Market Highlights - July 24, 2013
Wednesday, July 24, 2013
We’ve decided to highlight what’s going on in the area farmers markets, so this will be the first of hopefully many regular market reports. From the looks of the University City Wednesday market on Penn’s campus, summer is in full swing, with everything from eggplant to cane berries available now. I was tempted by all the heirloom tomatoes, corn, peppers and stone fruit, but because whatever I buy has to be lugged home on regional rail, I save my major marketing for the weekend instead. I just picked up some mixed cherry tomatoes, some lovely little sugarplums, a few peaches that should be great after a few days on my counter to reach their peak, and, of course, a popsicle from the Lil’ Pop Shop truck for lunch.
Friday, July 19, 2013
Last month, on June 8th, I attended the 3rd annual Philadelphia Vendy Awards (a little delayed on writing about my experience). The event took place at Penn Treaty Park overlooking the Delaware River with great sunny weather for converting Vitamin D. Money was raised for The Food Trust, an organization striving to improve access to affordable, nutritious food. Naturally, as a Registered Dietitian, I was excited to represent Farm to Philly at this event. I spent a wonderful afternoon with my mom indulging in delicious food and sipping on beer.
I did not know what to expect from street food vendors… I usually just think of Philly cheesesteaks. I was pleasantly surprised by the flavorful variety and quality of the food! These gourmet trucks were vegetarian friendly and utilized local farms. Cupcake vendors offered vegan options, which passed my sweet tooth taste test (yes, moderation can allow for dessert in a well-balanced diet). Delicious! The Vendy Cup winner- The King of Falafel. See the picture above of this mouthwatering falafel, which was one of my personal favorites from the day: ground chickpeas, onions, garlic, herbs, and spices. The Cow and the Curd won both Mess Yet Tasty and People’s Choice awards. Lil’ Pop Shop allowed tasters to cool down on this hot day and awarded Best Dessert.
Also, it was a pleasure meeting the Andrew Gerson, Executive Chef of Brooklyn Brewery, who is a Philly native and co-founder of the Philadelphia Mobile Food Vendors Association. We chatted about local Philly food and upcoming places. Plus, I couldn’t resist petting his well-trained, cute dog. Stopping at Brooklyn Brewery is on my list during my future travels!
Posted by Renee on 07/19 at 01:53 AM
Swap Till You Drop: Swapping Food at the Wyck House
Tuesday, July 16, 2013
On Tuesday,we participated in the second Philly Food Swap held at the Wyck House in Germantown. If you’ve never been to a food swap, it works like this: you bring something (or things) you’ve made, put them on display along with some samples, ogle other people’s food and eat their samples, and then trade for all of the stuff you really enjoyed eating. It’s a bit more formal than that, but nothing fussy. This is the second food swap I’ve attended, and I was every bit as impressed as last year - if not more so.
The range of food available was amazing: boozy cupcakes, nettle pesto, refrigerator pickles (cucumber, jicama, and a medley), barbecue sauce, hot sauce. All of it was clearly made with enthusiasm and care.
We walked around, repeatedly impressed with everyone else’s work, and it was nice to find things I would never think to make for myself (e.g., peach barbecue sauce).
And we came home with smoked whitefish dip, the aforementioned barbecue sauce, whole wheat crackers, brandied cherries, refrigerator pickles (cucumbers and jicama), homemade nutella, and much more.It’s already provided us one dinner, two lunches, and dessert. The Philly Food Swap is held four times a year, so if you’re interested, be ready for the one this fall.
Thanks again to the organizers for another great event.
Posted by Kevin on 07/16 at 12:03 AM
Keeping Your Cool
Thursday, July 11, 2013
Gazpacho is one of my main strategies for getting through July and August. Preparing a big batch on Sunday not only makes wonderful use out of all the seasonal produce pouring into the markets, but also gives you a ready-made, colorful and refreshing dinner to look forward to when you’re slogging home through the sweltering humidity on Monday evening. It’s also perfect as a festive first course for barbecues and brunches all the way through Labor Day.
