. Slather with BBQ sauce and serve.