Local note about Potato and Pea Curry
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
I forgot to mention what local stuff we use in the Aloo Matar curry (“Nobody Nose You Like I Nose You” entry), and why it’s such a good winter dish.
Here’s the three ingredients we use from nearby—the onions from our neighborhood once-a-week Amish farmstand, the peas from ones we picked and shelled at a conventional pick-your-own farm in NJ, and the potatoes from our CSA farmshare. We usually have spuds at the of the CSA season, because it’s something that will keep as we’re madly eating up what won’t. Onions also keep for a bit, of course, and we’ve frozen and dried onions for curries throughout the winter. Finally, while the dish does have the word “pea” in the title, we’ve used broccoli, lima beans, kale, and any other number of substitutes when local peas aren’t available.
What’s left is the oil, rice, and tom paste, which are organic but not local; and the spices, which are neither. I’ll keep looking for replacements (either home-made or otherwise)!
Nobody Nose You Like I Nose You
I had sinus surgery 10 days ago. It went well—it always does—but I lost my sense of smell. This may seem like a no-brainer, but in fact, in recent years the packing they have to put in your nose at the end of the surgery has gotten so minimal that I usually quickly recover my sense of smell. I think perhaps the surgery was more extensive, or happened to cover more of the sense of smell territory (how does that work?).
But whatever the reason, I found that the lovely cool autumn air came through my nose scent-free. A couple of days after the surgery, I noticed that the spray bottle containing one part vinegar to four parts water (plus a little lemon juice) that we use for cleaning everything, from sinks to countertops to apples, was low. However, we heard that there was some use of animals in the filtering process of making white distilled vinegar, so I thought, why not use apple cider vinegar which I knew did not use animals?
I poured a bunch of apple cider vinegar into the spray bottle, and merrily cleaned our kitchen countertops. Once I even put my nose close to the counter top to see if I could smell if it was too strong. But only the faintest whiff of vinegar came to me, so I cleaned everything. When M came home, she practically choked on the fumes!
How does this relate to food? Well, the day after my surgery my father told me he would cook me whenever I wanted for dinner, and there was really no question. My favorite dish in the whole wide world is my father’s potato and pea curry with home-made chapatis on the side. The funny thing was I couldn’t smell the dish at all, which made it fascinating to have the textures and the heat of the curry in my mouth. Also, usually when my nose is stuffed up and I can’t smell I’m not hungry, either, but now I was stuffing my face with the potato and pea curry. I’ve put the recipe below, in case anyone else turns out to love it as much as I do.
I know this is a long entry, but the slow and gentle increase over the week in my ability to smell and taste what I was eating has been like the pleasure of the autumn trees changing. You notice that little Japanese maple starting to glow red, and then another tree, and then another, but it seems like they’ll never all go, and then one day you look out your window and there are fireworks.
P.S. “Nobody nose you like I nose you” is what my brother wrote on a card for me for my first sinus surgery in 1988 when I was 14!
Potato & Pea Curry (the Indian name is Aloo Matar)
3 TB veg oil
1 med onion, chopped
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp tumeric
1/4 tsp cayenne (Dad uses less)
1 tsp ginger (grated or sliced)
pinch of ground cinnamon
pinch of ground cardomom
pinch of ground clove
2 TB tom paste (4 TBs=1/2 can)
1/2 cup boiling water (just reserve it from spud water, below)
3 med potatoes, quartered, cooked
1 1/2 cup frozen peas
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup yogurt (opt.)
Fry onion in veg oil ‘til transparent. Add all spices, med fire, 2 min. Put in tom paste and spud water. Stir in spuds, peas, salt. (If using white basmati rice, put it on now for 14 min.) Leave spuds on LOW, 15 minutes until rice is done. Mix in yogurt or leave it out if you’d rather.
Posted by Eliza on 11/06 at 10:03 AM
Dark Days: Deluxe Comfort Food
Monday, November 05, 2007
There are few things I like more than a grilled cheese sandwich on a cold day. I know it’s not the healthiest thing in the world, but it’s so good! Total comfort. And with a bowl of homemade soup, well…it just doesn’t get any better than that.