While tomato-based red gazpacho is fantastic, especially when made with a mix of heirloom varieties, white gazpacho is an equally traditional way to highlight cucumbers and the fresh garlic now making its first appearance. The base of almonds and bread creates a soup that’s creamy and silky without being overly rich or heavy. While the straining step is a bit of extra work, the soup still comes together in minutes (not counting the half hour of chilling in the fridge), and doesn’t raise the temperature of your kitchen by a single degree.
(Adapted from Jose Andres, Tapas: A Taste of Spain in America)
8 ounces blanched, slivered almonds
1-2 cloves fresh garlic
2 ounces stale French- or Italian-style bread (not whole grain)
1 medium cucumber, peeled and roughly chopped
2 1/2 cups filtered or mineral water
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Place the almonds and garlic in a large bowl or liquid measuring cup and cover with boiling water. Let sit for a few minutes, drain, and repeat with more boiling water. Drain and place in the carafe of a blender.
While the almonds are soaking for the second time, moisten the bread in cold water just long enough to soften. Squeeze dry and add to the blender, along with the remaining ingredients. Blend until smooth.
Pour the gazpacho through a double layer of cheesecloth in a strainer set over a large bowl. Once most of the liquid has passed through the cheesecloth, gather up the ends of the cloth to completely enclose the solids, twist the top of the gathered ends tightly, and squeeze to extract the last of the soup. Discard the solids.
Pour the gazpacho into a pitcher, cover tightly, and chill at least 30 minutes. It is normal for the gazpacho to separate as it sits; just give it a quick whisk before serving.
A Local Tofu Dish
Sunday, July 07, 2013
If you try to cook locally, cooking with tofu presents two challenges. The first is finding local tofu; the second is how to make it flavorful. Thankfully, Allentown’s Fresh Tofu solves the first challenge for me. The second, however, is all mine to tackle.
Like pasta, tofu is a thrillingly blank canvas and will take to innumerable uses and flavors. In fact, I think it is better than meat in certain dishes, as it never descends to the rough, dry texture of overcooked meat. (Anyone who has eaten The Royal Tavern‘s vegan sloppy joe will know exactly what I mean.) However, such a blank canvas can also be a bit exhausting, particularly when you are not feeling creative.
This recipe from The Guardian intrigued both for its construction (a stuffed tofu) and for its batter of ginger beer. After all, when a ginger beer is only half empty, you simply have to make yourself a dark and stormy, don’t you?
Tired Hands Brewing Company
Sunday, June 30, 2013
Delaware County is, relatively speaking, bereft of restaurants that focus on locally grown foods. Here in Aldan and the surrounding areas, you’re more likely to find chain restaurants and diners than anything else. There’s Sycamore in Lansdowne, but they stopped serving brunch years ago. What’s a girl to do on a Sunday morning?
The answer is: drive to Ardsmore.
True, half of Ardsmore is in Montgomery County, but beggars can’t be choosers. I’m not sure which half of Ardsmore Tired Hands Brewing Company is in, but I’ll claim it for Delco! Tired Hands is a little over a year old now. However, they’re major players in the microbrewery world already, and they’re routinely featuring locally made cheeses and other local ingredients.
Today I had a small glass of 5 out of 5 beer, a dark beer containing chocolate and marshmallow fluff, and Lil Lady, a lighter beer with rooibos tea. Both feature local ingredients—the 5 out of 5 has local maple syrup, and the Lil Lady has local wildflower honey. I also a cheese plate composed of several cheeses from Birchrun Hills Farm, including Nettlesome, Red Cat, and Equinox, and Pepato from Valley Shepherd. The Jeano’s Panino, a grilled cheese with haricot vert, featured Birchrun Hills Farm blue cheese.
The charcuterie plate was also filled with great meats. The sopressata and abbruze came from Licini Brothers in Union City, New Jersey, while the amazing duck prosciutto is from River & Glen in Warminster.
If you’re near Ardmore, give Tired Hands a try. The service was friendly, the food was quite good, and I loved the focus on locally grown foods. And I didn’t even have to leave Delaware County!
