Challenge meal week one

Thursday, September 13, 2007

For the first week of the September Challenge I wanted to make something simple. I’ve had some short ribs from Meadow Run Farms in the freezer so I figured what’s easier than braising some beef for a couple of hours. I found a couple of recipes and narrowed it down to the simplest. I set the meat out to defrost, decided I’d roast some potatoes to go with it and steam some green beans. I went out and bought a couple of bottles of local Cabernet. Then around 3.30 I got home and realized I’d lost the stupid recipe. I searched my browser history hoping it would turn up but it didn’t so I browsed my cookbooks and epicurious until I found a similar recipe and a good hour after I wanted to I got to work.

The biggest problem was that I didn’t RTFR. (thank you Smitten Kitchen for the perfect acronym.) I spent hours slaving over a hot stove in my un-air conditioned kitchen on a hot, humid Philadelphia summer day. The initial recipe called for all of the cooking on the stove top in a dutch oven, but the other recipes all called for the short ribs to braise in the oven. Never having made short ribs before I wasn’t willing to mess around. My dutch oven’s so large that cooking the potatoes in the oven was out so I decided to use my leeks and make mashed potatoes with leeks and thyme instead. Since I had a leek or two left over I found a recipe for swiss chard with leeks and made that instead of the green beans.

All of the cooking was extremely hands on and hot and by the time it was ready to eat I’d lost interest completely.  The worst part was that the ribs weren’t even all that good. The chard and potatoes were fantastic, but the ribs just weren’t as flavorful as I would have hoped. And seriously, braised short ribs with mashed potatoes would have been fine on a crisp, almost fall day like today, but it was not an appropriate meal for last Saturday’s stickiness.

At least my husband liked it.


Braised Short Ribs with Red Wine

Short ribs- Meadow Run Farms
Chicken stock- made from chicken from Meadow Run farms
Cabernet- Chadd’s Ford
Rosemary- my garden
basil (instead of sage)- my garden
Carrots- Lancaster, Pa via Farm to City farmer’s market
Onion- Red Earth Farm
Garlic Red Earth Farm
not local- salt, pepper, tomato paste, oil, bay leaf

Mashed Potatoes with Leeks and Thyme

Potatoes- Red Earth Farm
Leeks- Red Earth Farm
Thyme- my garden
Milk- Merrymead Farm
not local-salt, pepper, butter

Seared Rainbow Chard with Leeks

Chard-Red Earth Farm
Leeks-Red Earth Farm
not local, butter, oil, salt, pepper

Posted by Jackie on 09/13 at 07:48 PM

CSA Weekly Report: Lancaster Farm Fresh


Just a few more weeks left in the Lancaster Farm Fresh CSA program!  This week we’re treated to sweet potatoes and daikon radishes, two things we’ve not seen in the shares this year.  Alas, this week also heralds the return of lettuce.  While it’s lovely lettuce, indeed, my heart broke just a little to see it.

This is what’s in this week’s share:

    1 bunch of daikon radishes from Elm Tree Organics 1 5lb bag of red norland potatoes from Green Valley Organics 1 head of red leaf lettuce from Scarecrow Hill Organics 8 red slicing tomatoes from Countryside Organics or Scarecrow Hill Organics 1 bag of sweet stuffing peppers from Meadow Valley Organics 1 bunch of rainbow swiss chard from Meadow Valley Organics 1 3lb bag of beauregard sweet potatoes from Busy Bee Acres

The stuffing peppers are really tiny little things.  They might be good baked and stuffed with tuna.  My husband has already laid claim to the sweet potatoes - he demands sweet potato fries!

It’s the radishes that I’ve got plans for, though.  It will become kimchi, something I’ve been craving recently.  Coincidentally, I found an interesting-looking recipe that calls for the addition of mustard greens.  I do believe I can substitute swiss chard for that. Fun!

