Oak Shade Farm pepper jack

Saturday, September 08, 2007

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

The skinny on figs

Friday, September 07, 2007

Becky's figs

I was delighted to see lots of figs when I picked up my CSA share yesterday at the Fair Food Farmstand in Reading Terminal.  Of course, I snagged some of Becky’s famous figs (straight from the tree in her South Philly backyard).  They are green figs of an unidentifiable variety.  They’re much juicier than other varieties I’ve tried.  Normally, juicier would be better, but these seem watery rather than juicy.  Don’t get me wrong: these figs are good.  They just wouldn’t be the first figs I’d pick up.


Other organic figs

There were also a few boxes of these figs.  I can’t for the life of me remember whose farm they came from, but I think they are organic or low spray or something.  These figs are amazing!  They’re about the size of a quarter or a little bigger and have a great taste.  They’re not any less juicy than the green figs, but they’re less watery.  That carton of figs did not last the night!

For the green figs, I may dry them and see how that goes.  It would be great to have some figs preserved!

Posted by Nicole on 09/07 at 07:43 AM

Cucumber Salad, and About My Heritage

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Cucumber Wakame Salad

As promised, here’s the cucumber wakame salad that I make every summer. The recipe is on a slip of paper that I had transcribed from talking to my mom, many years ago.

1 long cucumber (preferably one with minimal seeds. I used the cucumber I got from my CSA)
4 T rice vinegar
4 T soy sauce
1/4 t salt
1 1/2 T sugar
a handful of dried wakame (found in Asian groceries, or health-food stores)

Soak the wakame in a bowl of cold water. The seaweed will expand—be sparing with the amount you put in.
In another bowl, combine the vinegar, soy sauce, salt, and sugar until blended.
Peel, de-seed (if necessary), and thinly slice cucumber. Add to the vinegar mixture.
Drain and squeeze wakame and add to the cucumber. Lightly toss, and refrigerate for about 30 minutes. Serve cold.

I am a second-generation Japanese-American. My parents and I came to the States when I was very little. My mom often cooked washoku (Japanese food) for meals, and I learned a lot of her recipes by watching her cook. There are some things I can cook that almost taste like my mom’s, and there are some things that I just can’t quite make the way she does.

One thing about cooking Japanese, or really any Asian cuisine, is that many dishes call for ingredients that just aren’t readily available here, let alone locally produced. There was a time when my grandmother used to send us care packages of seaweed, tea, and other foodstuffs because they were difficult to find here. Nowadays, more interest and awareness of Asian culture makes it easier to get many of these items at a neighborhood grocery store. However, I haven’t heard of or seen items like wakame, like Asian short-grain rice, being locally harvested. And to be honest, I would be loath to give up things like these for the sake of being a pure locavore.

As it says in my description on the About page of this site, I do enjoy many cuisines from all over the world. I am often creative in the kitchen, mixing and matching tastes. When it comes to the food that my mom made, my comfort food, I choose to use local items when I can, and the ingredients of my culture’s cuisine when needed.


My Dinner Tonight

Posted by Yoko on 09/06 at 10:21 PM

CSA Weekly Report: Lancaster Farm Fresh


In this week’s Lancaster Farm Fresh share:

    3 red bell peppers grown by Meadow Valley Organics 6 heirloom tomatoes grown by Riverview Organics 1 pt grape tomatoes grown by Farmdale Organics 3 lbs Russet potatoes grown by Green Valley Organics 6 ears sweet corn grown by Countryside Organics 1 pound onions grown by Scarecrow Hill Farm 2 butternut squash grown by Hillside Organics 1 bunch basil grown by E. Zook 1 bunch Swiss chard grown by Meadow Valley Organics

It’s a relief to see the butternut squash, and the other Winter squash we’ve been getting over the last few weeks.  I hope that as September rolls on, we see many different vegetables.  I love tomatoes, corn, and peppers as much as anyone else, but I’m overrun.  I’m sick to death of looking at them.  I’m pulling a dozen huge tomatoes out of my own garden every week, let alone getting inundated every week through my CSA share.  I’m going to start smelling like tomatoes soon.  Not that it’s a bad thing necessarily, but I fear for my sanity.

And so I will do what I have done for the last many weeks with the corn, peppers, and tomatoes.  The peppers will get roasted and frozen for a rainy day.  I’ll cook the corn, remove the kernels, and freeze them…and I will have a huge abundance of corn over the Winter for corn chowder, corn fritters, and creamed corn.  In addition to my oven-dried tomatoes, roasted tomatoes, canned tomatoes, frozen tomatoes, salsa, bruschetta, tomato sauce, etc., I will seek out yet another way to preserve tomatoes.  I will be the Pvt. Benjamin Buford ‘Bubba’ Blue of corn and tomatoes, able to tell you every imaginable way to serve corn and every imaginable way to preserve tomatoes.  People will run from me.