Last night I got home from a busy, work-related weekend and all I wanted was something soothing and good. Making soup from scratch is easy (and soothing all by itself), particularly if you’ve been freezing the spare odds and ends of produce throughout the Summer season. I started with non-local walnut oil and sauteed some sliced onions, and added in two pints of the duck stock I made and canned a few months ago. I cubed the last acorn squash and carrots from the CSA share, and some parsnips I recently purchased. In went some dried beans, both recently purchased and the very last of the beans I grew in the garden. And then I just started grabbing things out of the freezer - the peppers I roasted and froze, turnip tops, kale, scallions. Delicious!
And the grilled cheese! Good multi-grain bread from Le Bus, raw milk cheddar from Green Meadow Farms, and local butter. I promptly forgot all about having to work all weekend.
The only things not local: salt and pepper, walnut oil, and the bread. Granted, it is from a local bakery - surely that has to count for something!
Posted by Nicole on 11/05 at 11:35 AM
Home Sweet Worm Bin
Sunday, November 04, 2007
Or at least, my hope is that my new tenants, a pound of red worms (who knew they’re sold by the pound?), will come to view their bin as sweet home.
I have been itching to compost for years, and now I have the space to do it. Although I’m aware that clever, resourceful people have disguised their bins as coffee tables and window seats, I just wanted to stick it in the corner of the kitchen or out of sight.
Not that it is out of mind—I think about my worms frequently during the day. While preparing food, or course, but also out cutting the last of the zinnias, I wonder: will the worms enjoy some stems? Taking dead leaves off the geranium, I pause: perhaps the worms could snack on these? My work colleagues have already predicted that soon I’ll be making shopping lists with the worms in mind. (Blog readers take note: if start talking about “cooking” for the worms, it will be time for an intervention.)
For those not yet vermicomposting, here’s a quick summary: Go to wormwoman.com, order a kit (there are two sizes), and the UPS person delivers it. The kit includes the bin (recycled plastic), the worms, a sort of fork/rake, and the book Worms Eat My Garbage by the late mother of vermicomposting, Mary Appelhof. (You can also just order worms and book in which there are instructions for DIY bin-maing.) In about 90 minutes—most of it spent sorting out the colored newspaper from the strictly b/w and shredding it—the bedding (“bedding,” that’s homey) was prepared, and I was ready to let the worms move in.
They clumped a bit at first, and at that moment came a big decision: to touch the worms or use the fork thingy. When I was a kid, I had no trouble handling worms for fishing; we also went “hunting” for night crawlers so we could store them in a Pringles can. Ok then, just dive in with the hands. Alas, I found that for good or bad, in my evolution as a person, some things fell off the bus, including comfort in touching naked worm bodies. The fork implement is really quite dull, so I gently separated the big clumps and distributed the worms across the top of their bedding. The instructions said to leave the lid off for an hour or until the worms had burrowed into the bin. Here’s a photo after an hour:
That was 4 days ago. It’s meant to take a few months to break everything down, so I’ll keep everyone apprised of the progress. My goal is to have a big heap of vermicompost for spring planting.
Posted by Allison on 11/04 at 09:43 PM
Saturday, November 03, 2007
I’m on a quest to master winter squash before spring. It’s a vegetable staple for local foods eating through the long stretch until those first greens are popping up. Even though our garden is still producing quite a bit of stuff, we’ve been eating the loads of butternut and acorn squash that we picked for about a month now. I’m always on the lookout for new ways to use it, and my latest attempt was a butternut squash soufflé (recipe).
The squash and sage were from our garden, and the eggs were local. The only tweak I made to the recipe was to reduce the white sugar from ¼ cup down to one tablespoon. And, really, even that tablespoon was pretty unnecessary given how sweet the squash is on its own. As an aside, have you noticed how all of the recipes in Southern Living are a bit Paula Dean-esque with the butter, sugar and shortening? My mother-in-law sends me some good recipes from that magazine but I’ve got to wonder if people really eat that much sugar at dinner. (And yes, I’m aware of the irony of using a recipe from a Southern magazine on a Northeastern local foods blog.) Anyway, the soufflé was creamy and fluffy, and the sage and nutmeg were nice complements to the squash. It would be lovely in individual ramekins. Gotta get some of those!
Friday, November 02, 2007
If you know Italian food, then you know that there is no such thing. There is food from Emilia-Romagna and food from Puglia. Further, there is food from regions within Puglia and food from regions within Emilia-Romagna – and even micro-regions within those regions. Italian food is, if anything, intensely local, achieving its effect by enhancing the flavor of local, seasonal ingredients. So what happens when you cook Italian food outside of Italy?