Posted by Nicole on 09/13 at 06:17 PM

James and Sly Fox Beer Dinner

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

James' Cornish Hen

On Monday, September 17, 2007 at 6:30 p.m., Chef Jim Burke of James is teaming up with Brewmaster Brian O’Rielly of Sly Fox Brewery for James’ Inaugural Beer Dinner.  This five course dinner will be made with local/seasonal ingredients and will be paired with local beers from Sly Fox.  The menu will feature the following dishes and beer pairings:

Hors d’oeuvres
The chef’s selection of hors d’oeuvres will be paired with Sly Fox’s Saison Vos, a Belgian style ale brewed with German Pils malt, hopped with East Kent Goldings and fermented with a special proprietary yeast that gives it a dry, spicy character.

1st course
Mussels in soppressata broth with olive crostini, which will be paired with Sly Fox’s Pikeland Pils—a light-bodied, Northern German style Pilsner brewed with imported German Pils malt and hopped with German and Czech hops.

2nd course
King salmon confit with crisp apple salad and potato rosti, which will be paired with Sly Fox’s Phoenix Pale Ale, a medium bodied American Pale Ale brewed with British Pale and Crystal malts and hopped with Centennial and Cascade hops from the Pacific Northwest.

3rd course
Poularde, which was recently awarded Best Entrée by Philadelphia Magazine, served with a wild mushroom fricassee.  The Poularde will be paired with Sly Fox’s Octoberfest, a smooth, medium-bodied, malty brew made with German Vienna malts and German hops.

4th course
Pork loin with melted shallot and fennel jus, which will be served with Sly Fox’s Incubus, an Abbot Style Triple brewed with German Pils malt and invert sugar.

Beer mousse, almond cake and brown butter pears served with Sly Fox’s Instigator, a classic, full-bodied German-style doppelbock brewed with German Munich and Roast malts and Hallertauer hops.

The price for this event is $65 per guest, tax & gratuity not included.  Seating is limited.  For reservations, call Kristina at 215-629-4980.

824 S. 8th Street


Posted by David on 09/12 at 07:59 PM

CSA Weekly Report: Red Earth Farm

CSA 2007 #9

This week’s share:

Pimiento peppers (new to me)
Chioggia beets
Green beans
Swiss chard (young, tender, and not bitter)
Sungold cherry tomatoes (not shown—to be roasted for a pasta sauce)
Gala apples (from buying club)

Posted by Yoko on 09/12 at 07:52 PM

A late Headhouse Square market report

farmers market haul 9-9

This last Sunday, my friend Shay and I headed down to the Headhouse Square to be there at the beginning of the market.  I had learned my lesson from my previous trip when there hadn’t been much left in the final hour of the market.  At 10:15 am it was already crammed with people.  One thing that Shay pointed out that I hadn’t really noticed before was how most people patiently wait in line to be served at this market.  She said she had never seen anything like it before, and now that she mentions it, I realize she’s right.  Normally there’s more of a cluster effect at markets, as opposed to this peculiar lining up. 

It seemed like the vendors were a bit sparse as well.  I wonder if the fact that summer is over (at least in terms of our mental calendar) is keeping some folks away.  Despite all that, there was still lots of good stuff to be had.  I spent $19.60 and came home with many goodies. 

6 ears of corn
1 red pepper
2 green peppers
2 white eggplants (2 for a $1!)
1 bunch beets
2 gnarled heirloom tomatoes
1 dozen eggs
1 bag lemon balm
1 bunch of broccoli
1 bunch basil

Posted by Marisa on 09/12 at 03:14 PM

Grow some garlic!

It may be coming up toward the end of gardening season for some of us, but if you’re a garlic lover this is only the beginning.  Garlic is to be planted four to six weeks prior to the first frost date.  In Philadelphia that’s October 15, which puts garlic planting prime time…right now!

I planted garlic in my garden for the first time last year, and I must say that it was one of the most rewarding garden crops I’ve grown in quite some time.  I had no idea what was going on underneath our rather clay heavy soil.  It was a total surprise when I dug up the garlic, and I had the added benefit of getting to harvest the garlic scapes.  The Purple Glazer variety I planted was gorgeous.