I shouldn’t complain - it will be wonderful in the middle of Winter to have so much locally grown food in my pantry. 


Posted by Nicole on 09/06 at 05:43 PM

Restaurant Week with sustainable choices!


Restaurant Week begins in Philadelphia in a few short weeks.  For $30 you can get a three course meal from some of Philadelphia’s best restaurants.  I was delighted to see a few restaurants focusing on local ingredients are participating!

City Grange in the Westin Hotel, for instance.  Their Restaurant Week menu features Lancaster County chicken noodle soup, salads that include locally made cheese, Atlantic salmon, and vegetables from Jersey.  This is a perfect time to try the food at the newly opened City Grange.

FARMiCia is also participating this time around with a menu full of seasonal, local ingredients, and even Cuba Libre is getting in on the act with a salad of Jersey tomatoes.

Don’t miss out!


Posted by Nicole on 09/06 at 02:45 PM

CSA Weekly Report: Red Earth Farm


Today’s Red Earth Share contained

1 quart of Yukon Gold potatoes
1 quart of green snap beans
1/2 pint of cherry and grape tomatoes mixed
quart of mixed bell peppers
4 heads of garlic
1 bunch of swiss chard
1 head of red summer crisp lettuce

and from the buying club

1 block of Oak Shade cheddar
1 block of Oak Shade smoked cheddar

My friend Jen, who I was splitting the share with, became overwhelmed by all of the produce once she started grad school and suggested that instead of splitting the share equally I take 7 items and she take 3. I thought about making it seem like a hardship just to give her a hard time, but I’m actually thrilled. This means less to buy at the farmer’s market each week. It also means I need to stop slacking and start cooking more. I’ve still got a bunch of leeks left over from last week as well as four poblano peppers. I bought a quart of potatoes from the farmer’s market last week without remembering I’d be getting more today and haven’t used those yet either.

Any suggestions for something to do with the leeks that isn’t leek and potato soup? How about any good Chiles Rellenos recipes to use up the poblanos?



Posted by Jackie on 09/06 at 02:23 PM

Cooking Straight from the Farm

If you’re a self-proclaimed localvore or just someone interested in unusual farm produce, you won’t want to miss this opportunity.  On Saturday, September 29th, Weavers Way Farm, in coordination with the Mt. Airy Learning Tree, will host a unique cooking workshop that starts with students strolling rows of heirloom tomatoes, okra, squash, pumpkins, flowers, herbs, swiss chard, beets, carrots, peppers, and more to learn about natural growing practices and local urban farming as well as how to take advantage of seasonal crops at home.  Students will talk with the farmer and volunteers to understand how much effort and passion goes into naturally grown/organic food.  Once students have gathered this farming knowledge, they will then help harvest some vegetables (and buy more to take home if they wish) to take into the kitchen.

In the kitchen, the farm’s food blog host will demonstrate how to prepare three or four quick dishes using the farm’s more unusual produce (including marjoram pictured above).  Dishes will be determined by seasonal availability, but are almost certain to include quesadillas with tomatillo sauce and squash blossoms, sorrel almond pesto, seasonally filled empanadas and other delectable and super fresh treats.  After the cooking demonstration, students are encouraged to stick around to feast on the harvest dishes and participate in a round-robin discussion on buying local resources and urban farming in Philadelphia. 

To sign up for the workshop, visit Mt. Airy Learning Tree’s site for online registration

Posted by Jennie on 09/06 at 09:40 AM

Coming events!

Looking for something fun to do that involves eating local?  Look no further…

  • Dance of the Ripe Tomatoes.  Friday, September 7 at 6:30pm at the White Dog Cafe (ok, behind it in a tent).  $40/person.  Annual Farm Buffet Dinner served outdoors featuring the harvest of local organic family farms which supply the Cafe and the Fair Food Farmstand, including Branch Creek Farm, Buck Run, Green Meadow, Greensgrow, Greystone, Neptune, Meadow Run, Overbrook Herb Farm & Lancaster Farm Fresh, as well as beer by local brewers Stoudt’s, Yards, Flying Fish, and Victory.  Following the dinner is dancing to live music.  Call the White Dog at 215-386-9224 for reservations.  All proceeds benefit the Philadelphia Fair Food Project.
  • “Urban Farming” field day.  Saturday, September 15th from 11:00am-3:00pm. $15 for PASA members/$25 for all others (includes lunch). Greensgrow, Philadelphia’s first urban farm, invites you to learn about its unique approach to running a vibrant business on a former brownfield site.  Participants be introduced to their City Supported Agriculture model, various methods for growing above-ground, as well as learning about their distinctly urban nursery business. The day will end with a quick look at their new bio-diesel reactor and two green-roofs.  Sponsored by Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA).  Contact PASA at 814-349-9856 to register.
  • Iron Hill Brewery Oktoberfest Kick-Off - Brewer’s Reserve. Saturday, September 15 from 4-10 pm.  Free admission, food/booze a la carte.  Join Tim Stumpf, head brewer, in Iron Hill’s Phoenixville location to sample a selection of handcrafted traditional German style beers.  Special guest Sly Fox, from nearby Royersford, will serve its acclaimed Pikeland Pils.

