Local produce report, 28 August
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
I basically skipped my usual farmers’ market shopping last week—I picked up some apples and asian pears (asian pears! in August!), but then I left town for the weekend—so I got this week’s supply of local produce at my neighborhood food co-op instead. Going clockwise from the top left, I picked up a watermelon, some hormone-free skim milk, two kinds of tofu (one atop the other), red peppers, white mushrooms, zucchini, scallions, and chickpea flour in the center. Everything except the milk is organic.
Much as I enjoy going to the farmers’ market and speaking to the farmers, it’s wonderful to have more consistent access to local foods.
Monday, August 27, 2007
These sundried tomatoes are from Overbrook Herb Farm in Lansdale, PA. Two weeks ago, the Farmstand manager Emily filled a shiny steel cannister with these vibrantly red bits-o’-summer. I sampled one, and I was pleasantly surprised to find myself reaching for another one, since I usually assume I don’t like sundried tomatoes. (I like tomatoes in sauces, but I don’t eat them plain.)
Last week, I decided to make tomato sauce, and the recipe that I wanted to try called for adding chopped sundried tomatoes at the end for extra flavor. Excellent, I thought! It will give me an excuse to buy those sundrieds at the Farmstand that had been insinuating themselves into my cravings. So during my Friday morning shift, I put aside a bag of them—they are now being sold in plastic sandwich bags for $4—and I took the opportunity to ask Emily more detailed questions about them. Apparently a lot of Overbrook’s tomatoes split early in the season, a considerable loss for a small farm. The farmer had purchased a dehydrator, so he decided to make sundried tomatoes and sell them!
They have a simple, sharp flavor, and I especially like the way you can clearly see different tomato varieties mixed throughout. Despite my theoretical aversion to sundried tomatoes, I kept popping them while I was peeling & chopping Roma tomatoes for sauce…and I couldn’t even bear to put all of them into the sauce, leaving some in the bag for future sampling.
Posted by Joanna on 08/27 at 06:51 PM
Jampacked Headhouse Square Market
The Headhouse Square Farmers Market was crazy yesterday. Last Thursday’s article in the Inquirer brought the people out in droves. I got there a little before 1 pm, a full hour before the market was scheduled to close, and the pickings were really slim. Jennie at the Weaver’s Way Co-op table said that it had been nonstop people since they opened and Albert (staffing the PhillyCarShare table) said that some of the vendors had run out of food to sell by 11 :30 am.
I didn’t feel like competing with the three women picking over the last of the fresh corn, so I went without this week. I did manage to come home with a nice haul nonetheless. Spending just $19 (there are some benefits to having your choices limited) I purchased:
1 head of lettuce
6 roma tomatoes (not nearly as tender or juicy as the slicers I got last week, but very tasty)
3 skinny purple eggplants
1 regular eggplant
1 quart of white nectarines
1 yellow pepper
2 onions (red and white)
A few days ago I bought a small chunk of Valley Shepherd Creamery Nettlesome cheese. It sat in my ‘fridge. I just couldn’t work up the motivation to try it. Stinging nettles in cheese? It just sounded…wrong.
But Nettlesome cheese is so, so right! This mixed milk cheese is really wonderful - it’s filled with dried nettles and has a great, grassy smell. The taste, too, has grass undertones. Not in an unpleasant way - in a very rich and interesting way. Coincidentally, I had this idea last night during my tasting - it would probably make a really great grilled cheese sandwich. It seems like it would melt really well, and the taste of the nettles would be really unique.
Interestingly, eating cheese with stinging nettles is pretty good for you. Aside from all the benefits of dairy, nettles have long been used in herbal medicines to treat disorders of the muscles and joints, eczema, arthritis, gout, and anemia. Who knew you could eat cheese and treat arthritis all in one shot?!
