Let’s ‘Stalk’ About It!

Spring is the best time to enjoy asparagus, and while the extended winter weather delayed the local crops rolling into the stores—it will be arriving in the coming weeks—there’s still plenty of the noble green of spring to enjoy. When asparagus is this fresh, use it in abundance! Now is a great time to start challenging yourself to get out of the same old way you both cook and eat asparagus. I know that roasting and grilling are the easiest and most common ways to cook one of America’s favorite spring veggie, but it is amazingly versatile in your kitchen.

My favorite way is raw, shaved with a vegetable peeler as either the base of a salad or as an ingredient in one. Throw chopped asparagus in a stir-fry with some local shiitake mushrooms, or enjoy it is as a simple, puréed soup. With its vibrant green color it just tastes like spring!

Asparagus spears tend to be categorized in 3 sizes—thin, medium, or thick. It’s hard to grill or roast those skinny ones, so use them in sautés, stir-fries, or soup. The larger ones tend to have a mellower, meatier flavor and I like these roasted or grilled. (Make sure you peel them first!) Medium sized spears are pretty versatile so have fun and do a little exploring with your cooking method. We’ve pulled together 5 recipes for you to test out as you Aspire to Asparagus this spring.

Aspire to Asparagus with These 5 Recipes

Nothing says spring like asparagus displayed at our stores! What we love most is that it’s incredibly versatile as its spears can be enjoyed raw, steamed, sautéed, stir-fried, or mixed with vegetables, beans, poultry, or seafood. Another way to devour these delicious stalks is to steam and serve with citrus hollandaise sauce, melted butter, Pecorino Romano, or shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano. From crunchy and satisfying Asparagus Fries to a Hot Asparagus Crab Dip and Spring Asparagus Sauté, DLM’s Chef Carrie has you covered with these 5 recipes to help you Aspire to Asparagus in your kitchen!

1. Asparagus Fries + Garlic Aioli

2. Spring Asparagus Sauté

3. Spring Pea, Asparagus, & Pecorino Salad

4. Shaved Asparagus Salad

5. Cold Asparagus with Hot Crab Dip

Hydroponically Awesome Masterplan Strawberries

When it comes to strawberries, I want it all. I want sweet, juicy flavor with red flesh to the middle of the berry. I want to clearly see every strawberry in the package before I decide to purchase. I want freshness that will last for days. I want my berry grower to understand what real sustainability means, not only with availability of product, but also with preserving water, growing more fruit per acre of land, eliminating the need for pesticides, and creating a great work environment.

David Akahoshi and Ibrahim Elnashar have all this and more with their hydroponically grown berries. David’s father was in the produce business and saw how hard it was on the farmers. He knew there had to be a better way, so they started Masterplan Berries to show just that. I had the privilege of seeing this state-of-the-art facility in Santa Maria, California, where there’s row after row of perfect strawberries. Some just blooming while others were bountiful and red throughout.

DLM’s Dennis Chrisman (right), VP of Produce and DLM Springboro store director, recently visited Masterplan. Masterplan co-founder David Akahoshi’s father was in the produce business and David was determined to explore a different way to enhance the working conditions.

GROWING A BETTER BERRY

Berries in Ohio have always been a challenge as they need cool nights and warm, sunny days—a rare formula here limiting our local season to a few weeks. Santa Maria has the perfect temperatures.

However, when it’s too cold at night, David simply raises the temperature of the water being fed to his plants. The root system is grown in shaved coconut husk, known to be disease resistant and water retentive. With year-round hydroponic growing methods, the berries are protected from pest, wind, disease, drought, flash flooding, and freezing temps, all while using 75% less water in a state that’s water challenged. The berries are field packed in a single layer to protect them from bruising, with each berry seen clearly in the recyclable package.

GOOD PICKINGS

I’ve visited many strawberry fields and can attest to how difficult picking can be. Harvesters bend over for hours 12-18 inches from the ground. The Masterplan system makes it easier and less back-breaking because the system is four feet above the ground. They’re able to pick faster, thus earning a better wage. Typically, berry fields have less than a 25% retention rate. Masterplan is close to 100%, thanks to these improved working conditions.

These stats are wonderful, however you must try them for yourself as they’re full of flavor and beauty. In a world where popular labels are owned by huge corporations, we are buying from David the farmer, and I love that!

DLM 1948 Classic Dark Roast Coffee

We are super excited to introduce this brand new coffee to our lineup. We wanted to capture a throwback, wake up kind of roast that has a fantastic aroma and taste. Perfect for your daily cuppa, 1948 is a classic dark roast coffee that’s as bold and memorable as our treasured history, including that first fateful year in 1948 when our doors opened as a fruit stand on the corner of Dorothy Lane.