This year I’m planting the German Extra Hardy.  This hardneck variety has white outside skin, but a dark red clove skin.  It’s a very Winter-hearty garlic, even though we really don’t have very cold or snowy Winters around here anymore (now watch, I’ve said this and jinxed us all for this year).  I plan to get out into the garden to plant this weekend.

If you’ve never planted garlic before, I heartily recommend it.  It doesn’t take up a lot of space and you can even grow garlic in containers if you don’t have a yard.  Last year I grew about 25 heads of garlic in a 2 x 3 foot space.  That’s a little crowded, but it didn’t make a difference in taste or the size of the heads.  One word of caution: do not use garlic that you’ve purchased at a grocery store.  Commercial garlic growers use breeds that are specifically made to retard sprout growth.  You can use most varieties sold by a farmer you trust, or you can order garlic online (Ebay is an especially great place to order garlic, believe it or not).

To plant garlic directly into the ground, take a bulb of garlic and divide it into cloves right before planting.  Plant the clove root-end down about an inch below the soil.  Plant each clove about four inches apart.  Before planting, consider amending the soil with a bit of well rotted compost and a good, complete fertilizer.  Keep the plot well-weeded, as garlic does not like competing plant life.  But you can pretty much forget about the garlic until next Spring.

To plant in a container, fill a big pot with some good soil mix and make sure you’ve got great drainage in there.  You can keep the pots outside in a sunny spot unless it’s really, really cold…just make sure they get water.

In any case, next Spring you’ll get garlic scapes.  And then when the garlic plant above the ground is about 80% brown, you harvest the bulb.  I think I did that in late July or early August this year.

There’s nothing like fresh garlic!

Posted by Nicole on 09/12 at 10:39 AM

CSA Weekly Report:  Blooming Glen Farm

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

It’s mid-September and so the board list is getting shorter:

CSA crop share 2007 #16 - 0911 - 01

CSA crop share 2007 #16 - 0911 - 02
(Click photo to read notes at flick’r regarding names and quantities of this week’s share.)

Congratulations and celebrations to Blooming Glen founders and farmers, Tom and Tricia, who are getting married this weekend. Lots of love and peace to you both!


Posted by Mikaela on 09/11 at 06:27 PM

Birchrun Blue

Birchrun Blue

The other day I wandered into DiBruno’s and asked for what they had that’s locally produced.  Despite getting the new guy in the cheese cave, he immediately pulled out the Birchrun Blue.  I have been happily munching on it since then.

Birchrun Blue is an aged, natural rind, raw cow milk (from pastured cows) blue cheese produced by Birchrun Hills Farm in Chester Springs.  Birchrun Hills is relatively new to cheesemaking, only cranking out cheese for a few years now.  Of course, they’ve been the dairy business much longer than that.  It’s an absolutely wonderful blue cheese that will even appeal to those that are not blue cheese fans.

The Birchrun Blue has a lovely creamy texture and a delicate blue cheese taste, nice and earthy.  It’s perfect with slices of apple, and a fantastic melting cheese.  I made burgers using some ground beef from Natural Acres and melted some of the Birchrun Blue on top - it was delicious!  The rind is vaguely brie-ish, although pretty intense, flavor-wise.

Birchrun Blue can, as I said, be found at DiBruno Bros., and also at the Fair Food Farmstand in Reading Terminal Market, as well as several farmer’s markets in the area.

Posted by Nicole on 09/11 at 08:52 AM

Baking the Green Zebras

Monday, September 10, 2007

Baked Green Tomatoes

I was trying to think of some way of using the Green Zebra tomatoes that didn’t involve putting them in a salad. As much as I love fried green tomatoes, I’m trying to cut down on fried foods, so that also wasn’t an option. I decided to bake them, thinking that the high heat would temper the tartness.