Valley Shepherd Creamery is located in Long Valley, New Jersey. And if you’re ever up that way, they do offer cheesemaking classes. Valley Shepherd Creamery is also the location of the 2007 Artisan Cheese and Food Festival coming up on September 29. It sounds like an amazing event for local food aficionados. Over 25 small farms and artisan food producers throughout the Northeast region will be there with American Cheese Society award winning cheeses and specialty foods.
Edited to note: Nettlesome cheese is available in the dairy case at the Fair Food Farmstand at Reading Terminal Market.
When life deals you tomatoes, make Bloody Marys
Friday, August 24, 2007
From the sounds of things, Farm to Philly contributors (including me) have been up to their eyeballs in gorgeous, locally-grown tomatoes recently! Yoko made pasta sauce. Anj made pizza sauce. And, judging by the look of the tomato plants in my garden, the onslaught of tomatoes will continue for at least a few more weeks!
There’s nothing better than lovely tomatoes right out of the garden or from your favorite local farmer, but there comes a time when there might be too much of a good thing. If the other contributors are like me, another bite of tomato sandwich or gazpacho or salsa or tomato sauce would send me over the edge. And with two dozen tomatoes sitting in my kitchen right now, I need something new and exciting, something I haven’t eaten entirely too much of this Summer!
With that in mind, I give you ten things to do with tomatoes (other than salsa, gazpacho, sauce, or sandwiches):
- Grilled tomatoes with blue cheese and pine nuts. This [recipe] was one of the winning entries for a Washington Post tomato recipe contest. There are more recipes to be had, but this one appealed to me. I don’t know that there are any sources for locally grown pine nuts, but one can certainly find good local blue cheese! Birchrun Blue, for instance, from Birchrun Hills Farm. I’m drooling just thinking about it.
- Sofrito. If you’re drowning in cherry tomatoes, consider making a little sofrito [recipe] for a rainy day. For the uninitiated, sofrito is a sauce that used as a base for many Spanish and Latin American dishes. A friend of mine uses hers to mix with mashed potatoes. You can use it for a million things - to add flavor to sauces, mixed with yellow rice, anything!
- Tomato gelato. Paired with basil gelato (a personal favorite of mine available sometimes at Capogiro) and ricotta gelato [recipes for all three here], who could resist kicking back during the dog day’s of Summer with this little treat?
- Roasted Tomato Bread Pudding. When I make bread pudding, my husband screws up his face and denounces it. If I call it stuffing, he eats it. Whatever you call it, it’s good and roasted tomatoes make it better! The recipe [recipe] utilizes both regular and cherry tomatoes. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that stale Le Bus bread makes fabulous bread pudding.
- Dill Green Tomatoes. It’s not the end of tomato season yet (not by a long shot), but I do always find myself with a smattering of small green tomatoes at that time. I like the idea of using them green to make pickles [recipe], and it’s also a great way to use the last of the dill, garlic, and hot peppers!
- Tomato, Basil, and Brie Spread. Being a total cheesehound, the very idea of brie mixed with anything makes me swoon. If I can get my hands on the new brie from Green Valley Dairy, so much the better. The spread [recipe] smeared on a baguette from Metropolitan? Yes, please!
- Roasted Tomato Hummus. Aside from the glut of tomatoes in my house right now, I also have the dregs of the roasted garlic I made recently from my first ever batch of garlic. What better way to use them both than to make hummus [recipe]? Mmmmmmm mmmm!
- Baked Stuffed Tomatoes with Goat Cheese Fondue. There are several excellent ideas for using too many tomatoes in this NY Times article, but go directly to #2 on the list. Holy crap. Using the stellar goat cheese from Shellbark Hollow Farm, this little slice of cheese lover heaven would be awesome! I might need to make this tonight. Or I might need to eat lunch before I chew off my own hand.
- Garlicky Tomato Tart. As a rule, I’m not a fan of deliberately low fat cooking. There’s something to be said for eating well, but just not going overboard, you know. That said, the Garlicky Tomato Tart [recipe] from Cooking Light is pretty excellent. It’s comfort food around my house.