Saturday, June 29, 2013
For some reason, I always associate crepes with colder weather, but the truth is that they’re accommodating all year round, as demonstrated by these vaguely Provencal-style ones filled with zucchini and mushrooms, and topped with a bright, uncooked tomato sauce. As the summer moves along, you could augment the filling with eggplant, fresh peas, pattypan squashes, etc., and you can make use of the rainbow of heirloom tomatoes that will start showing up in a couple of weeks.
These make a very satisfying dinner as-is, or if you want to serve these for brunch, you could quickly scramble a few eggs and tuck them into the crepes before the vegetable filling.
Zucchini-Mushroom Buckwheat Crepes with Raw Tomato Sauce
(Crepes adapted from Deborah Madison & Edward Espe Brown, The Greens Cookbook, 1987)
1 cup water
1 cup milk
3 tablespoons melted butter
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2-3 tablespoons neutral-flavored oil for cooking
2 ripe tomatoes
1 small clove garlic
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Salt to taste
3 small zucchini, grated
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced
4 tablespoons olive oil for cooking
2 small cloves garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
Place all the ingredients for the crepe batter except the oil in a tall measuring cup and blend with an immersion blender until smooth. (Alternately, you can do this in a regular blender.) Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour.
To prepare the sauce, halve the tomatoes and grate them, cut side down, on the large side of a box grater set over a bowl. Discard the skin you’re left with when the flesh has all been grated. Finely mince the garlic (I just use a microplane grater) and add it to the tomatoes, along with the olive oil and salt to taste. Let sit at room temperature while making the filling and crepes.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat and add the garlic, sautéing briefly before adding the zucchini. Cook, stirring frequently, until the zucchini is softened and the liquid has cooked off, then remove from the pan. Increase the heat to medium-high, and add the rest of the olive oil and the mushrooms, cooking until the edges have browned. Turn off the heat, return the zucchini to the pan, and season to taste.
Heat a teaspoon of oil in a small nonstick pan or crepe pan over medium heat. Give the batter a quick whisk before ladling about 1/4 cup of batter into the heated pan and swirling the pan quickly to evenly spread the batter. Cook until the crepe has set and is beginning to crisp at the edges, then flip and cook the other side briefly. Remove the crepe to a plate and repeat the process with the remaining batter, adding more oil every three or so crepes, or whenever they show signs of sticking. Adjust the temperature as necessary to prevent excessive browning. If the batter is too thick to swirl easily in the pan, whisk in a little more water to thin back to the consistency of heavy cream.
To serve, fill the bottom half of each crepe with a few spoonfuls of filling, flip over the other half of the crepe, and fold in half to get quarters. Place two or three filled crepes on a plate per person, and top with a generous spoonful of the sauce.
Leftover unfilled crepes, filling and sauce will all keep well for at least a day in the refrigerator, although both the crepes and the sauce are best freshly-made.
Grounded in Philly
Thursday, June 27, 2013
Every time I turn around, something really cool is going on in Philadelphia. This time, it’s Grounded in Philly. The website lists all the vacant lots in Philly, along with a lot of information—including the owner, size of the lot, why the lot is considered vacant, and the property’s City Council, planning and zoning districts. Why is this important? Because Grounded in Philly wants you to find a vacant lot near you and turn it into an urban garden or other green space. They’re part of Garden Justice Legal Initiative, so it’s all done legally.
There are a plethora of ways for you to get involved with Grounded in Philly.
Head over there and play around with the map/lot finder. It’s shocking how many abandoned lots there are—you can take the lead in creating a place for public food foraging, community gardens, etc!
Posted by Nicole on 06/27 at 05:53 PM
Great Summer Salad: Raw Collards in Peanut Vinaigrette
Wednesday, June 12, 2013
My garden is bursting with collard greens right now. Tons of them, green and sturdy. I tend to eat a lot of collards cooked in the traditional way: cooked down with smoked bacon and lots of vinegar. Last week I went out into the garden, though, and decided I wanted to try something new.
Raw collards don’t seem right to me, probably because I eat them so often when they’re cooked down to almost a mush! I discovered that raw collards make a great salad, though—the leaves are firm and tasty, and you can’t go wrong with a peanut vinaigrette!
