Fair Food Winter Education Schedule
Sunday, January 26, 2014
Fair Food Philadelphia is offering a series of classes on various aspects of local food production with a focus on several local purveyors. Upcoming classes include chocolate and beer pairings with Jon and Kira’s Chocolates and Yards Brewery, sustainable dairy production with Mark Lopez of Wholesome Dairy Farm, and raising pastured pork and creating charcuterie with Stryker Farm and Rooster St. Provisions. You can buy tickets here.
Fair Food is promising upcoming monthly classes on a host of other topics such as wild foraging and Native American food production, and proceeds of course benefit Fair Food’s support of sustainable agriculture in our area.
Posted by Donna on 01/26 at 07:45 AM
Monday, January 20, 2014
I find quince to be utterly perplexing. Superficially, they are quite unappealing: they look like gnarled fuzzy pears and are completely inedible raw. Yet, they have a heady aroma uncooked and scented my fridge for weeks. Moreover, once cooked, they can undergo a miraculous transformation into a brightly colored godsend called membrillo (quince paste). How does this happen?
Despite these contradictions, which might ward off a more reasonable person, I purchase them at least once a year before the Headhouse Market closes up, and, hopefully, find something to make before its too late. Last year, it was an English-style christmas pudding from Nigel Slater. This year, I decided to delve into one of my Christmas presents: Yottam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s Jerusalem.
At first glance, one would not think that a recipe from Jerusalem would have a place on a blog about local food. However, most items were easily sourced at the local level: Tom Culton’s quince purchased from the Headhouse Market; local lamb purchased from Green Aisle Grocery; and the other vegetables were purchased through Winter Harvest. There were a few imported ingredients here, but they were dry goods or specialty items simply unavailable locally. We use items like these as an opportunity to support small growers elsewhere just as we support small growers here.
And so, we were easily able to enjoy a small piece of warm Jerusalem in cold Philadelphia.
New Year’s Brunch 2014
Sunday, January 12, 2014
I would like to pretend that the healthy tilt of our New Year’s Brunch represents an earnest start to the new year, a healthier beginning to a healthier year. More likely, it is a too-little-too-late compensation for the indulgences of the night before, when we had too much wine and too many rich foods. The previous night, we indulged in Supper’s special New Year’s Eve menu. It was fantastic (as always), but as the name implies, a special meal for a special occasion. One can’t eat like that everyday.
So here we have buckwheat crepes, omelettes, yogurt, and home-cured salmon as a counterweight to the gluttony that closed 2013. The buckwheat flour was locally grown and milled and purchased from the Fair Food Farmstand. The eggs, yogurt, and scallions are courtesy of Winter Harvest. Though the salmon was not local, it was sustainably raised, and the good people of Ippolito’s were able to recommend the best particular fillet for curing.
Salt-curing fish is surprisingly easy - as long as you have some suitably sized containers and fridge space. I follow Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s method from Fish. Though the original recipe is for trout, as he notes, it can be applied to most any oily fish. In the past, I would flavor it as Hugh does, with fresh dill. However, that didn’t seem the right flavor for January 1st, so I mixed rye berries into the curing mix instead. Unfortunately, the rye flavor was barely discernible. I suppose that I need to treat the rye berries before adding them to the curing mix (salt and sugar) - perhaps grinding them in a mortar and pestle or soaking them. Even without the rye flavor, the fish was well worth it and gave me the illusion of having made up for my decadent New Year’s Eve meal. And that’s all the excuse I need.
Warm Food for Cold Days
Sunday, December 29, 2013
The intervening days between Christmas and New Years’ can be long on time, short on daylight, and (usually) low in temperature. All of this, of course, means that we tend to spend mornings with newspapers, Christmas music, cappuccino, and things warm from the oven. Given the prevalence of heavy savory dishes and even heavier desserts during the holiday season, we try to make our morning pastry as healthy as possible. To do that, we rely heavily on the Babycakes cookbooks (here and here). Erin McKenna’s recipes are gluten free, eschew refined sugar, and frequently use spelt flour. In short, Erin lets us feel like we have having our cake and eating it, too.
Adapted from this scone recipe.
Apple Maple Walnut Scones
2 cups whole spelt flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup coconut oil
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup diced apple
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1. Preheat the oven to 375 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and walnuts. Stir in the syrup and oil. Add enough hot water to form a batter. Next, fold in the apples.
2. Scoop 1/4 cup mounds of batter onto the lined baking sheet. Bake on the center rack for 10 minutes, rotate, and then bake for another 10 minutes. Let them cool - just not, heaven forbid, completely.
Note: Working with coconut oil can be tricky, as it solidifies at room temperature. I heat the jar in extremely hot water as I preheat the oven and gather the other ingredients. This ensures I have enough liquid oil when I need to add it to the batter. I also make sure that the hot water I add to the batter is quite hot and work as quickly as I can.
Mixed Mushroom Tart for the Holidays
Sunday, December 22, 2013
This tart of mixed, flavorful local mushrooms was the vegetarian main course at Thanksgiving this year, although you could really make it year-round. It would be lovely as a make-ahead summer brunch item, for example.
I think the variety of textures that this combination of mushrooms offers is ideal, but it would also be good with plain cremini mushrooms, if that’s all you have. If you use portobellos, just be sure to remove the dark gills first, as they tend to turn everything unpleasantly black.