- Oven dried tomato oil. I’m a big fan of anything that involves sun-dried tomatoes, but I’m a little squicked out about the idea of leaving food outside to dry. Oven-drying tomatoes [recipe] works great and there’s less possibility of animals wreaking havoc with them. And oil with sun-dried tomatoes seems like such a useful thing to have around the house!
There you go! Ten things to do with tomatoes that you maybe haven’t made this Summer! Go forth and eat more locally grown tomatoes!
CSA Weekly Report: Lancaster Farm Fresh
In yesterday’s Lancaster Farm Fresh CSA share, Autumn snuck in! That’s right, the first of the Winter Squash! Having been under a deluge of peppers and tomatoes for the last few weeks (this week included), it’s sort of a relief to be seeing some new vegetables.
The full share list:
- 3 red bell peppers grown by Meadow Valley Organics
3 Cubanella Peppers grown by Green Valley Organics
1 bunch radishes grown by Elm Tree Organics
4 slicing tomatoes grown by Scarecrow Hill Farm
2 heirloom tomatoes grown by Riverview Organics
8 Roma tomatoes grown by Countryside Organics
6 ears sweet corn grown by Green Acres Organics
2 delicata squash grown by Green Valley Organics
1 blue Hubbard squash grown by Farmdale Organics
1 bag hot Hungarian peppers grown by Farmdale Organics
All those tomatoes and peppers, combined with the large quantity of tomatoes I’ve been pulling out of the garden, guarantee another go-round with the pressure canner. More sauce? Sofrito? Hmmm.
It all comes back to the squash, though. Since finding out that they were coming my way, I’ve been trying to figure out how I want to use them. Ideas? Suggestions?
Posted by Nicole on 08/24 at 03:41 AM
CSA Weekly Report: Red Earth Farm
Thursday, August 23, 2007
I’d completely forgotten about what I’d ordered last week so this week’s share was a surprise.
I ended up with a bunch of leeks, a head of summer crisp lettuce, a bunch of curly kale, a quart of green beans and tomatoes. Lots of beautiful, stripy, red, green, orange, yellow and purple tomatoes.
I’m not a tomato person, but these tomatoes are just so pretty I want to eat them and like them anyway.
We ran out of fruit this morning and since it’s not a fruit share week I stopped at the farmer’s market in Fairmount on my way home from the gym. It was my first time at the Fairmount farmer’s market this year. Unlike the Roxborough farmer’s market there are a couple of different stands. One vendor seemed to be selling meat as well as fruits and vegetables but I didn’t ask any questions. Another vendor ( I wish I’d picked up their flyer) was selling cheese and Bobbi’s Hummus, whose garlic hummus may be the best I’ve ever eaten. The Amish stand, like the stand near my house, was also selling canned and baked goods.
I appreciated the variety, but compared to my local farmer’s market the prices are outrageous. Corn was selling for 60 cents an ear at one stand and 80 cents an ear at the other. I bought corn for 25 cents an ear last week after complaining that 50 cents an ear was too much at Linvilla Orchards. I did not buy any corn but I did spend just over $20 on fruit. The amount seems exorbitant to me, but then again it’s fruit and it’s only in season for a short time so I may as well enjoy it while I can.
I bought a quart of apples, a quart of pears, a pint of raspberries, a watermelon, a quart of peaches and a pint of grapes. The pears are ripening in a paper bag, the raspberries were a bit disappointing though Sam will eat them anyway, and I haven’t yet tried the peaches. The watermelon may end up being a vodka depository because my teacher husband goes back to work on Monday and might need a treat. The apples are fantastic. I’m not positive, but I think the farmer told me they were called Sansa. I asked if they were best for cooking or eating. He told me that they’re eating apples and he wasn’t kidding. They are sweet and crisp and my son ate two of them this afternoon.