I sliced the tomatoes, put them in a baking dish, sprinkled them with salt and pepper, and drizzled some olive oil. In a saucepan, I sauteed an onion, a clove of garlic, and a bell pepper (all from a previous CSA share) in a little olive oil until they were soft, then I spread them over the tomatoes. I then covered the top with grated Pecorino Romano cheese and put it in a 400-degree oven to bake for 25 minutes. When they were done, I sprinkled some chopped fresh basil (also locally grown) and served the tomatoes as a warm side for dinner.

To my surprise, baking the tomatoes brought out the tart taste rather than mellowing and sweetening them. They were still delicious, though. Green zebras might just be better for pickling if you like sour pickles, I think, but give them a try if you can get hold of them.

Posted by Yoko on 09/10 at 10:19 PM

Challenge update - week 1

The first week of the September Eat Local Challenge is over!  How did we all do?

  • Anj and her partner, Sue, made an amazing looking frittata with bread salad!  And everything was local except the salt, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar - impressive!
  • Sue made Baba Ganoush using some lovely eggplants from Livengood Farms.  The recipe sounds delicious!
  • Naomi and her dad went on a canning free for all!  They put up “applum” jam (apple and plum), grape-ginger jam, raspberry-lime jam, and apple-tomatillo chutney - most from locally grown ingredients!  Additionally, Naomi made herself a locally grown meal - salad, a cabbagey marinated salad with SE-Asian style dressing, and roasted potatoes. Yum!
  • Jeanne had a huge week in local food!  She shopped at the Rittenhouse Square Farmer’s Market for the first time, and she swung by the Schuylkill River Park Wednesday Farmer’s Market where she found honey crisp apples from Highland Orchards.  She froze chopped zucchini, chopped onions, and rasperries, and plans to freeze carrots and more zucchini this week.  Jeanne’s local meals sound excellent - local bread with homemade strawberry jam; oven fries with local potatoes and BBQ baked local tofu (commercial BBQ sauce); panzanella with local heirloom tomatoes and Metro Bakery bread.  And last but not least, she found some locally produced foods at Whole Foods - Severino Pasta, made by a family-run business in Haddonfield, NJ, and ZenSoy chocolate pudding, made by a family-run business also in NJ.
  • I made raspberry jam out of raspberries my husband and I picked at Linvilla, and I made some really excellent tomato sauce last night using the huge glut of tomatoes from the CSA share and my garden.  I also roasted and froze bell and hot peppers, and made baked, breaded eggplant cutlets to freeze.  Eight ears of corn were also boiled and de-kerneled, and then frozen.  And the local meal for the week was steaks from Natural Acres and honey roasted Delicata squash from the CSA.

Missed the report deadline for last week?  Add your progress report in the comments!

Posted by Nicole on 09/10 at 03:34 PM

Baked eggplant cutlets

Eggplant was a foreign thing in my household growing up.  They were certainly available, but my mother had no idea what to do with one.  In fact, she still doesn’t - last Summer she called and asked how to make eggplant parmesan for my vegetarian cousin.  My people just don’t know from eggplant, I guess.  And while I like eggplant and do know how to prepare a mean eggplant parm, my experience with eggplant is still so limited my first instinct is always to go with what I know when faced with eggplant.

Eggplant cutletsIt should come as no surprise that the eggplants that came in my CSA share last week are on their way to becoming eggplant parm.

Well, sort of.  Who wants eggplant parm when it’s 90 degrees outside?  Not me.  So the eggplants are now hibernating in my chest freezer, made into baked and breaded eggplant cutlets.  So they’re halfway to eggplant parm.  I imagine that one day this Winter I will want to hug myself for thinking to have locally-grown, organic eggplant cutlets put up.