Roasted in small batches, this coffee is everything a dark roast should be: smooth, full-bodied, and not bitter. It was fitting to give it our anniversary name. We’ve tried it in a traditional drip coffee maker, Aeropress, pour-over, and French press, and no matter the brewing method you choose, you can count on the DLM signature quality shining through to brighten every morning.

Fish Tacos in 3 Easy Steps

So tasty, so fresh. and so easy to make! Fish tacos can turn any dinner into a party! You can whip them up quickly at home with these 3 easy steps (and a little help from DLM).

Step 1: Stop by our Seafood department and pick up fresh fish, such as halibut, mahi mahi, tilapia, or grouper. Season with your favorite taco seasoning and either grill or pan fry the fish until done.

Step 2: Load up your tacos with DLM Fresh Guacamole, Salsa, or Pico de Gallo. Or see for yourself how easy it is to make your own cabbage slaw with a package of angel hair coleslaw tossed with Terrapin Ridge Farms Cilantro Lime Ranch Dressing and a squeeze of fresh lime. Garnish with crunchy radishes and cilantro.

Step 3: Last, but not least, is the tortilla. Whether you choose corn or flour, crunchy or soft we’ve got you covered. Warm them briefly right before piling with fresh fish and toppings and voilà—dinner is done in no time!

Behind the Scenes at the DLM Bakehouse

Hidden in an un-marked part of our Washington Square shopping center is a secret studio where our bread bakers create their art. Driving around the back of the store at 7 p.m., our bakers are busy getting to work. Perfectly proofing, scoring, and baking bread, rolls, and bagels all night long. This is a studio like none you have ever seen, with buckets of bubbling, gooey sourdough starters, giant mixers, and rotating stone-hearth deck ovens. The Bakehouse is alive and moving nearly 24 hours a day with the mission of providing our stores with the freshest bread possible, delivering product every morning. What we don’t sell from the previous day is donated to various organizations to feed the needy, so that every piece of bread that is placed in the case for sale is always just a few hours old.

Baking is a science that involves many aspects that can affect the final product with the slightest variation. Outside temperature, humidity, water temperature, and even the speed of the mixer can make or break an entire batch of bread. Mixing is where the process starts, and one of the most important steps to achieving great bread. Have you ever been distracted while trying to mix a batch of cookie dough, coming back to the bowl unable to remember what ingredient you put in last? Imagine being responsible for mixing thousands of pounds of dough in a day. It takes skill and concentration to get the dough just right. From the mixing bowl, the dough goes to our group of bench workers where the dough is allowed to gas up with air. It’s punched down and allowed to rise again. It’s then divided into individual sized loaf weights and “first round” begins. This consists of each loaf being given what we call a “rough shape” where the dough is gently rounded and allowed to rest. “Second round” begins with the final shaping of each loaf into the more polished look you see in our Bakery. Seeds or toppings are added to the loaf and it enters its final stage of relaxation prior to being baked. Thanks to our hands-on process, you’ll notice that no two loaves of artisan bread look alike.

If this all seems very time-consuming, it’s because it is! We are very serious about bread and care to do it right, without cutting corners. Sometimes bread doesn’t rise like it should, due to weather or other factors, but our bakers wait until the time is right to place it in the oven. Several of our skilled folks have been baking bread for more than 20 years, and it’s a passion for them. Stop by our Bakery counter and try a sample, take a look at the gorgeous, caramel-colored bread behind the glass, knowing that our associates worked day and night to provide you with the best. Lastly, grab some butter or cheese with an artisan loaf and enjoy!

Drizzle Liberally: How to Make Pesto with Novello

Wondering how to make pesto from scratch? The Fall Harvest Vera Jane’s Novello Extra-Virgin Olive Oil is just the Earthy taste of spring you need and will help you in your pesto pursuits (keep reading for our perfect pesto recipe). In Tuscany, Italy, sits the Zanetti family’s farm, where the olives are grown that are used to make our very own Vera Jane’s Extra-Virgin Olive Oil.

The fruit of their labor is harvested once a year during a small window. Most of the oil will be stored and bottled as needed, but a select amount is sent to us as the first harvest for you to enjoy. We consider this the most exciting oil of the year with its grassy taste that explodes with freshness as it hits your mouth. It’s a special treat, indeed, and only distinguished as Novello for a limited time. What to do with it? Drizzle liberally. Here are a few ideas, including our recipe for perfect pesto.

  1. Drizzle on top of steamed vegetables, pasta, pizza, steak, or DLM Gelato.
  2. Use to lightly fry meats and seafood.
  3. Finish with a little sea salt, freshly ground pepper, or dried herbs and use as a dip for DLM Artisan Bread.
  4. Make bruschetta, a simple vinaigrette, or pesto!

