Turkey Day Challenge: Forget the Mashed Potatoes!
Thursday, November 08, 2007
Okay, maybe you shouldn’t really forget the mashed potatoes this Thanksgiving since they are awfully good. But a nice supplement to the “mashed vegetables alongside the turkey” category would be mashed turnips with roasted garlic. Mild turnips, such as the white Hakurei, are best for those who aren’t huge turnip fans. If you enjoy their spicy, somewhat bitter taste, opt for a variety such as Scarlet Queen. Turnip season is in full swing and many varieties are available around the city’s various farmers markets. These lovelies came from Weavers Way Farm.
TURNIPS AND ROASTED GARLIC MASH
2 bunches of mild turnips (Hakurei variety works well)
1 large head of garlic
2 T. butter
generous pinches of salt and pepper
fresh chives to garnish
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Place whole head of garlic, unpeeled, on a baking sheet lined with foil. Roast garlic in oven for 30 minutes or until very squishy. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
While garlic is roasting, bring a large pot of salted water up to a boil. Wash turnips well, trimming off tops and roots. Cut into 1 inch pieces and boil until tender, about 20 minutes depending on the variety. Drain off water and allow to sit for five minutes. Turnips will release more water as they cool. Drain additional water off and use either a potato masher or an electric mixer to begin mashing up the turnips.
Cut a half inch off the top of the roasted head of garlic, exposing the cloves inside. With your hand, squeeze out all the garlic pulp into the turnips. Add butter and salt and pepper before continuing to mash turnips to the desired consistency. If turnips appear to be releasing more water after being mashed, drain it off and add more salt if necessary.
Serve immediately with a few snips of fresh garlic chives. If desired, serve cooked turnip tops along side turnip mash. To cook turnip tops, simple wash and roughly chop. Heat olive oil or butter in a skillet and add turnips when hot. Season with salt and pepper. Turnip greens are fairly bitter.
CSA Weekly Report: Blooming Glen Farm
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
Well, here it is. The last Blooming Glen Farm pickup of the season:
I just don’t understand how it could be over. What am I going to do without all of this super-tasty, local, fresh, healthy produce in my kitchen every week? I’ve totally taken this season for granted. I don’t even think about how to use the produce anymore. When I get home, I preserve (usually freeze) whatever I won’t be able to use within the next week or two and the rest gets incorporated into meals with barely a second thought.
Well that was on the good weeks anyway. There may have been an occasion or two… or maybe several, when something were deposited half-rotten to the compost bin because I couldn’t use it in time. But actually, that brings me to an excellent point.
The quantity of produce for the price of a share has been unbelievable. It would be interesting to see an actual price-per-pound, though just a quick glance at the photo album could assure anyone that $780 for 24 weeks of produce is a great deal. I split my share each week with my sister. There are four adults and one child between the two homes, and we were able to stuff ourselves with fresh veggies and fruits every day, and still have enough left over for freezing and canning. It’s hard to imagine, but we’ll still be enjoying this season’s bounty throughout the winter.
Not to mention the fact that the variety of produce was unbeatable and everything was grown naturally and sustainably. By people I know. Oh, and did I mention that we enjoyed fresh flowers more than half those weeks?
Belonging to a CSA definitely requires a bit of extra time and energy, as does any new method or way of doing something. Once that habit is formed though, it really does become second nature. This was my second season at Blooming Glen and already I’ve learned and changed and incorporated so much! Things like…
How to cook daikon, watermelon, French breakfast, black and regular radishes.
That Swiss Chard on a sandwich is quite tasty.
That yes, children actually can get sick of pick-your-owns;
and yes, so too can parents.
The differences between a sunshine, blue hubbard, delicata, bon bon and butternut winter squash.
That freezing string beans and summer squash is ridiculously easy,
but freezing sweet peppers is sinfully easy.
That beets and carrots keep quite a while as long as you remove the greens.
That chopping it up nice and fine and adding it to macaroni recipes is an easy way to get kale into my son’s diet.
And that Tom knows every single one of them.
That my family simply cannot not eat an entire head of cabbage before it goes bad.
That watermelon looks just as good in yellow as it does in pink.
What to do with celeriac.
The mystery and romance that is an heirloom tomato.