The grapes are also amazing. I’m so used to eating supermarket grapes that when I bit into a truly grape tasting grape I wondered for a second if it was artificially flavored. These grapes are so good I called my husband from the car on my way back home and told him they were the best grapes I’ve ever eaten. They’re so good I don’t want to eat them because I don’t want to lose them. They’re so good I’m saving all of the seeds in the hopes I’ll somehow learn how to plant grapevines in my backyard next year.
I love farmer’s markets.
Third annual Eat Local Challenge for September!
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
More details have emerged about what committing to the challenge actually means. The good news is that there really isn’t a concrete set of rules - you can participate in whatever way makes the most sense to you. For the Farm to Philly challenge-within-a-challenge, though, let’s have our own set of guidelines!
- Eat one meal per week during the month of September that is made using locally grown ingredients. Non-local oil and spices are allowed.
- Can, freeze, dry, or otherwise preserve two things during the month.
- Utilize one new resource for locally grown food during September - that could be a new restaurant, farmer’s market, etc.
Does that sounds do-able? Comments? Suggestions?
Posted by Nicole on 08/22 at 12:52 PM
CSA Weekly Report: Red Earth Farm
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
This week’s share:
Lemon basil- new to me. Smells strongly like lemon balm, tastes lemony and peppery. I haven’t decided what to do with this yet.(Update 8/23: it makes for a lemony but tasty pesto)
Lettuce- normally, I shun lettuce, as I find it boring. For some reason, I found myself in a salad mood when I ordered this.
Sungold cherry tomatoes- intended for the salad, but again, I ate a lot of them on my way home from the pickup.
Slicing tomatoes- love the tomatoes, but I think I should quit while I’m ahead. I admit that I love their full flavor—I cannot eat grocery-store tomatoes anymore.
Perpetual spinach- it’s really a chard. It’s called “perpetual” as its growing season is longer than spinach’s. Mild-tasting, good sauteed, just like spinach.
Pattypan squash- yum.
Posted by Yoko on 08/21 at 09:43 PM
Monday, August 20, 2007
I have tomatoes coming at me from all corners. I’m growing Roma tomatoes in pots in my back patio at home. I’ve ordered slicing tomatoes from my CSA. And Jersey tomatoes are readily available at the market at the end of my block. The Romas, in particular, are great for sauce.
Here’s a recipe I used to make fresh tomato sauce, which was a featured recipe from my CSA Newsletter, and adapted from Still Life With Menu by Mollie Katzen. The starred items were locally grown.
4-5 medium-sized tomatoes* (I used a combination of homegrown Romas, my CSA’s slicing tomatoes, and Jersey salad tomatoes. I don’t recommend the latter—get meaty tomatoes for sauce)
1 medium-sized onion*, finely chopped
fresh basil* and flat-leafed parsley*, finely chopped
salt and pepper
your favorite cheese (I used Pecorino Romano)
Peel the tomatoes—score them on the bottom with an X, then scald them in boiling water for a couple of seconds. You should be able to peel them from the X.
Remove seeds if you want (I don’t), and chop finely.
Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet, and saute the onions until transparent. Add tomatoes, another tablespoon of oil, salt and pepper to taste. Let simmer for a little bit to warm up. Add basil and parsley, and stir.
Serve over pasta, top with cheese.
The Eat Local Challenge
Eating local in Philadelphia is not hard, but could you commit to doing it for every meal for thirty days? The Locavores and Eat Local Challenge folks are sponsoring an international, month-long eat local challenge for the month of December that will specifically focus on preserving, canning, and putting food up for the Winter. Some of us have a good start on that already!
Perhaps we should have our own little challenge within a challenge at Farm to Philly! I do believe I’ll commit for the September Eat Local challenge - who’s with me? I can barely wait to get started on my extra canning!
As details come in about the rules of the challenge, I’ll post them here. If you’re interested in taking the September challenge, leave a comment for the post. I’ll do a weekly report on everyone’s progress.
