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Market Highlights - July 24, 2013

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

University Market 7-24-13

We’ve decided to highlight what’s going on in the area farmers markets, so this will be the first of hopefully many regular market reports.  From the looks of the University City Wednesday market on Penn’s campus, summer is in full swing, with everything from eggplant to cane berries available now.  I was tempted by all the heirloom tomatoes, corn, peppers and stone fruit, but because whatever I buy has to be lugged home on regional rail, I save my major marketing for the weekend instead.  I just picked up some mixed cherry tomatoes, some lovely little sugarplums, a few peaches that should be great after a few days on my counter to reach their peak, and, of course, a popsicle from the Lil’ Pop Shop truck for lunch.

Posted by Gabriela on 07/24 at 11:02 PM


Keeping Your Cool

Thursday, July 11, 2013

White Gazpacho

Gazpacho is one of my main strategies for getting through July and August.  Preparing a big batch on Sunday not only makes wonderful use out of all the seasonal produce pouring into the markets, but also gives you a ready-made, colorful and refreshing dinner to look forward to when you’re slogging home through the sweltering humidity on Monday evening.  It’s also perfect as a festive first course for barbecues and brunches all the way through Labor Day.

While tomato-based red gazpacho is fantastic, especially when made with a mix of heirloom varieties, white gazpacho is an equally traditional way to highlight cucumbers and the fresh garlic now making its first appearance.  The base of almonds and bread creates a soup that’s creamy and silky without being overly rich or heavy.  While the straining step is a bit of extra work, the soup still comes together in minutes (not counting the half hour of chilling in the fridge), and doesn’t raise the temperature of your kitchen by a single degree.

White Gazpacho
(Adapted from Jose Andres, Tapas: A Taste of Spain in America)
Serves 4

8 ounces blanched, slivered almonds
1-2 cloves fresh garlic
2 ounces stale French- or Italian-style bread (not whole grain)
1 medium cucumber, peeled and roughly chopped
2 1/2 cups filtered or mineral water
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Place the almonds and garlic in a large bowl or liquid measuring cup and cover with boiling water.  Let sit for a few minutes, drain, and repeat with more boiling water.  Drain and place in the carafe of a blender.

While the almonds are soaking for the second time, moisten the bread in cold water just long enough to soften.  Squeeze dry and add to the blender, along with the remaining ingredients. Blend until smooth. 

Pour the gazpacho through a double layer of cheesecloth in a strainer set over a large bowl.  Once most of the liquid has passed through the cheesecloth, gather up the ends of the cloth to completely enclose the solids, twist the top of the gathered ends tightly, and squeeze to extract the last of the soup.  Discard the solids.

Pour the gazpacho into a pitcher, cover tightly, and chill at least 30 minutes.  It is normal for the gazpacho to separate as it sits; just give it a quick whisk before serving.

Posted by Gabriela on 07/11 at 11:52 PM


Tired Hands Brewing Company

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Delaware County is, relatively speaking, bereft of restaurants that focus on locally grown foods. Here in Aldan and the surrounding areas, you’re more likely to find chain restaurants and diners than anything else. There’s Sycamore in Lansdowne, but they stopped serving brunch years ago. What’s a girl to do on a Sunday morning?

The answer is: drive to Ardsmore.

True, half of Ardsmore is in Montgomery County, but beggars can’t be choosers. I’m not sure which half of Ardsmore Tired Hands Brewing Company is in, but I’ll claim it for Delco! Tired Hands is a little over a year old now. However, they’re major players in the microbrewery world already, and they’re routinely featuring locally made cheeses and other local ingredients.

Today I had a small glass of 5 out of 5 beer, a dark beer containing chocolate and marshmallow fluff, and Lil Lady, a lighter beer with rooibos tea. Both feature local ingredients—the 5 out of 5 has local maple syrup, and the Lil Lady has local wildflower honey. I also a cheese plate composed of several cheeses from Birchrun Hills Farm, including Nettlesome, Red Cat, and Equinox, and Pepato from Valley Shepherd. The Jeano’s Panino, a grilled cheese with haricot vert, featured Birchrun Hills Farm blue cheese.

The charcuterie plate was also filled with great meats. The sopressata and abbruze came from Licini Brothers in Union City, New Jersey, while the amazing duck prosciutto is from River & Glen in Warminster.

If you’re near Ardmore, give Tired Hands a try. The service was friendly, the food was quite good, and I loved the focus on locally grown foods. And I didn’t even have to leave Delaware County!