At first, I sought to cook only foods from a particular region, Emilia-Romagna, but that proved expensive, wasteful, and – in retrospect – arbitrary (why Emilia-Romagana over Puglia, Lombardy or Piedmont?). Now, I think I’ve found a better way.
Now, I am looking to transpose recipes (as opposed to replicate) using ingredients from this region. Obviously, this has its limits: I still prefer to cook with olive oil for health and taste reasons. Still, why can I not use local parmesan-style cheese or pancetta?
This pesto recipe is, I think, a good representation of the balance between imported products and local ones. The basil, parsley, and garlic are from Red Earth Farm, the walnuts from the Headhouse Square Farmer’s Market. The cheese is from Hendricks’ Dairy, and sea salt from Maine (purchased at the Fair Food Farmstand in Reading Terminal). I tend to make this with whole-wheat pasta from Severino, but it works beautifully over fish as well.
One final note: my wife and I do not enjoy oily pesto, so I’ve modified the original technique slightly in an effort to use only as much olive oil as necessary.
(Almost) Local Pesto
2 cups basil, washed
¼ cup parsley, washed
3 tablespoons walnuts, toasted
½ cup (or more to taste), Parmesan
1 clove garlic
1 pinch sea salt
1 lb. whole-wheat pasta
Set a pot of water boiling, aggressively salt the water, and dump in the pasta.
Meanwhile, in a food processor, combine basil, parsley, walnuts, Parmesan, garlic, and salt. “Pulse” several times until the ingredients start to blend. Then, turn on the processor and drizzle in only enough olive oil to blend everything to a paste-like consistency.
Drain the pasta, but reserve approximately one cup of the pasta water (it should be nice and cloudy from the starch). Combine the pasta, butter, and pesto in a bowl, gradually adding enough pasta water to blend everything. (Suddenly, the pesto should magically seem to coat everything.)
Eating Locally: Your Own Backyard
You can’t get any more local than your own backyard. Even though we live in the city, I always make a point to plant and harvest my own vegetables and fruit. This year we grew watermelon, herbs, tomatoes, raspberries, eggplant, squash, grapes, blackberries and lots of hot peppers. Because of an unseasonably warm Autumn, a lot of the plants are still producing because there hasn’t been a killing frost yet. I am sure it will happen any day now, so it is best to be prepared.
Here are some steps to maximize what’s left and prepare for next year:
1. Cover the eggplants/squash with a bag or fabric. Not 100% protection, but sometimes it is enough to ward off a light frost for a few days and allow almost mature vegetables to ripen.
2. Pick green tomatoes. I made chili with some green tomatoes and wrapped others in newspaper and stuck them in a dark place to ripen.
3. Bring delicate potted herbs indoors.
4. Dig up your pepper plants, plant them in a pot (with some fresh potting soil) and bring them inside. They can reproduce all winter if they are in a sunny spot and can be replanted in the Spring.
5. Compost any vegetables that will not ripen off the vine or plant them in the ground-you might get a “free” plant growing there next year.
6. Weed. It sounds silly, but if you get rid of the weeds now you might have less after the last frost and it discourages pests and disease.
7. Cover and mulch the garden area.
A brief note: This is my first post as a guest writer for Farm to Philly and quite an honor. I am a food writer and blogger based in Baltimore, which is just within 100 miles of Philadelphia. I plan to occasionally post about food, places and events in my area.
Posted by Guest on 11/02 at 12:44 PM
Winter Harvest Begins
I got my first order from the Philadelphia Winter Harvest yesterday. Winter Harvest is a buying club, run via Farm to City, that allows you to choose local produce, meats, dairy, and baked goods, among other things, during the winter and early spring. Items are paid for through a debit system from the member’s account. The order is then shipped to a pickup location on the weeks you specify per month.
The prices are a little too steep for me to purchase something every week, but I’ve seen other members buy things in great quantity. Last year, there were some problems with my orders that resulted in last-minute cancellations. As a result, I had some leftover credit and used it towards this month. I ended up inadvertently duplicating my order from my CSA, which resulted in more butternut squash and apple cider than I had intended. I love both, so it works out just fine.
This year, I hope to save up some money to buy some local meats. Stay tuned throughout the winter for updates!
