Another Way with Zucchini
Saturday, July 18, 2015
Aside from grilling, my favorite summertime meals are pastas lightly sauced and loaded with vegetables. So, I was particularly happy with this offering from the New York Times’ David Tanis. We used ricotta from Hillacres Pride, available at the Headhouse Market, and the small and piquant leaves of minette basil growing in our window boxes.
My take on this involved three alterations. First, I cut the zucchini into half-rounds that were considerably thinner than Tanis’s. It may just be a matter of preference, but I like the zucchini to nearly fall apart, becoming a creamy sauce in their own right. Second, I cooked the zucchini for considerably longer - and covered - than Tanis instructs. Third, I used more reserved pasta cooking water as well. Adapting Tanis’s wine recommendation, we paired this with a sauvignon blanc from Turdo Vineyards. One final note for future experiments with this recipe: I suspect that a mint pesto, rather than a basil one, might work as well.
Half Sour Pickles
Wednesday, July 15, 2015
As if there is any other kind. It took me a few years of canning before I realized vinegar preserving was not going to get me the slightly crisp, garlicky, mildly pungent taste I was looking for in a dill pickle. I had given up until last summer’s food swap, when Amanda of Phickle traded us a giant jar of naturally fermented pickles. They were perfect. A few days ago we received a big haul of kirby pickles, so I prepared them according to these directions. I learned two interesting things from the article preceding the recipe. First, cutting off the blossom end of the cucumber can help prevent soft pickles, as the blossom ends contain enzymes which can soften your pickles. The article also mentioned adding grape leaves, which contain tannins that counteract softening as the pickle ferments. (This Penn State Extension article does an excellent job explaining the science behind and practical methods for crispy pickles.) The photo above shows one jar in all its loveliness, and the second jar already wearing its baggie full of water to keep air out during fermentation. Not quite as pretty, but a necessary part of safe fermentation. I plan to ferment these two jars for different amounts of time to see how long it takes to achieve the results I want. With any luck, there will be no puckering sourness and no softness, and I will celebrate by making a giant grilled cheese sandwich to eat them with.
Fried Stuffed Zucchini Flowers
Wednesday, July 08, 2015
The last time I made these was in Italy, frying them in tiny single batches in a tin cup we found in the rental villa. The flowers were for sale in the local co-op, the olive oil from the farm we were staying on. I had no thermometer, and no recipe, and I still suspect the first few came out way too greasy, but they were gone as quickly as I could make them. This time was much easier, with both a candy thermometer set at a perfect 350 degrees and this very simple recipe from Tyler Florence to which we only added a small cube of mozzarella in each flower. We used flowers from Queens Farm and Hillacres Pride mozzarella. They disappeared as quickly as last time, though I managed a picture.
Market Highlights: Headhouse Market July 5th
Monday, July 06, 2015
The strawberries may be finished, but nearly every other fruit was available at Headhouse Farmers’ Market on Sunday. The lovely little plums above were from Three Springs Farm, who also had currants - both red and white - and apricots. We got our blueberries at Beechwood Orchards, along with a large jar of apple cider vinegar, perfect for quick pickling. Green Aisle Grocery is now carrying their own prepared horseradish, an item I’ve yet to see at the market. New potatoes are still available, but tomatoes were still sparse, available only at Queens Farm and A.T. Buzby Farm.
The beautiful trompe l’oeil berry basket above is from Heirloom Home and Studio of Glenside - a wonderful hostess gift we put to immediate use.
Posted by Donna on 07/06 at 07:48 PM
Cape May Sea Salt Company
Saturday, June 27, 2015
This is exactly what it sounds like - sea salt produced in Cape May County, straight from the Atlantic Ocean. A partnership between Windy Acres Farm and chef Lucas Manteca, Cape May Sea Salt Company currently sells three different package sizes both online and at The Red Store and Windy Acres Farm. We got to see a bit of the production at last week’s Slow Food South Jersey Shore fundraiser.
The entire process takes place on Windy Acres farm, with meticulous distillation and drying housed in repurposed greenhouses once used for hothouse tomatoes. The result is large, brittle flakes that crumble beautifully over any summer dish.