Posted by Nicole on 06/30 at 04:13 PM


Summer Crepes

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Buckwheat Crepes

For some reason, I always associate crepes with colder weather, but the truth is that they’re accommodating all year round, as demonstrated by these vaguely Provencal-style ones filled with zucchini and mushrooms, and topped with a bright, uncooked tomato sauce.  As the summer moves along, you could augment the filling with eggplant, fresh peas, pattypan squashes, etc., and you can make use of the rainbow of heirloom tomatoes that will start showing up in a couple of weeks.

These make a very satisfying dinner as-is, or if you want to serve these for brunch, you could quickly scramble a few eggs and tuck them into the crepes before the vegetable filling.

Zucchini-Mushroom Buckwheat Crepes with Raw Tomato Sauce
(Crepes adapted from Deborah Madison & Edward Espe Brown, The Greens Cookbook, 1987)
Serves 6-8

For crepes:
1 cup water
1 cup milk
3 eggs
3 tablespoons melted butter
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2-3 tablespoons neutral-flavored oil for cooking

For sauce:
2 ripe tomatoes
1 small clove garlic
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Salt to taste

For filling:
3 small zucchini, grated
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced
4 tablespoons olive oil for cooking
2 small cloves garlic
Salt and pepper to taste

Place all the ingredients for the crepe batter except the oil in a tall measuring cup and blend with an immersion blender until smooth.  (Alternately, you can do this in a regular blender.)  Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour.

To prepare the sauce, halve the tomatoes and grate them, cut side down, on the large side of a box grater set over a bowl.  Discard the skin you’re left with when the flesh has all been grated.  Finely mince the garlic (I just use a microplane grater) and add it to the tomatoes, along with the olive oil and salt to taste.  Let sit at room temperature while making the filling and crepes.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat and add the garlic, sautéing briefly before adding the zucchini.  Cook, stirring frequently, until the zucchini is softened and the liquid has cooked off, then remove from the pan.  Increase the heat to medium-high, and add the rest of the olive oil and the mushrooms, cooking until the edges have browned.  Turn off the heat, return the zucchini to the pan, and season to taste.

Heat a teaspoon of oil in a small nonstick pan or crepe pan over medium heat.  Give the batter a quick whisk before ladling about 1/4 cup of batter into the heated pan and swirling the pan quickly to evenly spread the batter.  Cook until the crepe has set and is beginning to crisp at the edges, then flip and cook the other side briefly.  Remove the crepe to a plate and repeat the process with the remaining batter, adding more oil every three or so crepes, or whenever they show signs of sticking.  Adjust the temperature as necessary to prevent excessive browning.  If the batter is too thick to swirl easily in the pan, whisk in a little more water to thin back to the consistency of heavy cream.

To serve, fill the bottom half of each crepe with a few spoonfuls of filling, flip over the other half of the crepe, and fold in half to get quarters.  Place two or three filled crepes on a plate per person, and top with a generous spoonful of the sauce.

Leftover unfilled crepes, filling and sauce will all keep well for at least a day in the refrigerator, although both the crepes and the sauce are best freshly-made.

Posted by Gabriela on 06/29 at 03:27 PM


An Easy, Icy Summer Treat

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Rhubarb Granita

This sprightly pink granita is just about the perfect Memorial Day barbecue dessert, since it’s the most refreshing use of the strawberries and rhubarb that are in the market together right now, and also really easy to prepare.  No ice cream makers or other special equipment needed; just a fork and a little patience and time.

I do have to confess that when I made this two weeks ago, I had to use frozen berries, because fresh ones hadn’t arrived yet.  I generally find that the window when both strawberries and rhubarb are available is pretty narrow, so there’s normally only about one magic week or two to make strawberry-rhubarb pie or what have you using both fresh rhubarb and local berries.  This is why I over-buy rhubarb pretty much every time I see it, clean and trim the extra portion as soon as I get home, and throw the sliced rhubarb into bags and freeze for use in July and beyond.

