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Willow Restaurant Whips Up Summer Succotash, Pancakes

Mason H.S. Student Fills ‘Apprentice’ Shoes in Chef Series

ChefCooksThe Saturday, July 15, Falls Church Farmer’s Market Chef Series presentation infused the air with the sweet smell of freshly creamed corn and the comforting aroma of pancakes on the grill.

Mason H.S. Student Fills ‘Apprentice’ Shoes in Chef Series

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WILLOW RESTAURANT chefs, Kate Jansen (left) and Tracy O’Grady (right), cooked up corn ricotta pancakes and summer succotash last weekend in Falls Church. (Photo: News-Press)

 

The Saturday, July 15, Falls Church Farmer’s Market Chef Series presentation infused the air with the sweet smell of freshly creamed corn and the comforting aroma of pancakes on the grill.

The summertime comfort food garnered an interested crowd to the four-person team from Willow Restaurant in Arlington. Four pans sizzled throughout the morning, some cooking a colorful creamy summer succotash, while others fried lovely little corn ricotta pancakes to a golden brown.

Chefs Tracy O’Grady and Kate Jansen teamed up to open Willow in the Ballston neighborhood of Arlington four years ago. O’Grady previously worked as the executive chef of Kinkead’s Restaurant in D.C. and Jansen, a co-founder of Firehook Bakeries, creates Willow’s decadent desserts and breads.

Assisting the Chefs on Saturday were the restaurant’s manager, Debra Rubin, busily cooking pancakes over a hot skillet, and Maeve Curtin, an adept 13-year-old student at George Mason High School and apprentice who presented samples, engaged the crowd and knowledgeably answered attendee’s questions.

Together, the four women produced batch after batch of half dollar sized golden corn pancakes, savory yet sweet, with the corn balancing the flavors. Crowning the pancake, the sweet summer succotash proved to be the catalyst for many of the crowds questions.

Most people were intrigued by the large, unusual Peruvian lima beans found in the simmering succotash. The bean is definitely a show stealer. It’s just plain big. This unique large, flat, cream colored bean is easily an inch in length.

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George Mason High School’s Maeve Curtin, 13, works as an apprentice at Willow Restaurant, and assisted at last Saturday’s Farmer’s Market Chef Series. (Photo: News-Press)

 

O’Grady relishes introducing uncommon and interesting ingredients, such as the Peruvian lima, to the presentation’s attendees. “I enjoy getting to interact with the community and seeing how excited people are when they taste something new,” said O’Grady.

Joining the bean in the succotash medley, corn kernels, colorful heirloom cherry tomatoes in shades of red, orange, yellow and purple, fresh basil and julienned zucchini all added to the bountiful mix. With just a touch of heavy whipping cream and some butter, the starch from the beans worked to thicken the creamy sauce.

Spectators’ grabbed sample after sample of the succotash adorned pancakes as soon as the little cupfuls hit the table. Although the majority of O’Grady’s vegetables came from Gonzales Produce, who participates in the Clarendon farmer’s market on Wednesdays and Ballston Market on Thursdays, it is not that she prefers those to the Falls Church market. It’s just a matter of timing. “We would buy from the Saturday market, but we have to prepare the item ahead of time,” said O’Grady.

Working in Arlington, O’Grady is a longtime resident of Falls Church and active in the community. “I’ve lived in Falls Church for 18 years and like that it has the feel of a small town even though we are part of the greater Washington D.C. area,” said O’Grady.

It is Chef O’Grady’s belief that Northern Virginia is an excellent purveyor of fine foods and that travel to D.C. is no longer necessary for excellent dining. In fact she believes that the “Northern Virginia food scene gets more and more sophisticated each year.”

Willow undoubtedly gives many a D.C. restaurant a run for their money, but more importantly than just being a region with great culinary offerings, Northern Virginia is a community.

“It is important for us to be part of our community. We are in our own way local producers of food, since we make all our items in-house,” said O’Grady.

From the homey smells and tastes provided by Willow’s chefs at the farmer’s market demonstration it is easy to believe that a little heart and soul goes into each recipe. After all, pancakes and succotash eaten by the sweet summer spoonful, definitely conveys something of the comforts of home.

• Next up for the Falls Church Farmer’s Market Chef Series is Aimee Suyehiro of Argia’s on Saturday, Aug. 21 from 9 – 11 a.m. The market is located in the F.C. City Hall parking lot at 300 Park Avenue.

 

Recipe: Corn Ricotta Pancakes

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(Photo: News-Press)

 

Ingredients

1 cup cooked corn

1 ½ cup ricotta cheese

2 eggs

2 tablespoons melted butter

½ cup milk

½ cup all purpose flour

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

Pinch of nutmeg

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons chopped chives

Oil for frying

 

Directions

1) Pulse all ingredients except corn and chives in food processor.

2) Remove mix from processor.

3) Add corn and chives.

4) Stir to combine.

5) Drop spoonfuls of batter into hot oil.

6) Fry on both sides until golden brown.

7) Lightly salt and serve warm.

 

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