Posted by Donna on 06/27 at 10:12 AM
Good Food for a Good Cause
Sunday, June 14, 2015
Today we spent a beautiful afternoon on Windy Acres Farm at a brunch sponsored by Slow Food South Jersey Shore, prepared by The Red Store Restaurant and Little Store Bakery. The brunch was both a fundraiser for Slow Food’s School Garden program, in which they plan to offer grants to area schools, and the launch of Cape May Salt company. More on both Windy Acres and Cape May Salt Company in later posts, but the brunch was as inventive and delicious as you’d expect from Lucas Manteca.
Between the locally sourced meats and fish, cheeses from Birchrun Hills Farm, wines on offer from Hawk Haven Winery and vegetables grown either on Windy Acres or Fincas Del Mar Farm, it was a fantastic taste of what the area has to offer.
And summer hasn’t even officially started.
Posted by Donna on 06/14 at 06:45 PM
New Twist on an Old Dish
Wednesday, June 10, 2015
One of the vendors we religiously shop at Headhouse Market is Shore Catch. Shopping there as much as we do, we inevitably repeat some recipes once we bring the fish and shellfish home. So, there is a perpetual urge to find new recipes.
This one, taken from the indispensable River Cottage Fish, gave me two twists on something I thought I knew inside out: spaghetti and clams. Growing up Italian-American in South Jersey, it was impossible not to see this at Sunday dinners and Seven Fishes. Therefore, I was surprised to see a version use actual cream (completely new to me) with clams that were fresh but removed from their shells - I was accustomed to thinking of either fresh clams in their shells or canned clams. Most importantly, it called for fresh pasta. In retrospect the fresh pasta makes perfect sense - being, as it is, ideally suited to richer, cream or butter-based sauces, but for someone raised on spaghetti and clams in white sauce, this was a revelation.
Discoveries aside, the dinner still needs refinement. Not having any white wine at hand (i.e., my stock of Galen Glen Gruner Veltliner having long run dry), I resorted to a bit of pasta water. The resulting sauce was a little too light and simple. A glass of white wine may have added the depth and viscosity it needed. However, in a nod to my favorite dish from Bistro La Minette, I would also be tempted to add some fresh tarragon to the sauce as well. Either way, from now on if it’s clams in white sauce, it’s going to be fresh pasta.
Market Highlights: Headhouse Market June 7th
Sunday, June 07, 2015
t’s starting to really feel like summer at Headhouse Market. The zucchini is here for one, available at Blooming Glen and Savoie Organic Farm in all sorts of lovely shapes and colors. Other new arrivals included fennel, new potatoes, beets and fava beans. Queens Farm also had these flat green beans that the attendant told us last week were so good she ate them for breakfast. She was right - we came back this week for two quarts.
Four-Minute Squid (or Less)
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
The River Cottage’s seafood cookbook, titled The River Cottage Fish Book strangely enough, continues to be my favorite on the subject. Not only does it advocate for sustainable, local seafood, it provides an abundance of information regarding species, recipe substitutions, and some general cooking guidelines that are endlessly useful. If you are intent on buying seasonally, locally, and sustainably, this flexibility is crucial.
My latest favorite is a quick squid recipe. As he does elsewhere, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall states that this is more a suggestion than a recipe, but I would call it a technique. The bodies of the cleaned squid, which we purchase from Shore Catch at the Headhouse Market, are butterflied (basically cut open so that they lay flat), scored on each side in a diamond pattern, and then tossed with something for flavor. The original recipe calls for olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic, and finely chopped garlic, but this is infinitely adaptable. To cook, set to maximum heat under your cast-iron pan, griddle, or grill and cook one minute or so per side, turning them twice. Two cautions here, though: one, make sure the pan or grill is thoroughly preheated; two, if you go beyond four minutes, you will have overcooked them. They will curl up, which is good, and they will also char, which is even better.
Baby Carrots That Didn’t Come in a Bag
Sunday, May 24, 2015
At the Rittenhouse Square Farmers’ Market yesterday, we bought perfect baby carrots. We cut off their tops and ate them raw with a simple vegetable dip. While we’re all waiting for things to grow, it’s nice to remember that we can eat some if it along the way.