In fact, if you cheat with both frozen rhubarb and frozen berries, you could make this granita all the way into the fall and winter, when, served in little shot or liqueur glasses, it would make a smashing palate-cleanser between courses during your fancy holiday dinner.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Granita
Serves 4-6 as dessert, 8 or more as a palate cleanser

3 cups white wine
1 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons mild honey
1/4 teaspoon dried orange peel or 1 teaspoon fresh grated orange zest
Pinch of salt
1 12-ounce bag frozen strawberries, or 3 cups fresh, hulled and halved
2 to 2 1/2 pounds rhubarb, trimmed and sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
1 teaspoon orange extract or orange liqueur
Juice of half a lemon

Combine the wine, sugar, honey, orange peel, salt and strawberries in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a strong simmer and cook 10 minutes, then remove the strawberries with a slotted spoon.  Add the rhubarb and return to a simmer, cooking until the rhubarb has softened but before it falls apart, around 5-6 minutes.

Strain the syrup through a fine mesh strainer into a large measuring cup or bowl, stirring the rhubarb frequently to remove as much of the glowing magenta liquid as possible.  Stir in the orange extract and lemon and cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate until completely chilled.  (The cooked rhubarb can be mixed with the strawberries and used as a topping for yogurt, ice cream, etc.)

When the syrup has chilled, pour it into a 8 x 8 Pyrex baking dish or other similarly sized, shallow, freezer-safe container.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and freeze until the syrup begins to form ice crystals around the edge of the dish, around 40 minutes.  Using a fork, stir and scrape to break up the crystals and distribute throughout the unfrozen syrup, re-cover the dish, and return to the freezer.  Repeat this process every half hour or so until all of the syrup has frozen and formed a fluffy mass of crystals.

Scoop the granita into shot or cordial glasses to serve as a palate cleanser between courses, or into larger glasses for dessert, garnishing with mint or sliced strawberries if desired. 

Leftover granita should keep for a few days in the freezer, although you may need to re-scrape if the crystals have formed larger clumps.  If it completely solidifies, you can either let it melt and repeat the process above, or break it up into large chunks and run it through the blender with more berries and some additional orange juice to serve as a slushie, or with rum or tequila for a frozen cocktail.

Posted by Gabriela on 05/25 at 04:02 PM


Volunteers Needed: Rittenhouse Market

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Rittenhouse Square Tuesday Market

With farmers’ market season fast approaching (and, in some cases, in full swing), there are some great opportunities to get involved and help keep them afloat. The folks at Farm to City are looking for a few good volunteers for the Saturday farmers’ market in Rittenhouse Square. Volunteer shifts are 2.25 hours long, and duties vary:

  • Answering customer questions about the market and vendors
  • Providing information on Farm to City programs and sustainable agriculture
  • Conducting surveys with farmers’ market customers
  • Taking customer counts
  • Communicating suggestions and other feedback form the community to Farm to City staff

As you probably know, the Rittenhouse Farmers’ Market happens every Saturday from 9am to 3pm at 18th and Walnut Streets, both on south sidewalk of Walnut St and west sidewalk of 18th Street. Volunteers are asked to commit to a regular volunteer shift (once a week, once or twice a month, etc.). That said, they’re open to any one who is willing to lend their time to this great cause!

If you’re a fan of Farm to City’s amazing efforts to keep Philly awash in locally grown vegetables, meat, etc., please consider nabbing a regular shift at the Rittenhouse Farmers’ Market. Contact Kelly Creighton at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) for more information.

*photo credit: Marisa McClellan

Posted by Nicole on 05/14 at 10:28 PM


Last Year’s Jam

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Walnut-Quince Rugelach

I’m not a super-preserver or anything, but by this point, I’ve established a regular seasonal pattern of jam-making: sour cherry at the beginning of summer, plum at the end of summer, and quince in the late fall.  While I’ve also finally achieved a decent amount of cabinet space in my kitchen, it’s not unlimited, which means right around now I start thinking about clearing out some space to prepare for the cycle to begin again.

I used some of the plum as a cake filling a couple of weeks ago, and this week I rolled a jar of the quince into some buttery, flaky rugelach. (The sour cherry, alas, never seems to make it past a few months, because I love it too much.)  You can use whichever jar is pushing its way to the front of your pantry, or whatever looks good at the market this weekend.

Walnut-Quince Rugelach
(Adapted from Rugelach, Alice Medrich’s Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy, 2010)
Makes 48 cookies

For the pastry:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 16 cubes
8 tablespoons (1 8-ounce block) cold cream cheese, cut into 1-inch cubes

To assemble:
1 cup jam needing to be used up, in this case quince
1 cup finely chopped walnuts
Fine sea salt for sprinkling

Combine the flour, sugar and salt for the pastry in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Mix briefly to blend the dry ingredients, then add the butter and mix on low until mostly broken up and the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Mix in the cream cheese just until a damp, shaggy dough forms, then turn out onto a clean countertop and knead briefly to create a mostly cohesive block.  Divide into four equal parts and pat into 4-inch disks, tightly wrapping each individually.  Refrigerate at least two hours and preferably overnight.