This salad can be thrown together really quickly, which makes it even better. Here’s what you need:
4 oz., raw collard greens (the younger, the better), cut into a medium chiffonade
1 small or medium carrot, peeled and then cut into ribbons with a sharp peeler
1 cup, black eyed peas, cooked
1 jalapeno, diced
1/4 cup, cilantro, chopped
1 egg, hard-boiled and chopped
1/2 cup roasted peanuts, chopped
1/3 cup olive oil
3 Tbsp. vinegar of your choice (I use champagne vinegar)
1 shallot, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
Combine all salad ingredients and set aside. Combine all vinaigrette ingredients in a bowl with a tight-fitting lid; shake it up well. Okay, now throw the vinaigrette over the salad and toss to coat! This recipe makes two or three servings.
The collards, garlic, and cilantro came from my garden, and the egg came from a local producer. Later in the summer when I make this, I’ll be able to add jalapenos from my garden, too, which is very exciting! All told, you can probably source most of the ingredients for this salad locally. It’s also a great way to use collards, and you don’t even have to turn on your stove (well, except to hard-boil that egg).
Friday, May 31, 2013
Greensgrow Farms is hosting gardening and cooking workshops in June. Turn what you would normally consider kitchen scraps into a delicious meal with fresh, local ingredients!
June 1st, 12-2pm, $25: Unusual Container Garden
Bring a crazy container for a step-by-step workshop to create a garden outside of the pot. Soil, light, and positions will be discussed for your container. You will receive a $10 Greensgrown Gift Card after the workshop.
June 8th, 12-2pm, $40: “The Soupmaker’s Kitchen” with Chef Aliza Green
Registration required. Aliza Green is one of the pioneer chefs to make Philadelphia a dining destination and author of twelve cookbooks. Use trimmings and seasonal vegetables to make homemade vegetable stocks. Take home recipes and learn to store soups.
Posted by Renee on 05/31 at 12:41 AM
An Easy, Icy Summer Treat
Saturday, May 25, 2013
This sprightly pink granita is just about the perfect Memorial Day barbecue dessert, since it’s the most refreshing use of the strawberries and rhubarb that are in the market together right now, and also really easy to prepare. No ice cream makers or other special equipment needed; just a fork and a little patience and time.
I do have to confess that when I made this two weeks ago, I had to use frozen berries, because fresh ones hadn’t arrived yet. I generally find that the window when both strawberries and rhubarb are available is pretty narrow, so there’s normally only about one magic week or two to make strawberry-rhubarb pie or what have you using both fresh rhubarb and local berries. This is why I over-buy rhubarb pretty much every time I see it, clean and trim the extra portion as soon as I get home, and throw the sliced rhubarb into bags and freeze for use in July and beyond.
In fact, if you cheat with both frozen rhubarb and frozen berries, you could make this granita all the way into the fall and winter, when, served in little shot or liqueur glasses, it would make a smashing palate-cleanser between courses during your fancy holiday dinner.
Serves 4-6 as dessert, 8 or more as a palate cleanser
3 cups white wine
1 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons mild honey
1/4 teaspoon dried orange peel or 1 teaspoon fresh grated orange zest
Pinch of salt
1 12-ounce bag frozen strawberries, or 3 cups fresh, hulled and halved
2 to 2 1/2 pounds rhubarb, trimmed and sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
1 teaspoon orange extract or orange liqueur
Juice of half a lemon
Combine the wine, sugar, honey, orange peel, salt and strawberries in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a strong simmer and cook 10 minutes, then remove the strawberries with a slotted spoon. Add the rhubarb and return to a simmer, cooking until the rhubarb has softened but before it falls apart, around 5-6 minutes.
Strain the syrup through a fine mesh strainer into a large measuring cup or bowl, stirring the rhubarb frequently to remove as much of the glowing magenta liquid as possible. Stir in the orange extract and lemon and cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate until completely chilled. (The cooked rhubarb can be mixed with the strawberries and used as a topping for yogurt, ice cream, etc.)