Posted by Nicole on 09/06 at 07:44 AM

Federal money for PA organic farmers

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Here’s something interesting to note - last Friday the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the availability of $1 million to help farmers and processors pay for the cost of their organic certification costs.  15 states will share the $1 million proportionate to the number of organic producers in the state.  One of those states is Pennsylvania!

The states that will share the money do not traditionally receive as much crop assistance as the larger Midwestern states do in the federal farm bill. Leahy initiated the program to help deliver federal agriculture money to the farmers in the states in New England and the mid-Atlantic.

The money is specifically aimed at small farmers and will reimburse each eligible farmer 75% of certification costs up to $500. 

No doubt this will benefit all of us who enjoy eating locally grown, certified organic produce.

Posted by Nicole on 09/05 at 10:17 AM

CSA Weekly Report:  Blooming Glen Farm

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

“No more flowers :( ” says Tricia.

CSA crop share 2007 #15 - 0904 - 02

CSA crop share 2007 #15 - 0904 - 01
(Click photo to read notes at flick’r regarding names and quantities of this week’s share.)

Please advise!  Anyone have any idea what to do with that funky sunshine winter squash?  smile

Posted by Mikaela on 09/04 at 10:11 PM

CSA Weekly Report: Red Earth Farm

CSA 2007 #8

This week’s haul:
Nectarines (from Buying Club)
Green Zebra tomatoes—new variety for me. A bit tart, but juicy.
A colorful assortment of bell peppers
Italian Basil

Posted by Yoko on 09/04 at 11:01 PM

And so it begins: Eat Local Challenge!

Where did the Summer go?  With the arrival of September comes this month’s Eat Local Challenge, Philly-style.  Several of us here at FTP (along with a few FTP readers) have pledged to do the following:

  1. Eat one meal per week during the month of September that is made using locally grown ingredients.  Non-local oil and spices are allowed.
  2. Can, freeze, dry, or otherwise preserve two things during the month.
  3. Utilize one new resource for locally grown food during September - that could be a new restaurant, farmer’s market, etc.

Our first progress report will appear next Monday! Woohoo!

If you’d like to participate, please leave us a comment!

Edited to note:  Even CNN is covering the Eat Local September Challenge!

If the food hasn’t been grown within 100 miles of where we live—we won’t buy it. That is the pledge concerned foodies across the country are taking for the entire month of September.

At its extreme, the 100-mile diet means no coffee, no spices and no chocolate. Most people don’t go that far, but they do embrace buying food grown and raised locally where possible.

CNN cites diversity and freshness of food, interest in supporting small farmers, and concern about the environment as reasons to eat local.  They point out several reasons why eating locally may be a challenge: convenience and not being able to get your favorite foods when you want them.  They also indicate that some people don’t like CSAs because it’s harder to cook because you might be unfamiliar with the produce. I guess it’s an article that’s trying to be balanced, but I’ve never really had problems getting to farmer’s markets and tend to think of eating seasonally and cooking according to what comes in the CSA as positive things. Huh.

Posted by Nicole on 09/04 at 02:47 PM

The delicate Delicata


Like lots of people on Labor Day, my husband and I had ourselves a little cookout.  We grilled up some nice steaks from Natural Acres.  I wanted something different as a side, though.  And with the four Delicata squash grown by Green Valley Organics that have come in my CSA share over the last two weeks, it seemed like a good idea to cook those up.

Winter squash at an end of Summer cookout?  Well…as strange as that seems, it worked.  After cutting the squash in half lengthwise, removing the seeds, and slicing up the halves, I tossed the pieces in olive oil and roasted everything for 20 minutes at 400 degrees.  The roasted slices of squash then were tossed in the last of my tulip poplar honey from Linvilla and some sea salt, and roasted another five minutes.

The result was a sweet and salty squash dish that was hearty enough to stand up to steak, but still light enough for a cookout.

I roasted all the squash, but only about 1/3 of it got the salt and honey treatment.  The rest has been packed into freezer bags to puree for soup when it gets a little cooler outside.  I can barely wait!