Posted by Nicole on 08/20 at 05:58 PM
This week’s Red Earth Farm CSA share contained
1 quart of red slicing tomatoes
1 head of escarole
4 Walla Walla onions
1 pint of tomatillos
1 bunch of perpetual spinach
peaches and nectarines
Feeling like the share just wasn’t enough, I headed to my local neighborhood Farmer’s Market on Friday and picked up
1 red pepper
1 yellow pepper
6 ears of corn
For dinner last night I made Grilled Vegetable Tostadas with Two Salsas. All of the vegetables for the tostada and the sauces were local, including hot peppers and eggplant from my garden, and I topped the tostadas with local Amish Cheese.
I love that Farm to City facilitates my CSA and ensures that every Friday from June through October a nice Amish family will sell fresh fruits and vegetables (as well as canned goods, baked goods, and crafts) just a few blocks from my house. For a full list of farmer’s markets check out the Farm to City website. There’s a farmer’s market in different areas of the city and suburbs Monday through Saturday.
Drizzly Sunday at Headhouse Square
The Headhouse Square Market was absolutely packed when I got over there yesterday around noon. I had wondered if the unseasonably cool and drizzly weather would prevent people from heading out, but it seems that the farmers market crowd is a little more hard core than that. The main aisle was packed with folks who were tasting and wandering before they bought as well as the more focused shoppers who knew exactly what the wanted and where to go to get it.
In the last month I’ve managed to stop by Headhouse Square every Sunday, and in that time I’ve developed sort of a routine. I know who sells the peppers, corn and melons I want, and where to stop to get purple basil and tomatoes. I know these patterns will continue to shift as the seasons change, but I’m enjoying them while I can. Also, and I know that everyone says this when they are asked why they shop at farmers markets, I’ve really loving getting to know the people who are selling me my food. The guy at Beechwood Orchards recognizes me as the girl who is crazy for his white nectarines. Yesterday, when he saw me coming, he waved me over and said, “I’ve only got two quarts of white nectarines left, I was afraid you were going to miss them!” I bought one, as well as a quart of honeycrisp apples, which were really juicy but still the tiniest bit green tasting.
I spent $29.10 yesterday, which is my highest to date since the market at Headhouse opened. I bought more fruit yesterday than I have in past weeks, which is what knocked my total up. I also got a nice bargain, buying a conjoined zucchini (two for the price of one) for $.50. I love days when two quarters are actually enough currency to complete a purchase. The entire list of what I bought is after the jump.
1 quart honeycrisp apples (the quart was $4 and I didn’t realize until I got it home that there were only four apples in it. Not the best bargain)
1 quart white nectarines ($4.50 a quart for nine nectarines, totally worth the price as they are delicious)
1.5 pounds of assorted plums
1 conjoined zucchini (two fused together while growing)
1 bag of purple basil
2 green peppers
1 red pepper
5 assorted tomatoes
6 ears of corn
1 bag of delicious, spicy baby arugula (I had some last week as well)
Two for the dough
Sunday, August 19, 2007
Unlike most vegetables, potatoes are made for long-term storage…if you have the perfect place to store them. You know, some place dark, humid, and about 40 degrees. Unless you have a root cellar, most of us do not have these ideal conditions. My basement is cool, but not that cool! As a rule, I maybe get about two months out of potatoes if they’re stored in my kitchen. So what do you do if you find yourself with an overabundance of potatoes?
There are lots of things you can do - make mashed potatoes or cook up a mess of fries or hash browns, and then freeze it all up for a rainy day. I decided to use up my massive store of potatoes from the CSA (about 13 pounds, by my last count) to make potato gnocchi. It’s really easy, although slightly time consuming. And in the end, you get a good supply of fabulous gnocchi!
Start with potatoes. You need good, starchy potatoes, rather than waxy potatoes. In other words, you want to avoid new potatoes, fingerling potatoes, round white potatoes, and round red potatoes. Use Yukon Golds or Russets or something like that. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, cut the potatoes almost in half, arrange on a baking sheet, and bake for an hour.