When ready to bake, line two cookie sheets with parchment paper or silicone liners and preheat the oven to 350 F.

Roll one disk of pastry between sheets of parchment paper to a diameter of 12 inches and a thickness of about a quarter inch.  Spread the pastry with a quarter of the jam, and evenly coat with a quarter of the walnuts and a small pinch of salt.  Using a pizza cutter or sharp chef’s knife, slice the pastry into 12 approximately equal wedges.  Starting with the outside edge, roll each wedge toward the point and place, point-side down, on a lined cookie sheet.  Repeat with the remaining wedges, setting the cookies 2 inches apart.  Place the cookie sheet in the refrigerator to firm the cookies back up as you repeat the process with the remaining pastry disks, jam and walnuts.

Bake each sheet of cookies on the center rack for 25-28 minutes, until pale gold on top and a slightly darker golden brown at the edges, rotating the pans as necessary for even browning.  Immediately transfer the baked cookies on their parchment to cooling racks and cool completely.

Cookies will keep well in airtight containers for up to 5 days.

Posted by Gabriela on 05/01 at 02:10 AM


Should you go organic?

Monday, April 22, 2013

Happy Earth Day!  Nourish your body while being conscious of the environment.

Foods must meet strict requirements to be labeled as certified “organic” by the United States Department of Agriculture.  Products must be produced without excluded methods such as genetic engineering, ionizing radiation, or sewage sludge.  However, some operations are exempt from certification, including organic farmers who sell $5,000 or less.  Foods advertised as “natural” do not follow the same guidelines as organic foods.

What does the organic label mean?
-100% organic: all ingredients must be certified organic and any processing aids must be organic.
-Organic: non-organic ingredients are allowed per National List, up to a combined total of 5% of non-organic content.
-“Made with” organic: at least 70% must be certified organic ingredients.  Any remaining products are not required to be organic but must be produced without excluded methods.

Organic does not always mean healthy, consider the type and amount of foods you are eating.  Organic baked goods, chips, and energy drinks should still be consumed sparingly just like the non-organic products.

Overall, the scientific studies are inconclusive on whether there is a difference in nutritional content of organic compared to non-organic foods.  You heard it before, but fruits and vegetables are beneficial for your health.  Get to know your local farmers and their farming methods.  This benefit will be achieved regardless if the produce is organic or not, so do not let access or affordability to organic foods reduce your fruit and vegetable intake. 

Where to begin?
Dirty Dozen Plus™: apples, celery, sweet bell peppers, peaches, strawberries, nectarines, grapes, spinach, lettuce, cucumbers, blueberries, potatoes, green beans, kale/greens.  The Environmental Working Group has recognized these fruits and vegetables to be most contaminated with pesticide residue.

References:
1. Organic certification resources page. United States Department of Agriculture web site. http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?navid=ORGANIC_CERTIFICATIO. Accessed on March 26, 2013.
2. EWR’s 2012 shopper guide to pesticides in produce. Environmental Working Group. http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/. Accessed on March 26, 2013.

Posted by Renee on 04/22 at 09:49 PM


New Hope: Eat Local and Support a Local Author

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

This weekend I’m heading to New Hope, Pennsylvania for a signing of my new novel at Farley’s Bookshop, which I’m quite excited about—and not just because of my author event. New Hope has always seemed kind of magical to me, for reasons I’ve never quite been able to articulate. It may have something to do with the really great chocolate shop. Or it could have something to do with all the restaurants.

There are some really great places to eat that feature locally produce, so if you’re going to be there soon (either for my book signing, to which you are cordially invited) here are some places to check out:

Sprig & Vine: This vegan restaurant is on Union Square Drive. It changes menus routinely to focus on the best locally grown produce they can get their hands on. Right now you can get locally grown salads, as well as a small plate of pickled local cauliflower and baby carrots.

Cafe Blue Moose: Located on West Mechanic Street, Blue Moose features locally-sourced foods and an eclectic menu. The place has a neat story—it was started in 2006 by a couple of teenagers.