Posted by Nicole on 09/04 at 08:01 AM

Juniper berries

Monday, September 03, 2007

The idea of foraging never occurred to me prior to reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma.  Rather than something normal people do to find food for themselves, it seemed like something weird and foreign…nearly akin to looking in trash cans for food.  I’ve always been a gardener, excited by the idea of raising my own food.  It seems silly now that I would make such a distinction between things I specifically cultivated for food and food that I might find growing wild.  It is especially odd, considering I grew up in an area where there were so many hunters my school district was (and continues to be) closed on the first day of deer season - what else is hunting and fishing but foraging?

Foraging is, in its most basic sense, wandering in search of food.  And I have done it without considering it as such - like when I was little and gorged myself on a blueberries from a bush I found in the woods.  Lately I’ve been more and more inspired to look for sources of food outside my comfort zone (ie, my garden and the farmer’s market).  To help me with identification, I took out Edible Wild Plants of Pennsylvania and New York by John Tomikel from my library.

Before I start searching the city and burbs for edible plantlife on public property, I thought I might start in my own backyard.  It’s still foraging in your backyard, right?  If the stuff you find wasn’t intended to be food?  Well, I’m going to call it foraging.  Baby steps to real foraging, maybe.


Many of us have juniper bushes on our property in this neck of the woods.  We have three or four giant juniper bushes in the yard.  The Juniperus virginiana is an evergreen that is quite common to the area, usually planted as windbreaks or hedgerows.  It produces juniper berries, although it’s really not a true berry.  It’s a modified conifer cone, so it’s a little scaly. As a rule, you really wouldn’t want to eat juniper berries - most are fairly bitter.  However, juniper berries do have their uses!

The juniper berry is the major flavoring used to make gin.  As far as I know, it is legal to make gin in your home as long as you don’t sell it.  If you’re interested in trying, there are some fairly substantial instructions at Home Distillation of Alcohol.

Beyond their role in making gin, juniper berries are a great flavoring for meat dishes.  They are generally used dried and crushed, and are removed from the dish before eating.  I have used juniper berries from my bushes in meat marinades.  However, I’ve found all sorts of recipes using juniper berries

For more information about how and when to harvest juniper berries, click here.

A word of caution: juniper is a diuretic and can be harmful to pregnant women (it may cause uterine contractions).

Posted by Nicole on 09/03 at 11:48 AM

Last OLS 2007 dinner!

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Ta da! One Local Summer 2007 has been successfully completed!

OLS dinner 2007 #10 - 0826 - 01

One Local Summer 2007, Dinner Menu 10

  * Homemade whole wheat pizza (McGeary Organics/Annville Flouring Mill - 94 miles) with tomatoes, onion, yellow and red bell peppers, garlic (all from Blooming Glen Farm CSA crop share - 5 miles), basil (Bux-Mont Hydroponics - 5 miles), white sweet corn (Lancaster - 84 miles) and cherry bomb hot peppers (our garden - 0 miles). Nonlocal ingredients used: yeast, olive oil, salt
  * Red and yellow watermelon (Blooming Glen) and peach (New Jersey - 40 miles) fruit salad.
  * Proprietors Reserve red wine (Chaddsford Winery - 48 miles)

I absolutely considered going all out with several recipes for the last meal, but thought this simple meal was much more representative of the spirit of OLS. Simplicity in making big changes with little effort. Simplicity too, in finding joy in small things; like cutting open a watermelon and discovering buttercup-yellow flesh instead of the expected pink.

OLS dinner 2007 #10 - 0826 - 02

Hm. Actually, now that I think about it, this dinner wasn’t exactly simple. I’d never made pizza dough before. Not that it was complex, but there’s a little bit of a learning curve to work into the math there smile

And that’s what OLS has been for me these past ten weeks: doing things that I never before had an excuse to do. Making pizza dough and tortillas, going to the Skippack farmers’ market and discovering artichokes, finding several local vegan protein sources - shit, me just purchasing flour to bake was an unthinkable prospect before this summer. I mean, really… I look at this and am just plain surprised with myself:

OLS dinner 2007 #10 - 0826 - 03

As much as I love to cook, and love local foods, I can truly say that I never would’ve made a pizza from scratch had is not been for the challenge of OLS. Nor would I have considered using corn as a topping. But! These were all good decisions!

Thank you, Liz! You are amazing and inspiring and fun.

With the the picture-taking, planning, deadlines and posting, I’m happy to have a short break from these meals each week , but I’m sure local-specific meals will maintain a somewhat regular appearance here until OLS 2008. I’m interested to see what I can some up with say, in February. Stay tuned!

Posted by Mikaela on 09/02 at 08:03 PM

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Support a local farmer, crave the freshest produce, worry about what's in or on your food - whatever your reason for eating locally grown and produced food in the Philadelphia area, Farm to Philly is probably writing about it. We're focused on where to find it, how to grow it, and what to do with it!

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