Posted by Yoko on 11/02 at 11:41 AM
Thursday, November 01, 2007
Bad news from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture: consumers will no longer be able to tell from looking at a milk label if the milk contains bovine growth hormones, antibiotics, or pesticides. State Agriculture Secretary Dennis Wolff says using labels that read ‘rBGH-free’ or ‘pesticide-free’ only confuse all of us hapless, idiotic consumers because we mistakenly think milk produced from cows who aren’t chock full of drugs is somehow better for us.
Never mind that rBGH is banned in Canada and Europe, and even the U.S. General Accounting Office and the Consumer’s Union, publisher of Consumer Reports magazine, fully admit that drinking milk derived from rBGH-treated cows is potentially hazardous to humans. Earlier this year, both the U.S. FDA and FTC ruled that rBGH- and antiobiotic-free milk labeling was appropriate and legal. Who would possibly want to know that their milk is rBGH-free? Sadly, Wawa only recently announced that they will process and sell milk that is free of artificial growth hormones. One has to wonder how this will affect their Pennsylvania stores. Under the new labeling ban, 16 Pennsylvania companies will have to ‘correct’ their labels by January 1. Rumor has it that Monsanto, the drug giant that produces rBGH, has been working overtime to pressure Pennsylvania Ag heads to get rid of the ‘confusing’ labeling.
Some of the dairies imply their product is safer than others through absence labeling, telling consumers what is not present in the milk as opposed to what is, Wolff said.
Claims such as “antibiotic-free” and “pesticide-free” are misleading, because all processed milk sold in Pennsylvania is tested a minimum of 10 times to guarantee it is free of such substances, which are illegal for milk to contain, he said.
Consumers rely on product labels to decide what to buy and feed their families, Wolff said. The department must approve labels for milk sold in Pennsylvania and there has been more and more marketing that makes it hard for consumers to make informed decisions, he said.
Posted by Nicole on 11/01 at 12:57 PM
CSA Weekly Report: Blooming Glen Farm
This week is the second to last pick up of the season. How sad!
(Click photo to read notes at flick’r regarding names and quantities of this week’s share.)
Looking at that incredible harvest and all those vibrant colors, it’s so hard to believe that in just a few days, we’ll be receiving the last share of 2007.
Blooming Glen has some great cheerleaders and received fabulous press and publicity, which all seems to have contributed to a flood of requests for 2008 CSA subscription registration. What a wonderful testament to the farmers’ hard work, dedication and passion - and too, to the supporters and members of the community. Knowing that so many families, when given the choice, prefer naturally grown food from a local farm is reassuring and smile-inducing. I do hope that Blooming Glen’s continued success and their neighbor’s continued support inspires the CSA model to grow in this area.
As they say, “If you build it, they will come!”
Posted by Mikaela on 11/01 at 09:22 AM
CSA Weekly Report: Red Earth Farm
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
The penultimate share of the season for me had:
bok choy (because I love this stuff)
butternut squash (these two for a butternut squash risotto I plan to make)
The apple cider, from Bauman’s, was a bonus for sending in a response to the CSA’s survey. Delightfully thirst-quenching!
Posted by Yoko on 10/30 at 11:39 PM
Market Report: Rittenhouse Square
I took a walk at lunchtime today to check out the Rittenhouse Square Farmers Market. I was looking for apples, and I was not disappointed. There were just two stands but both were well-stocked. One of them was mostly apples and Asian pears. The other stand had a broader mix of Lancaster County-grown fruit and veggies from Amos Fisher Farm (Quarryville) and Rineer Family Farms (Pequea).
The selection of apples from Amos Fisher Farm was great (all were $1.59/lb). In addition to the usual suspects, I tried some Razor Russet apples that are worth seeking out. I had to promptly sample one and it was crisp and firm with a nice sweet flavor. Perfect for eating out of hand. I think it will also cook up well in some apple cake later this week.
I also got some huge heads of broccoli and cauliflower from Rineer Farms (2 for $7 is a steal for these big beauties!). I’m thinking a nice, cheesy bubbly-warm gratin is in order for this crisp weather. The stand also had a lot of peppers, tomatoes, beans, spinach, mesclun, potatoes and, of course, plenty of winter squash.
The Rittenhouse Square Farmers Market is on Walnut Street (west of 18th Street) on Tuesdays from 10 – 1 and Saturdays from 10-3. I had read that the Tuesday market ends in October, but the woman staffing the stand where I bought my stuff said that they’re going to be around until Thanksgiving.