Triumph Brewing Company: There’s a Triumph Brewing outpost on Union Square. In recent years Triumph has added locally grown ingredients to their menu—that includes cheese from Cherry Grove and Valley Shepherd Creamery, as well as meat, produce, and fruit from local growers. Plus, you know, good beer.

Marhaba: Across the bridge from New Hope is Marhaba, a great BYOB Middle Eastern restaurant. They also strive to use local ingredients.

If you’re in New Hope on Saturday, April 20, after you’ve stuffed yourself full of great food, stop by Farley’s from 1-4pm. I’ll be signing copies of THE TRAJECTORY OF DREAMS (which you can also pick up at Farley’s), and I’ll also be pelting people with a fun giveaway: astronaut rubber duckies.

Posted by Nicole on 04/17 at 03:52 PM


Happy Spring?

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Butternut

I really hope this is the last of the winter produce recipes until Thanksgiving, not because I don’t love hard squashes, cabbages and brassicas, but because I am really just sick of winter.  My longing for asparagus and rhubarb is starting to become acute, and each of these spring snows is making me despair that tomato season is never coming.

While we’re all cursing the groundhog, this butternut squash spread is at least a bright and sunny color, and warmly spicy enough to maybe convince yourself that you’re in the Mediterranean, if you close your eyes.  It’s adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s beautiful cookbook, Jerusalem, and combines caramelized roasted squash and tahini into a hummus-like dip.  This version has been made vegan by replacing the original yogurt with soft cooked red lentils and a hit of lemon juice, and instead of plain cinnamon I used a Syrian spice mix.  You could use za’atar, ras el hanout, berbere, or any similar blend if you prefer.

Roasted Butternut Spread
(Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, Jerusalem: A Cookbook, 2012)
Serves 6-8

For roasting the squash:
1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into roughly 1-inch cubes
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon Middle Eastern spice mix of choice
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

For the spread:
1/4 cup red lentils
1/2 cup water
5 tablespoons tahini
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt to taste

Preheat oven to 400 F.  Toss the butternut cubes with the oil, spice mix and salt in a roasting pan.  Cover the pan with aluminum foil and roast the squash until soft all the way through and slightly caramelized on the edges, approximately 1 hour.  Cool completely.

Boil the lentils and water in a small saucepan over medium heat until the lentils have completely broken down, adding just as much water as needed to prevent them from drying out until they reach that point. 

Combine the roasted squash, cooked lentils, tahini, garlic and lemon in the bowl of a food processor and pulse just until chunky.  Add more lemon juice and salt as needed, then add the olive oil and pulse a few more times to combine.

Serve in a shallow bowl, garnished with an additional drizzle of olive oil, and with pita chips or crudités on the side.

Posted by Gabriela on 03/28 at 10:27 PM


Vegetarian Carbonara

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Carbonara

Traditional spaghetti carbonara is pasta tossed with crisped pancetta and a mixture of raw eggs and parmesan, which cooks just enough from the heat of the pasta to form a silky, creamy sauce.  It’s not vegetarian-friendly, obviously, which is why when I decided to use the beautifully golden-yolked eggs from the market in a carbonara-esque dish, I had to replace the meat with something sufficiently flavorful and colorful.

The answer was a combination of shredded brussels sprouts and sun-dried tomatoes in the pasta itself, and a topping of fresh breadcrumbs, crisped in olive oil and seasoned with a combination of garlic and Spanish smoked paprika.  Brussels sprouts keep well, stay wonderfully green as long as they’re not overcooked, and add both brightness and a punchy contrast in flavor.  The tomatoes add both a bright pop of color and a slightly chewy texture, and the crumbs add both the missing crunch and the smokiness that comes from the pancetta in the original dish.  The smokiness is further enhanced by a handful of shredded smoked cheese after the pasta is sauced.

This recipe is very, very loosely adapted from one in Deborah Madison & Edward Espe Brown’s The Greens Cookbook (1987).  In theory, you could further adapt it into a still-flavorful and pretty vegan dish by leaving out the eggs and cheese, although you couldn’t really call it carbonara at that point. (Then again, most people wouldn’t consider it carbonara the minute the meat is taken out.)