When the syrup has chilled, pour it into a 8 x 8 Pyrex baking dish or other similarly sized, shallow, freezer-safe container. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and freeze until the syrup begins to form ice crystals around the edge of the dish, around 40 minutes. Using a fork, stir and scrape to break up the crystals and distribute throughout the unfrozen syrup, re-cover the dish, and return to the freezer. Repeat this process every half hour or so until all of the syrup has frozen and formed a fluffy mass of crystals.
Scoop the granita into shot or cordial glasses to serve as a palate cleanser between courses, or into larger glasses for dessert, garnishing with mint or sliced strawberries if desired.
Leftover granita should keep for a few days in the freezer, although you may need to re-scrape if the crystals have formed larger clumps. If it completely solidifies, you can either let it melt and repeat the process above, or break it up into large chunks and run it through the blender with more berries and some additional orange juice to serve as a slushie, or with rum or tequila for a frozen cocktail.
Volunteers Needed: Rittenhouse Market
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
With farmers’ market season fast approaching (and, in some cases, in full swing), there are some great opportunities to get involved and help keep them afloat. The folks at Farm to City are looking for a few good volunteers for the Saturday farmers’ market in Rittenhouse Square. Volunteer shifts are 2.25 hours long, and duties vary:
- Answering customer questions about the market and vendors
- Providing information on Farm to City programs and sustainable agriculture
- Conducting surveys with farmers’ market customers
- Taking customer counts
- Communicating suggestions and other feedback form the community to Farm to City staff
As you probably know, the Rittenhouse Farmers’ Market happens every Saturday from 9am to 3pm at 18th and Walnut Streets, both on south sidewalk of Walnut St and west sidewalk of 18th Street. Volunteers are asked to commit to a regular volunteer shift (once a week, once or twice a month, etc.). That said, they’re open to any one who is willing to lend their time to this great cause!
*photo credit: Marisa McClellan
Stop and Smell the Flowers
Friday, May 10, 2013
April showers bring May flowers..
I enjoy the change of the seasons (could do without allergies), but I look forward to the beauty of nature as the weather jumps into spring. Colorful flowers start to bloom and people crawl out of hibernation. Spring is the perfect time of year to clean your mind, body, and soul.
Benefits of flowers:
-Improve your mood. The scent of lavender can be calming and reduce your stress levels. Breathe and relax.
-Take a moment and appreciate beauty.
-Brighten a room to bring you energy as well as peace.
-Show appreciation and bring a smile to others (ladies love flowers, not just on Valentine’s Day).
-Planting flowers such as scented germaniums, sage, and marigold can deter pests from your produce farm.
-Use flowers that are grown without pesticides.
-Some flowers are toxic. Eat flowers only when you know they are edible.
-Flavor dishes: add to soups, salads, sauces, stir fry, cakes.
-Garnish meals and desserts.
-Drink as a tea.
-Freeze small flowers (rose buds, orchid, pansy, snapdragon, germanium) into ice cubes to add to beverages.
-Herb flowers: basil, oregano, cilantro, ginger, mint, lavender, rosemary, thyme, sage
-Vegetable flowers: broccoli florets, arugula, cauliflower, artichokes.
-Potential health benefits: antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, digestion, and immune system boosting.
Tips to bring your day into nature:
-Take a fitness class outside.
-Depending on the length of your lunch break, allow 5-10 minutes for a quick walk. Stepping away from your work will clear your mind and refocus when you return.
-Find local parks and gardens to enjoy a scenic view. Pack a healthy picnic or bring a nice book to relax.
-See if there is a local community garden or farm near you to learn to grow flowers and produce.
Find some flowers to give a loved one or friend to bring a smile and brighten up the day.. Mother’s Day is approaching!
Posted by Renee on 05/10 at 02:22 AM
Last Year’s Jam
Wednesday, May 01, 2013
I’m not a super-preserver or anything, but by this point, I’ve established a regular seasonal pattern of jam-making: sour cherry at the beginning of summer, plum at the end of summer, and quince in the late fall. While I’ve also finally achieved a decent amount of cabinet space in my kitchen, it’s not unlimited, which means right around now I start thinking about clearing out some space to prepare for the cycle to begin again.