Making breaded eggplant cutlets is a breeze, but you do need to plan ahead a little.  Eggplant has a way better texture for cutlets if you salt and press the slices before breading and baking.  So slice up the eggplants about a 1/2 inch thick.  Put down a plate covered by a paper towel and put down a single layer of eggplant slices.  Sprinkle salt on the eggplant slices (I like to use sea salt for this).  Put down another layer of paper towel on top and another single layer of eggplant and salt.  Repeat until you run out of eggplant and end with a paper towel.  Now put another plate on top of that and weigh it down with something.  You don’t want to use anything too awful heavy, but something that’ll weigh down the top plate a little.  The salt will draw the water out of the eggplant and the paper towel sops up some of the extra water.  Just walk away for about an hour.

In the meantime, preheat your oven to 450 degrees.

OK, whisk and egg or two with a bit of water blended in.  Put out a plate of bread crumbs.  Depending on how much salt you used, you might want to brush some of the salt off your eggplant cutlet prior to dipping it in the egg.  And after you dip the eggplant in egg, coat the cutlet in bread crumbs.

Bake in a 450 degree oven for five minutes.  Flip the cutlets and bake another five minutes.

Let them cool, layer them on wax paper, and freeze in a freezer bag.  There you go: baked eggplant cutlets for a snowy day.

Posted by Nicole on 09/10 at 10:07 AM

Gleaning Day is at hand

Don’t forget about City Harvest’s Gleaning Day coming up this Saturday!  Through Philadelphia Green’s City Harvest project, home and
community gardeners can “glean” from their gardens this Fall and donate extra produce to help needy families in our region. To participate, bring your extra garden produce to one of the following locations between 10am-1pm:

  • Aspen Farms, 4837 Aspen St, 19139 (West Phila., 49th & Aspen Streets, off Haverford Ave)
  • Bel Arbor Community Garden, 1012 Kimball St., 19147 (South Phila., between 10th & 11th Sts. just south of Carpenter)
  • Garden RUN, 242 Monastery Ave., 19128 (off Ridge Ave. in Roxborough)
  • Liberty Lands Garden, 913 N 3rd St., 19123 (Northern Liberties, entrance off Bodine & American Sts.)

Those who donate produce will be entered in a raffle to win tickets to the Philadelphia Flower Show!

For more information email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or call Eileen Gallagher at 215-988-8880.

Posted by Nicole on 09/10 at 08:10 AM

Picked a peck of roasted peppers

Sunday, September 09, 2007


The other day I mentioned to a friend that I planned to roast peppers this weekend (my kitchen is overrun with bell and hot peppers).  She was confused.  “Why would you bother?” she asked. “That’s so much work for something you can just buy in a jar at the store.”

This weird idea that cooking or canning takes so much effort and time is pervasive in people who don’t do either.  And yes, you can certainly make a bigger production out of cooking or canning than is necessary - but it can also be a simple, quick thing, too.  And roasting peppers is one of those simple, quick things.

Realizing that not everyone in the city has the space for a grill, I’ll discuss oven roasting, gas range-top roasting, and grilling for the purposes of making roasted peppers. 

    Grilling.  Turn your grill up to high and coat the peppers with olive oil.  Sure you can be genteel and use a brush, but I generally just pour a little oil on my hands and rub the peppers.  It’s quicker and you get the benefit of a little olive oil bath for your hands.  Toss the peppers on the grill and wait for the peppers to get charred.  Turn the peppers so all sides get charred.
    Gas range.  Turn on a burner or two on your stove top.  Make sure the flames just reach the trivet.  As with grilling, coat the peppers with oil.  Place them directly on the trivet over the open flame on the burner.  Wait for them to char and keep turning the pepper until all sides are charred.
    Oven roasting.  Preheat your oven’s broiler.  Coat the peppers with oil and arrange them on a cookie sheet.  This will generally take a little longer than roasting over an open flame, but keep an eye out for the peppers to start getting charred.  Turn the peppers so all sides are charred.

In all cases, this is your next step: grab a ziploc bag and seal the hot peppers inside.  Wait at least 10 or 15 minutes and then peel the peppers - the charred skin should come off pretty easily.  Discard seeds and membrane and pepper stems.