Spaghetti Carbonara with Brussels Sprouts, Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Smoky Breadcrumbs
Serves 4

For breadcrumbs:
3 slices multigrain bread (the heels of the loaf are fine)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, run through a microplane grater or garlic press
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
Salt to taste

For pasta:
8 ounces spaghetti
3 tablespoons olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
1 dry pint brussels sprouts, shredded
1/4 cup dried tomatoes, diced

2 eggs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 cup grated smoked Gouda or other semi-firm smoked cheese

Roughly tear the bread slices and pulse in a food processor long enough to form medium-sized fresh crumbs.  Warm the garlic in the olive oil in a wide nonstick sauté pan over medium heat just until the garlic begins to release its aroma, then add in the breadcrumbs and toss to evenly coat in the oil.  Continue cooking, tossing or stirring frequently, until the crumbs are well-toasted and crisp, stir in paprika and salt to taste, and remove from the pan.

Boil the spaghetti in well-salted water until al dente, according to the package directions.  Meanwhile, heat the garlic and chili flakes in the remaining oil in the pan until the garlic begins to color lightly.  Add in the brussels sprouts, sun-dried tomatoes and a generous sprinkle of salt, sautéing just until the sprouts have wilted but remain brightly green.  Taste and adjust salt as necessary.

Just before draining the pasta, quickly whisk the eggs and parmesan together in a large bowl.  Drain the pasta and immediately place it into the bowl containing the egg mixture, tossing quickly with tongs to completely coat the spaghetti.  Add the brussels sprouts mixture and smoked cheese and continue tossing until everything is evenly distributed and lightly coated. If the egg mixture appears too raw, return the pasta to the pan and very briefly cook, tossing continuously, to desired doneness.

Serve immediately in warmed pasta bowls, sprinkling generously with the toasted breadcrumbs.

Posted by Gabriela on 02/24 at 08:03 PM


For the Bleak Midwinter

Friday, February 01, 2013

Cassoulet

We’re in the time of year when things start looking a little bleak, produce-wise, and you start longing for spring to change things up again.  That doesn’t mean you can’t create some wonderful things from the sturdy winter items that do hang around the markets this time of year, though. 

This vegetarian version of cassoulet makes good use of the root vegetables and hearty greens that can easily be found, and is the perfect way to warm up on an icy, stormy night.  Being vegan, very low-fat and high in all kinds of nutrients is an additional bonus, if you’re trying to stick with any New Year’s resolutions or just detox from the holiday excess.

White Bean, Parsnip and Kale Cassoulet
(Adapted from Eric Tucker & John Westerdahl, The Millennium Cookbook)
Serves 8

5 cups white beans, cooked or canned
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 large parsnips, peeled and diced
2 large carrots, peeled and diced
3 cups vegetable stock
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon dried sage
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon ground celery seed
1 large bay leaf
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 teaspoon ground pepper
1 bunch kale, shredded

Preheat the oven to 350 F.  In a large, oven-proof pot with a lid, combine the beans and vegetables.  Mix together the stock, mustard, maple syrup, herbs and spices in a large measuring cup and pour over the bean mixture.  Cover with the lid and bake for 60-75 minutes, until the liquid has reduced and thickened.

Add the kale to the beans, re-cover, and bake 15-20 more minutes, until the greens are tender but not mushy.  Remove the bay leaf and serve as a main course or side dish.

Posted by Gabriela on 02/01 at 01:38 AM


The Fall Honey Flow

Monday, October 29, 2012

While most people were batting down the hatches for Hurricane Sandy, I spent the weekend finally extracting honey from my hive before the storm arrived. Most beekeepers advise against extracting when rain is in the forecast because an increase in moisture can lead to a higher water content in the honey, which can lead to fermentation when it is being stored. However, I did the extraction two days before the storm hit and since I was already so late on extracting the honey for the season, I wasn’t left with much choice.  So on Saturday afternoon, two days before Sandy was due to make landfall I went into my hive and pulled the frames. As you can see in the picture below (that’s me in the bee suit), the first step was to open the hive and inspect frames that had large amounts of solid brown covering over the comb. This is a sign that there is honey below, and not nectar with its high water content.

IMG_5106

I then shook the bees from the frames, and placed them in a Tupperware bin. After I took out 6 frames, I brought them to the back porch where I shook or swatted off any remaining bees, and I brought them into the house.

IMG_5116

As you can see below, the outside of the frame with its solid brown covering is where all of the honey is stored. The small brown spots in the center that look like nuts are actually cells that are incubating new drones, which we left alone. Actually, at one point, small drones started hatching and crawling out of the cells. It was pretty amazing to watch.

