Hot and Sweet Chevre
Friday, August 03, 2007
If I were stranded on a desert island and could only take along one kind of food, it would be cheese. I love cheese above all else, which makes me the black sheep of the family because my people have a serious sweet tooth issue. It’s possible, though, that Shellbark Hollow Farm’s Hot and Sweet Chevre could make them see the light - this locally made cheese is absolute perfection.
Ignore what you think goat cheese tastes like. Some of it can be a little chalky in texture, and many people don’t like goat cheese because it’s got a bit of a tang to it. Maybe it’s the locally produced raw and organic goat milk or maybe it’s purebred Nubian goats cared for lovingly by the family who runs Shellbark Hollow Farm - this goat cheese is light but tart, and unbelievably good. When you add in the hot peppers, it’s irresistible!
The Fair Food Farmstand at Reading Terminal Market sells Shellbark Farm products, and I’m also told that the White Dog Cafe often has the cheese on their menu. Do what you have to in order to get your hands on some.
Sunday at Headhouse Square
Sunday, July 29, 2007
Despite the rain that was coming down this morning, I headed out around quarter to 1 pm to walk down to the Farmers’ Market at Headhouse Square. I’ve been trying to get down there every Sunday since they opened, and for one reason or another, I haven’t been able to make it happen. But this morning I got up, with a mostly unplanned day stretching out in front of me. It was still drizzling when I headed out, but the skies started to clear right around 1 pm. I got to the market around 1:15 pm and wandered around for a while, taking pictures, and checking out the vast arrays of lush, gorgeous, drool-inducing produce.
I eventually put my camera away and got down the business of buying some produce. I gave myself a limit of $20 and only went over by a single dollar. Here’s what my $21 got me…
1+ pounds blond cucumbers
2 green peppers
1 generous package of lemon verbena
1 pint sweet orange cherry tomatoes
1 quart white peaches
2 yellow heirloom tomatoes
1 butternut squash (although it seems to early for these guys, she told me they were fresh)
1 bunch kale
1 bunch Swiss chard
2 yellow peaches
4 small yellow plums
3 small pears
Everything is blindingly fresh, mostly organic and all locally grown. Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to eat.
When Fresh Truly Counts
Friday, July 27, 2007
I suddenly feel so accomplished! I made something I thought only restaurants serve. After all, how many times have any of us come to the call of “Dinner’s ready!” to find fried squash blossoms stuffed with fresh herbed goat cheese? I certainly haven’t had the pleasure before. Readers extraordinaire, you must give this recipe a try if you can get your hands on some fresh squash blossoms. It wasn’t nearly as hard as one might think to make these delicate and tasty beauties.
Indeed, the beauty and the flaw of this dish are the squash blossoms themselves. First, they are not a common supermarket find. Second, if you do find them but you don’t get them very very fresh and take good care to keep them cool and moist, they get rather difficult (read: rubbery) to handle (although you can still make it work). That being said, I know there are some of you out there dutifully growing squash plants up the side of the fence in your tiny Philly rowhouse backyard, in urban plots/pots or, for those luckier ducks, in your large suburban kitchen gardens. You, my friends, have no excuse not to give this one a go. In fact, I think you owe it to those that don’t have easy squash blossom access to put your good fortune to use.
How, pray tell, does one harvest a squash blossom? Since squash develop from the blossoms, you don’t want to pick the “female” blossoms that are found low and in the center of the plant. Rather, pick the “male” blossoms that are on long slender stems higher up in the plant. You’ll easily be able to tell the difference once you’re actually looking at a squash plant.
For those of you without your own squash plants, check out the Headhouse Farmers Market on Sunday’s in Philly. This new and unusually lively market is located in the historic “shambles” on 2nd and South Streets. There you’ll find loads of local produce, including a few vendors, such as Weavers Way Farm, selling squash blossoms picked that morning. You really must get them as fresh as possible!
Once you’ve aquired your delicate blossoms by hook or by crook, store them in a ziplock bag filled with air (to cushion them) and with a damp paper towel. Keep in the fridge for up to a day.
Let us know if you try this recipe and how they turn out. Also, what other uses do you know of for squash blossoms. According to my trusty kitchen garden reference book, they are suppose to be good in salads and stir frys. I’m so fixated on the fried stuffed version that I haven’t gotten around to trying either just yet…
FRIED SQUASH BLOSSOMS STUFFED WITH HERB CHEESE
Adapted from Chez Panisse menu
12 large squash blossoms
8 oz. goat cheese, room temperature
1/4 c. finely minced fresh herbs (thyme, basil, chives, sage, or others)
1 large shallot, finely minced
salt and pepper
1/4 c. milk
1/2 c. corn meal mix (look for one that includes salt and baking powder) or masa harina (available in some larger stores)
Freshly ground pepper
1 c. vegetable oil
Place the goat cheese in a small bowl. Mix in the minced herbs, shallots and salt. Mixture will come together easier if the cheese is at room temperature. Once mixed, cover and place in refrigerator for 15 minutes or until firm again.
Prepare your “assembly line” by beating the eggs and milk together in a shallow bowl. Place corn meal mix or masa harina in another shallow bowl and mix in the freshly ground pepper. If blossoms have not already been prepped, gently remove all but a small tip of the stem and look closely for any dirt or insects. If you find anything, gently wipe clean with a damp towel.
When cheese mixture is firm, take teaspoon size amounts and roll into small balls with your hands the way you would chilled cookie dough. Place a cheese ball into the center of each blossom and twist the ends of the petals together to fully enclose the cheese.
Dip each blossom into the egg mixture. Let excess drip off. Quickly and gently roll blossom in dry mixture, shaking excess off. Set blossoms in refrigerator until ready to fry.
Place vegetable oil in a skillet and heat to approximately 350 degrees or until a tiny pinch of corn meal dropped in produces a good sizzle. Carefully place half the blossoms into the hot oil. Turn them over to brown evenly on all sides. When golden brown, remove and place on a paper towel to drain. Bring oil back up to temperature and fry the remaining blossoms.
Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and serve immediately with any leftover cheese as a garnish in the center of the plate.
(makes 12, serves 4)
Sunday, July 22, 2007
I picked up this beauty last Saturday at the Greensgrow Farm Market up in Kensington. Needless to say, it is long gone. However, the local tomatoes are appearing in gorgeous abundance right now. Check out the picture that Jennie from the Weaver’s Way Farm Blog posted today of some of the ‘maters at the Headhouse Square Market. It makes me salivate just to look at them.
When it comes to tomatoes like this, I’m a fan of simple preparation. Sliced with a sprinkling of salt is best, but if you feel you must fancy them up a little more, you can always go the classic basil and good olive oil route. Whatever you do, just don’t put them in the fridge, as that’s the quickest way to turn them into a mushy mess.