HOW TO MAKE CHEF CARRIE’S PERFECT PESTO RECIPE

3 garlic cloves
½ tsp sea salt, or more to taste
3 oz basil leaves ( about 1 cup packed )
2 Tbsp pine nuts
2 oz Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
½ cup Vera Jane’s Novello Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

USING YOUR FOOD PROCESSOR
Pulse the garlic, salt, and pine nuts until finely minced. Add the basil and pulse until finely minced. Stir in the olive oil and cheese, and adjust seasoning according to taste if needed.

For more of an authentic pesto, use a mortar and pestle for a finer texture.

MORTAR AND PESTLE
Step 1: Combine the garlic salt and grind into a paste.

Step 2: Add the basil a handful at a time and grind in a circular motion; continue until all the basil is crushed.

Step 3: Add the pine nuts and crush into the paste, then grind in the cheese.

Step 4: Slowly drizzle in the olive oil until well incorporated. Ready to eat right away, or place in a covered jar with a small amount of additional olive oil.

PESTO USES

  • Toss with freshly cooked veggies
  • Mix into mayo
  • Drizzle over eggs
  • Smear on bruschetta
  • Dollop on soup

Explore the World at Our Spring Fling Pastry & Food Show

Food, beer, wine and last, but not least, pastries from six different countries make up what we think is aptly named the Spring Fling Pastry & Food Show, coming up 7-9 p.m. Thursday April 19, at DLM Springboro. The event showcases foods from around the world with delectable goodies from not only the United States, but France, South Africa, Belgium, Canada, and England. When you come, you’ll want to make sure you are ready to eat not only pastry, but the food creations we’ll have representing each country.

This event started 14 years ago from a desire to show our guests just how much passion our Pastry Chefs put into making the highest quality desserts possible. DLM is very fortunate to have not one, but two talented pastry chefs. Amy Brown, who attended The French Pastry School in Chicago, and Lindsey Lucas, who has a degree in baking and pastry arts from the Midwest Culinary Institute at Cincinnati State. Together these ladies lead a team of people who meticulously bake and assemble the beautiful pastry and bakery items glistening in our Bakery case at DLM. People peering into the case often exclaim that they are “too pretty to eat.” I always promise them that after the first bite, they will change their mind!

After the first go-round of the show, we kept having the same question asked during the event: “Where is the food? There is just pastry?” So the following year, we added savory food options. We are very fortunate to have DLM’s Culinary Director Chef Carrie Walters to head up the development of the amazing selection of foods you’ll also find at the show. Trust me—you will want to eat one of everything, and maybe even go back for seconds.
In addition to the food and pastry that’ll be filling your plate, look for beer and wine to sample along the way. Don’t be shy—it’s all part of your ticket price. Our spring party this year will be made complete with a Killer Brownie® chocolate fountain.

So join us for our Spring Fling Pastry & Food Show. We look forward to this show all year as a welcome to warmer weather in a cozy environment. In fact, we only sell 150 tickets to keep a more intimate feel (so grab yours today). We look forward to our time together celebrating good food and company. See you there!

Why Buy Organic When it Comes to Flowers?

Customers frequently tell me that while they can understand why choosing organic and locally grown products for their tables makes a difference, they are less particular about why it matters when choosing flowers. So with that question in mind “why does organic matter?”, I spoke to some of our local growers, whose organic local bouquets you’ll see in our stores.

One of the first calls I made was to my longtime friend Leslie Garcia of Peach Mountain Organics located in Spring Valley. She and her husband Doug have been growing flowers and produce organically for more than 30 years. I asked Leslie why she chooses organic farming. “After I read Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, I could not imagine farming any other way,” Leslie says. “It was the first book published that made a clear, meticulously researched case against the use of DDT and the dramatic and dangerous impact pesticides were having on our  environment and wildlife.”

Non-organic farmers may spray and then directly sow seeds in the field. The seedling emerge in a non-competitive environment. “One of my methods is to start seeds in the greenhouse, repotting them after seedling stage, allowing them to grow and become established. Then, I cultivate the ground and set a stronger plant into the bed. This will give it a competitive edge when weeds begin to sprout,” Leslie shares. This method is a successful alternative to using herbicides but requires more labor and materials.

Nellie Ashmore of That Girl’s Flowers, another organic grower whose flowers you’ll find at DLM, agrees. “Non-organic farmers are often able to offer products at a lower price,” Nellie says. “They will use fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides that are not only less expensive but can be applied mechanically. At my farm, I use a wide variety of methods to fertilize and control pests and weeds.” She explains that fish emulsion is an excellent organic fertilizer but that it’s costly and has to be applied by hand. The same is true for the essential oils that she applies to control insects. Nellie also hand cultivates during the growing season to control weeds. So why does organic matter? Besides the reasons aforementioned, health matters, the earth matters, wildlife matters, and clean runoff from farmland matters. Organic matters because it returns something to the soil, contributing value for goods received. “Farming is not suppose to be like mining, taking resources from the land and returning nothing. If we want the land to continue to produce, then we need to nurture it, treating nature with respect and graditude”, Leslie says pointedly.