They can be stored in a few different ways.  If you plan to eat them immediately, you can store them in oil in the fridge.  They’ll last for maybe a week or two.  For longer term storage, freeze them.  It’s easiest to freeze them in a single layer on wax paper.  Or peppers can be canned - pack jars with peppers, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace and pour in hot water and a smidgen of canning salt.  Process in a water bath for 30 minutes.


Posted by Nicole on 09/09 at 12:26 PM

Linvilla Orchards - raspberries!

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Linvilla raspberries

The Linvilla website reported this morning that raspberry picking was “excellent”.  The guys working the Pick-Your-Own stand were less enthusiastic.  “These raspberries are pretty picked out.  Jump on the back of the tractor and we’ll take you up to a patch hidden next to the apples,” they advised.

Of course, the man driving the tractor had yet another opinion.  According to him, it was the last couple of rows of the regular raspberry patch that we wanted.  “No one ever looks there!” he declared.

Happily, the tractor man was right.  The husband and I picked four quarts of gorgeous raspberries this morning.  And we amazed the guys working the stand in the bargain.  “We haven’t seen that many raspberries come out of there in at least a month,” they said.  Never underestimate the picking power of two determined people with a yen for raspberries!

One of these quarts will be frozen for a nice snack mid-Winter, but three of those quarts are now raspberry jam.  And, in a nod to the September Eat Local challenge, I used a new canning method.  Well, new to me, at least.  Short cuts tend to make me a little nervous, but the idea of skipping the water bath and simply sealing cans by inverting them was too irresistible. 

Raspberry jamAll my jars of raspberry jam have sealed correctly (I heard the “ping”!), so it seems to have worked.  It took such a small amount of work that I think this would be an ideal first foray into canning for the novice.

Here’s how to do it and what you’ll need:

3 lbs. raspberries
5 cups sugar
3 oz. liquid pectin
a mess of small canning jars

OK, start with your canning jars.  Separate the lids from the jars and put everything in the dishwasher.  Set your dishwasher to its hottest setting and put them through a cycle.  Alternatively, you can give your jars a wash in hot, soapy water and keep them warm in a 200 degree oven, and placing lids in a bowl of boiling water.  The point is that you need your jars to be hot when you start packing in the jam.

Place raspberries in a sink full of cold water.  Swish your hands around in there a few times and make sure all the stems and assorted stuff is removed.  Lift the berries out of the water gently and drain.

Puree the raspberries in a blender or food processor for about 15 seconds.

Put the berries in a large saucepan with the sugar and bring to very full boil and be sure you stir constantly.  Add the pectin and return to a full boil.  Boil hard for one minute and keep stirring!

Remove the pan from heat and skim off the foam that’s floating on the top.  Immediately ladle the jam into the hot jars (you should leave about 1/8 of an inch of headspace).  Wipe off any jam that gets on the threads of the jar and screw on the lids tightly.  Turn the jars over so they’re resting on the lid for about five minutes.

Turn the jars upright and be sure to test the lids to make sure they sealed within one hour.  There you have it: homemade raspberry jam!

And if you have a jar or two that doesn’t seal, you can always put it through a water bath for five minutes.  This made five half pints and two pints of raspberry jam.

Coincidentally, if you want to try to make jam minus the pectin, I found a recipe here.

Oak Shade Farm pepper jack

Oak Shade Farm pepper jack

Monterey Jack cheese is supposed to be pretty mild.  I must admit that I found the Pepper Jack from Oak Shade Farm in Nottingham, PA extra bland.  The cheese, that is.  The peppers that are in the cheese are good and spicy, which totally redeems the cheese for me.  Twenty minutes after eating a few slivers, my mouth still burns!

I can’t help but think about the stellar grilled cheese sandwich this cheese would make.

Oak Shade Farm cheese is available in the dairy case at Fair Food Farmstand in Reading Terminal.

Posted by Nicole on 09/08 at 07:35 AM

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