IMG_5119

The reason for my procrastination for this season’s extraction was because I wanted to use an actual mechanical extractor. But I couldn’t coordinate meeting up with my beekeeper friend who knew how to use it. Instead, I took a more DYI approach. I first laid the frames on a cooking sheet. Next to that I set up a colander over a pot. I then took a spatula and scraped the comb off of the frame and placed it in the colander to let it drain into the pot. As you can see in the picture below, it was actually quite efficient for doing such a small batch.

IMG_5127

I then left the comb to drain and went back to put the frames back into the hive. The reason I only took six frames was because I extracted so late in the season and I didn’t want to take out too much honey being that there are only a very small amount of flowers still in bloom in the city. Also, by scraping the comb off rather than cutting out the entire frame, I at least left the bees with somewhat of a base to build some more comb before the winter sets in. This way I don’t have to feed the bees sugar water over the winter as some beekeepers are forced to do. I then went back in the house, removed the colander full of comb and put the honey on a low heat to partially liquefy it. By doing this, it made it easier to pour it through the fine strainer to get out any more bits of comb. And just like that, those six frames filled up these mason jars totaling almost two gallons of honey.

honeyjars

One of the best things about processing honey is that cleaning up your mess usually requires using your finger to quickly swab up the honey you spill and eat it on the spot. I must admit that I’ve recently been questioning if I should keep my hive. After maintaining a city block’s worth of a garden, 3 laying hens and a large berry patch, I just felt a little over extended. But after taking that first taste, I think I may have another year of beekeeping in me.

Posted by Nic on 10/29 at 04:30 PM


Crab and Cucumber Soup and a Fishmonger Recommendation

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The weather may have cooled considerably, and the interminable heat wave(s) may finally be behind us, but I’m not quite ready to give up on chilled soups for the summer.  So, here’s one from Nigel Slater, a chilled cucumber soup topped with crab meat.  The recipe is easy to follow and accurate, but one word of advice: be sure to dice the cucumber very finely, as it will determine the consistency of your soup.

cucumber&crabsoup

More importantly, if you’ve been looking for a fishmonger in Center City or South Philly that is as concerned about sustainable seafood as you are, try Ippolito’s Seafood.  You’ll know where and how the fish was caught, and just how sustainable those methods and fish stocks are.  I first learned about Ippolito’s and their business practices at a demonstration by the restaurant C19 at the annual Good Food, Good Beer, and the Rest is History (hosted by Slow Food Philly and Farm to City).  Since then, I’ve been there at least once a week for oysters (raked from Virginia), swordfish (hook and line from New York), and even New Jersey fluke.  I can finally try all those recipes in the River Cottage Fish Book without guilt. 

Posted by Kevin on 08/19 at 01:51 PM


Smoked Eggs

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Last weekend I headed to Vancouver, British Columbia for a weekend of racing at the Rio Tinto Alcan Dragonboat Festival with Philadelphia Flying Phoenix. There will be an upcoming post about the city and its locally-grown food scene coming up, but I need to discuss the most intriguing thing I ate while there: a smoked egg.

On my final night in the city I scored a reservation for L’Abbatoir, a cute little restaurant in the Gastown section. This place is known for their creative food and cocktails, and the place didn’t disappoint (more on that later). But as part of the Warm Steelhead and Crunchy Potato Salad appetizer, the smoked egg sort of stole the show. I know that smoked eggs aren’t a new thing (traditionally soaked in brine to make them taste smoked), but I’ve never seen an truly smoked egg as part of a composed restaurant dish, and my companion and I were curious about how they were cooked.

L’Abbatoir has a large smoker, but the server told us for the eggs they tend to use a hand smoker similar to the one sold at PolyScience. They’re relatively inexpensive ($99), and I’m seriously thinking of adding one to my kitchen tools, specifically so I can experiment with smoked eggs. The egg white was smoky but not cloyingly so, and it didn’t have the ugly brown color that comes from brining or smoking over charcoal or wood (such as on a grill). The yolk was soft, almost the consistency of hard yogurt, and also retained a smoky flavor. It’s the yolk that has me fascinated—how to a] infuse the smoke flavor there and b] how to cook it just right. I’m having dreams of smoking some of the fantastic eggs available from local farms here in Philly.

I suspect there might be a few posts about my adventures in egg smoking with a handheld smoking gun. Beware!

Posted by Nicole on 06/19 at 01:20 PM


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