From the depths of the freezer
Soup weather has officially arrived here in Philly. To mark the occasion, I trolled through my freezer full of locally grown produce and settled on the many bags of corn hibernating there. Corn chowder! Woohoo!
3 cups of corn kernels (CSA share)
1 large red onion (CSA share)
2 tablespoons butter (Fair Food)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups chicken stock (homemade from a local chicken)
6 new potatoes, cubed (CSA share)
2 cups milk (local)
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves, minced
salt and pepper
1 cup heavy cream
Heat the butter and oil in a large soup pot and sauté the onion until translucent. Add the chicken stock and then the potatoes. Bring this to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for a couple of minutes.
Now add milk, thyme and pepper. Let this simmer for about 8 minutes until the potatoes are tender.
Add the corn and the heavy cream. Let this simmer for 5 or 6 minutes until the corn kernels are cooked. Depending on how you like your soup, you may want to use an immersion blender to puree a bit of the soup.
Taste and adjust seasonings with salt and pepper.
It was exactly what I wanted on a cold Fall night. Yum!
The green thumb
Monday, October 29, 2007
Feeling how nippy the air is today, I’m feeling much better about my decision to take the garden down two Saturdays ago…even if I did have to pick a ton of green tomatoes. Not that I have anything against green tomatoes, mind you. There’s lots to do with them, other than the now infamous fried green recipe.
- green tomato jam
green tomato curry
green tomato sauce
green tomato and lemon marmalade
green tomato soup
Speaking of gardening, I’ve been giving some thought to next year’s garden adventure. Four varieties of garlic are already in the ground for next year, and I think I’m committed to growing Hakurei turnips. But lately I’ve been seeing a lot of people participating in the Dark Days Challenge talking about local lentils. And I’m jealous.
It’s not the easiest thing in the world to find locally grown dried beans around these parts. I have no idea why. Every now and then you see them at markets, but not too often. I grew a variety in the garden a few years ago, so I know it’s not difficult. So I’ve been thinking maybe it would be a good idea to grow my own supply again. Of course, my concern with lentils is just growing enough plants to get a decent yield. So far I have not found much information about that. Victory Seeds does sell several varieties of lentils. Perhaps I could email them and ask.
Other than lentils, I’m thinking it might be good to grow Flageolet and White Marrowfat beans.
Posted by Nicole on 10/29 at 11:15 AM
Dark Days: steak and hookers
The other day I did my first volunteer shift at the Fair Food Farmstand. Sadly, I spend so much time perusing the produce there I didn’t need much of an orientation as to what goes where. At one point, though, I was mystified when I opened a box and pulled out what I thought were radishes - giant radishes and baby radishes. Sarah, the manager, set me straight - they were Hakurei turnips. In my head, I heard “hooker eye” turnips, which sent me into giggles.
The Hakurei turnip is a Japanese salad turnip. They are quite sweet, and much softer than a regular turnip. And they’re gorgeous. I kept eyeing them up the entire time I was working at the Farmstand, and after my shift ended I bought two bunches of them, along with a porterhouse steak from Natural Acres, to make for dinner on Sunday night.
It turned into a great meal for the Dark Days Challenge - the only things not local: walnut oil, salt and pepper. In addition to the steak (cooked rare, just the way I like it!) and turnips, I also sauteed some local mushrooms in local butter.
This is how I cooked the Hakurei turnips:
2 bunches of Hakurei turnips with greens
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 small red onion, diced
Salt and pepper
2 tsp. of walnut oil
Heat walnut oil over low-medium heat in a large skillet.
Trim greens from turnips and set aside. Trim turnips and slice in half. Add to the skillet with a sprinkling of salt and cook for 10 minutes or until turnips are just starting to brown. Stir the turnips now and then to turn them. Add garlic and onion; saute for five minutes.
Tear greens into bite sized pieces and add to the skillet. Add a bit of salt and pepper. Cook until greens are wilted, another couple of minutes.
The turnips were excellent - even my husband loved them! And that makes me think perhaps I should consider growing them next year. Johnny’s Selected Seeds sells Hakurei seeds. They appear to be relatively easy to grow - and it takes only 38 days to reach maturity. It’s definitely something to consider for next Spring!