As soon as you can handle the potatoes without burning the crap out of your hands, peel the potatoes. The skin should just come right off. Work fast - you need to get those babies through a potato ricer before they cool down! Why a potato ricer? You want nice, fluffy potatoes and no other way gives you just the right consistency. After the potatoes are riced, you can let them cool down to room temp…just don’t throw them in the fridge.
Next is the question of eggs - to use eggs or not to use eggs. I’ve made them both ways, and it’s fine either way as long as you don’t use too much egg. You absolutely don’t need egg, and your gnocchi will turn out a little lighter without the egg. The batch I made here has eggs. Let’s say about one beaten egg per five pounds of potatoes.
The real trick to making good gnocchi is getting the dough right, which means adding just enough flour but not too much. Most recipes call for about a cup and a half of flour per two pounds of riced potatoes. I just keep adding flour, a bit at a time, until the dough feels right to me. Specifically, it should be pretty smooth and slightly sticky. The longer you work the dough, the more flour you’ll need…and then your gnocchi will be like bricks. But when you feel like the dough is good, put it aside in a bowl draped with a clean towel and let it rest for 20 minutes.
The next part goes pretty quickly - grab a hunk of dough, roll it out into a half-inch rope, and cut into inch long nuggets. There are several opinions about finishing the gnocchi, but all agree on one thing: there needs to be some nooks or crannies to grab the sauce. Some people score the gnocchi with fork tines. Some do so while bending it over their thumb to form a little inner pocket. I go the easy route and just make a little depression in the the middle of each dumpling with the end of a fork.
And then you can either cook ‘em or freeze ‘em. If you opt to freeze, be sure to spread the gnocchi out in a single sheet on a baking tray and freeze them this way. You can pack them into a freezer Ziploc or whatever when they’re frozen. You just don’t want them sticking together, you know? For cooking, just put on a pot of water to boil, toss in the gnocchi, and scoop them out as they float to the surface.
Best of all, you can make gnocchi entirely out of local ingredients - potatoes and eggs are easy to come by, and you can purchase Daisy pastry flour (made in Lancaster, PA) at the Fair Food Farmstand at Reading Terminal Market. Hooray!
Friday, August 17, 2007
Well, not exactly a catastrophe. Mostly making lemonade when life hands you lemons.
I bought from my CSA 12 lbs of tomatoes this week in the hopes of canning pizza sauce. I looked in my recipe books about canning sauce and came up with what I figured was the most common method for canning. It boiled down to this (no pun intended): Chop, cook, puree and strain, cook down by half, can. I used 6 lbs of my tomatoes and got: soup. A wonderful, very yummy, entirely local (onions, garlic, basil and tomatoes) tomato soup. Which is a disaster if you can’t stand tomato soup. (I can’t, but I have someone in the house who adores it.. so mischief managed.)
So I tried again last nite. My theory.. I was blitzing the good stuff and straining it out. So last nite I rearranged my method and came up with this: chop, cook, strain out juice and reserve, cook down, can. I saved the juice for 2 reasons. It would make a good base for my next veggie soup stock (I make ALOT of vegetable soups) and I had it on hand to top off the jars. Jars need to be filled to 1/2 an inch from the top. I used about 1/2 a cup of the reserved juice to top off the 2nd qt of sauce. And I am much happier with the thickness and consistancy of the sauce.
Pizza Sauce for Canning
6 lbs of tomatoes (about 20 tomatoes)
1 cup of onions
8 garlic cloves
1 tbl olive oil
basil to taste
Chop the onions and garlic, set aside. Chop and seed tomatoes. (I left the skins on, they don’t bother me in sauce.) Put the olive oil in a pan and add the garlic and onion. Cook until soft. Add tomatoes. Cook until they release their juice (about 25-35 minutes.) Strain. Reserve juice and return pulp to pan. Cook down until thick (about an hr). Place in clean qt jars (top off with liquid as needed to reach 1/2 inch from top) and seal. Process in a water bath for 35 minutes.