I used some of the plum as a cake filling a couple of weeks ago, and this week I rolled a jar of the quince into some buttery, flaky rugelach. (The sour cherry, alas, never seems to make it past a few months, because I love it too much.) You can use whichever jar is pushing its way to the front of your pantry, or whatever looks good at the market this weekend.
(Adapted from Rugelach, Alice Medrich’s Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy, 2010)
Makes 48 cookies
For the pastry:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 16 cubes
8 tablespoons (1 8-ounce block) cold cream cheese, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 cup jam needing to be used up, in this case quince
1 cup finely chopped walnuts
Fine sea salt for sprinkling
Combine the flour, sugar and salt for the pastry in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix briefly to blend the dry ingredients, then add the butter and mix on low until mostly broken up and the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Mix in the cream cheese just until a damp, shaggy dough forms, then turn out onto a clean countertop and knead briefly to create a mostly cohesive block. Divide into four equal parts and pat into 4-inch disks, tightly wrapping each individually. Refrigerate at least two hours and preferably overnight.
When ready to bake, line two cookie sheets with parchment paper or silicone liners and preheat the oven to 350 F.
Roll one disk of pastry between sheets of parchment paper to a diameter of 12 inches and a thickness of about a quarter inch. Spread the pastry with a quarter of the jam, and evenly coat with a quarter of the walnuts and a small pinch of salt. Using a pizza cutter or sharp chef’s knife, slice the pastry into 12 approximately equal wedges. Starting with the outside edge, roll each wedge toward the point and place, point-side down, on a lined cookie sheet. Repeat with the remaining wedges, setting the cookies 2 inches apart. Place the cookie sheet in the refrigerator to firm the cookies back up as you repeat the process with the remaining pastry disks, jam and walnuts.
Bake each sheet of cookies on the center rack for 25-28 minutes, until pale gold on top and a slightly darker golden brown at the edges, rotating the pans as necessary for even browning. Immediately transfer the baked cookies on their parchment to cooling racks and cool completely.
Cookies will keep well in airtight containers for up to 5 days.
Should you go organic?
Monday, April 22, 2013
Happy Earth Day! Nourish your body while being conscious of the environment.
Foods must meet strict requirements to be labeled as certified “organic” by the United States Department of Agriculture. Products must be produced without excluded methods such as genetic engineering, ionizing radiation, or sewage sludge. However, some operations are exempt from certification, including organic farmers who sell $5,000 or less. Foods advertised as “natural” do not follow the same guidelines as organic foods.
What does the organic label mean?
-100% organic: all ingredients must be certified organic and any processing aids must be organic.
-Organic: non-organic ingredients are allowed per National List, up to a combined total of 5% of non-organic content.
-“Made with” organic: at least 70% must be certified organic ingredients. Any remaining products are not required to be organic but must be produced without excluded methods.
Organic does not always mean healthy, consider the type and amount of foods you are eating. Organic baked goods, chips, and energy drinks should still be consumed sparingly just like the non-organic products.
Overall, the scientific studies are inconclusive on whether there is a difference in nutritional content of organic compared to non-organic foods. You heard it before, but fruits and vegetables are beneficial for your health. Get to know your local farmers and their farming methods. This benefit will be achieved regardless if the produce is organic or not, so do not let access or affordability to organic foods reduce your fruit and vegetable intake.
Where to begin?
Dirty Dozen Plus™: apples, celery, sweet bell peppers, peaches, strawberries, nectarines, grapes, spinach, lettuce, cucumbers, blueberries, potatoes, green beans, kale/greens. The Environmental Working Group has recognized these fruits and vegetables to be most contaminated with pesticide residue.
1. Organic certification resources page. United States Department of Agriculture web site. http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?navid=ORGANIC_CERTIFICATIO. Accessed on March 26, 2013.
2. EWR’s 2012 shopper guide to pesticides in produce. Environmental Working Group. http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/. Accessed on March 26, 2013.