That simply is the best way to prepare fresh vegetables.
That soccer moms, DINKs, single parents, singletons, yuppies, hippies, teachers, administrators, entrepreneurs, Women Builders, EMTs, corporate CEOs, nonprofit workers and retirees all belong to my CSA.
That green tomatoes are great in stir fries, relishes and salads.
That my sister and I are so literal at times.
How to put up tomatoes.
That greens like turnip, beet and collards are really, really tasty and can be used in everything.
That there are some pretty adorable cows in Perkasie.
The differences between scallions, onions, sweet onions, garlic, garlic scapes, leeks and shallots.
That no matter how hard I try, I will probably never like radicchio.
That stir fries and scramblers are a CSA member’s best friends.
To not peel root vegetables if you can help it.
There is nothing on this planet that tastes better than a just-picked ripe tomato.
Surely, there are more. Perhaps I’ll add to this list as the winter months creep in, our preserved CSA food supply dwindles and we can barely remember the feel of humidity on our skin as we pick quarts string beans, strawberries and basil.
Sigh. Missing you oh-so-terribly already, Blooming Glen!
Would you like to get melodramatic over produce, too? Find a CSA farm near you at Local Harvest!
Posted by Mikaela on 11/07 at 10:46 AM
CSA Weekly Report: Red Earth Farm (last for 2007)
Last share of the season! Here’s what we got:
Double order of sweet potatoes (stockpiling for Thanksgiving)
Turnips (roasting parsnips and turnips are good this time of year)
The butternut squash is from last week’s Winter Harvest order. My guy loved the butternut squash risotto that I had made last week, so I’ll probably be making it again this week.
This is my 2nd year having a Red Earth Farm share, and I plan on resubscribing next year. They have consistently good produce, well handled, with lots of variety. That I can choose my share from week to week is a nice bonus as well. They have been getting better and better with knowing what crops work—this year had fewer substitutions than the last. My only complaint this time around is that the site hosts have not been easy to work with—but I think that’s a very minor point, as the communications with the farmers themselves have been wonderful. I look forward to being a Red Earth Farm member next year!
Posted by Yoko on 11/07 at 01:24 AM
I vote for eggs
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
Some of the other people participating in the Dark Days Challenge raise their own chickens. My mother, whose morning chore every day growing up on the farm was feeding the chickens (a chore she detested), would laugh derisively at me for saying this, but I’m a little envious. While I have no particular fascination for chickens, I do so love the idea of having fresh eggs. I live in a highly zoned neighborhood, and the township would freak if I tried to have my own little flock of chickens. It’s annoying, but then I read stories like this and think maybe it’s all for the best.
With fresh eggs available from Meadow Run Farm (this is a mix of their brown and blue eggs), I can’t get too freaked out about not having access to a couple of hens in the backyard. I know people who say they can’t tell the difference between store bought, factory farmed eggs and fresh, pasture raised eggs, but those people are crazy. The difference is huge. The eggs taste completely different and the yolk usually looks pretty different, as well, having everything to do with what the chickens eat.
Last year my husband and I went on a vacation to Greece and Turkey. While on the island of Rhodes, we had breakfast that included the most amazing eggs. The yolk was practically dayglo orange, and just fantastic. We briefly considered moving to Rhodes just so we could have those eggs every morning. Meadow Run Farm eggs do stop us from giving up our glam lives and becoming Greek citizens.
All this talk of eggs, just to get to my Dark Days dinner for this evening (my second this week)! On election day (after voting, of course), I made a delicious omelet of Meadow Run Farm eggs, local cream, a red onion from the CSA carmelized in local butter, a chopped tomato from my garden (I still have a pile of tomatoes on my back porch!), and some raw milk cheddar from Green Meadow Farms. The only things not local: salt and pepper.
On a vaguely related note, I recently got into a discussion with someone regarding eggs from vegetarian chickens. My friend maintained that these would be great eggs, coming from a farm that claims to pasture their chickens (this is store bought eggs, I might add). I say the eggs couldn’t possibly come from pastured chickens because no farm could pasture their chickens yet keep them from eating grubs and other bugs…unless maybe the chickens are pastured in a very artificial way. Does anyone have any thoughts on this?
Local note about Potato and Pea Curry
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