Posted by Donna on 05/24 at 06:51 AM
A Mother’s Day Picnic
Tuesday, May 12, 2015
For the third year running, we’ve brought our Moms (and Dad) to a local winery for Mother’s Day, packing a lunch bought a few hours earlier at the Headhouse Farmers’ Market. This year was Bellview Winery, located just a few minutes from my own grandmother’s farm. On our table was a Market Day Canele tart with mushrooms and fiddlehead ferns, Fat Cat cheese from Birchrun Hills, flatbreads and baguettes from Wildflour Bakery and fennel onion marmalade from Green Aisle Grocery. The tastings were moved outside, and we all ate and drank with a lovely view of the vines growing nearby. We brought home a bottle of Blaufrankisch, an unusual variety for the area, and two happy Moms.
Posted by Donna on 05/12 at 06:36 PM
Market Highlights: Headhouse Market May 3rd
Tuesday, May 05, 2015
The first Headhouse Farmers’ Market of the season was Sunday, and most regular vendors were already in attendance. No Tom Culton this year, as he was reportedly not invited back, but plenty of others with a surprising variety of produce for so early in the year. Blooming Glen had a green that was new to me - kale raab, the tops of overwintered kale plants.
Longview Flower Farm had a selection of herbs as well as bouquets of gorgeous deep purple tulips and lilac. Weavers Way brought fiddlehead ferns and ramps, freshly foraged. Several farmers brought seedlings, such as tomatoes and peppers from Savoie Organic Farm and Asian squash varieties from Queens Farm. Most promised more seedlings next week, so there’s plenty of time to plant that garden.
And asparagus? We got ours from a quickly dwindling basket at Three Springs Fruit Farm, but it looked like A.T. Buzby Farm had them as well.
Posted by Donna on 05/05 at 05:17 PM
A Bike Share Grows In Philly
Wednesday, April 29, 2015
Don’t worry, this one will get around to local food. On Sunday we took our first ride on Indego, Philadelphia’s brand new bike sharing program. We signed up online, picked up our bikes at the station a block from our house, and headed out. Since it was our first ride, and neither of us are by any means veteran city riders, we went straight to the Delaware River Trail that leads past the new Washington Avenue Green and continues south. We rode down to check out the construction of Pier 68, a new park featuring fishing and a sloping lawn for picnicking, due to open later this summer.
The bikes were smartly designed, solidly built, easy to check out and return and absurdly fun to ride.
And the local food? I don’t know if it was because I had just read Marie Viljoen describe them on her blog 66 Square Feet or our new vantage point from the bikes, but I spotted several patches of japanese knotweed growing along the trail. According to Viljoen, local forager David Siller and others, the invasive knotweed has a sour, lemony taste similar to rhubarb. We might just have to return and fill those handy baskets.
First Spring Planting
Sunday, April 26, 2015
It felt like it would never come, but a few weeks ago we were finally able to plant the first of our spring crops. For the last few years, before we put a single seed or seedling in the ground, we prepare each plot by digging a trench, loosening the soil with a claw, sprinkling in compost, and filling up the trench with the soil from the next.
The whole process doesn’t take long, given our tiny plots, and leaves the soil so beautifully aerated that we have to be careful not to step too heavily on them.
After the particularly hard winters, in our garden planted atop an old elementary school parking lot, we always dig up lots of debris. This was the biggest yet.
Our strawberry patch came with the plot five years ago, so it was time for new plants. We gave these plenty of room for runners, and planted lemongrass in between.
Fava beans, by far the most satisfying spring plant for its early germination, are popping up all over the garden.
Our wintered over spinach was ready for picking, and our garlic is growing nicely.
We finished the planting with carrots, lettuce, beets and tatsoi. By next week it should be safe to plant the tomatoes, just in time for the opening of Headhouse Farmers’ Market on Sunday.
Philly Farm and Food Fest 2015
Monday, April 13, 2015
The fourth annual Philly Farm and Food Fest was held yesterday at the Philadelphia Convention Center. With well over one hundred exhibitors, seventeen scheduled classes and forums and a local libations lounge, the Fest is almost too big to see everything in a few hours. We’ve been coming since the first year it was open to the public, and we’ve yet to leave without learning about some new local food we didn’t know about. Some highlights and new discoveries:
Kensington has its very own flower farm - Jig-Bee offers a Flower CSA, with beautiful bouquets delivered to various pickup locations.
I have to say that I’ve been gleefully amazed at the huge popularity and growth of the Fest, but I guess I should have expected it. You can come for the dozens of delicious samples. You can come to do your grocery or garden shopping. You can come to learn a new skill. You can come to drink. Who wouldn’t be happy? Seriously, come next year.
Posted by Donna on 04/13 at 03:28 PM