(Adapted from Michael Ruhlman, Ratio, 2009)
9 ounces unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter, in small pieces
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2-3 ounces ice water
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 yellow onions, thinly sliced
8 ounces mushrooms, preferably a combination of maitake, shiitake and oyster, cleaned and roughly torn
1 cup half and half
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
Several grinds each of fresh nutmeg and black pepper
1/4 cup grated Gruyere cheese
Several sprigs of fresh thyme
Combine the flour and salt in a mixing bowl, and work in the butter with a pastry blender or your fingers until no pieces are larger than a pea. Gently mix in the water a bit at a time, just until the dough holds together. Shape the dough into a disk, wrap tightly in plastic wrap or a zip-top bag, and refrigerate an hour or more.
Preheat the oven to 325 F. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to fit a 9-inch tart pan, and press into the pan, cutting away any excess. Cover the surface with a layer of foil or parchment paper, and fill with rice or pie weights to prevent buckling. Bake for 20 minutes, then remove the weights and bake 15-20 more minutes, until golden brown.
In a skillet, heat two tablespoons of the oil over medium heat and cook down the onions until dark gold. Spread them evenly in the bottom of the baked tart shell. Raise the heat under the pan slightly, add the remaining oil, and toss in the mushrooms, sautéing until any liquid has evaporated and the surfaces are gold and crisp in spots. Top the onion layer with enough mushrooms to mostly fill the tart shell, setting aside any extra for another use.
In a large liquid measuring cup, whisk together the half and half, eggs, salt, nutmeg and pepper, and gently pour into the tart. Sprinkle the top with the cheese and the thyme leaves stripped off the stems.Set the tart pan onto a rimmed cookie sheet to catch any drips, and bake at 325 F until the custard has just set (a little bit of jiggle in the very middle is fine) and the top has browned nicely, around 30 minutes. Cool at least to warm room temperature before serving.
Winter Harvest Comes Through (Again)
Saturday, December 14, 2013
In the early years of our eating local, when we wanted an antidote to rich, heavy holiday meals and even the local greens were dwindling, we’d have little choice but to buy a giant pack of French green beans from Whole Foods and call it dinner. No more.
Winter Harvest is full of opportunities to make a light, refreshing meal that even tastes a bit like summer. Shore Catch is one of those “never thought I’d see it” items to appear on the Winter Harvest product list - locally and sustainably caught seafood. It was hard to mess up the beautiful piece of sushi grade Ahi tuna that came in our order this week, but we took no chances and made a simple tartare - hardly a recipe with one pound tuna, three tablespoons each of olive oil and lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. We added scallions and parsley, also from our order, and ate it with a potato pancake made with Savoie Organic Farm’s wonderful Kennebecs.
Market Highlights: Headhouse Market December 8th
Sunday, December 08, 2013
The snowy day didn’t deter shoppers or vendors at the Headhouse Square Farmers Market. Plenty of seasonal produce was still available, with Weaver’s Way, Beechwood Orchards, Queens Farm and Three Springs Fruit Farm offering greens, root vegetables, cabbages, brussels sprouts, winter squash, mushrooms, garlic, apples, and of course cider. There was no lack of dairy, meat, fish, chocolate or prepared foods either, with Birchrun Hills, Hillacres Pride, Paradocx Vineyard, John and Kira’s, Market Day Canele, Talula’s Table, Ric’s Breads, Otolith Sustainable Seafood, Wildflour Bakery, Good Spoon Soups, and Green Aisle Grocery all present. The market is scheduled to run for two more Sundays, so it’s well worth a visit, despite the cold.
Posted by Donna on 12/08 at 11:12 AM
Our Dirty Little Secret
Wednesday, December 04, 2013
The guests at our annual holiday party regularly gobble up the dried figs and goat cheese wrapped in prosciutto, made with figs from our community garden a block away. Our dried pepper flakes, also from the garden, inspire those who received them as gifts to demand a fresh supply. How do we manage to preserve all that fresh, local produce in a form that people actually want to consume rather than store away as emergency rations? The dehydrator is our dirty little secret.
I’ll admit, I felt more than a bit defeated when we decided to buy a dehydrator. I had researched and tried every drying method available to us in a tiny city house and a patio with intermittent sunlight, and had failed in everything but the random herb. When my husband drew the line at drying tomatoes on the dashboard of the car (this method does exist and someday I will test it!) I decided to try a dehydrator. Unable to find any friend or family member who still had one lying around from their “As Seen On TV” heyday 20 years ago, we headed to Fantes. From what we had read in consumer reviews, we wanted a top mounted fan to prevent dripping into the mechanisms and digital controls to allow for precise temperature setting depending on what you are drying.
We took home a Nesco Gardenmaster Pro Digital dehydrator, and in a fit of guilt over the price I immediately set out to dry the remainder of two CSA boxes and a basket of produce from our garden plot before we left for a three week trip to Europe. Zucchini chips sprinkled with Old Bay were so delicious they barely made it onto the plane with us. Plum and cherry tomatoes came out a vibrant red and pleasantly chewy. Hot peppers were the easiest - popped in whole and ground in the food processor later. Skins from peeled ginger made a surprisingly strong tea. I estimated that we made up the difference in what we paid for the dehydrator that first summer, some of it using produce that might otherwise have gone to waste.
We haven’t had complete success. I was excited to try to replicate the sweet dried peppers my mother remembered my grandfather hanging from the garage rafters, but the results were tough and mostly skin. Large plum tomatoes are best left to oven roasting on a low temperature and preserving in olive oil.
Most herbs do as well or better hanging to dry, so long as you’ve got the time. And the celery was just… confusing. But anything else we’ve made has easily surpassed any store bought version in taste, not to mention of course the added bonus of being made with local produce. We’re going to try local cranberries next, if we can figure out a way to sweeten them slightly first, and haven’t even had a chance to try our hand at the many jerky and dried fish products that are possible as well.
All that and no tomatoes on the dashboard.
Posted by Donna on 12/04 at 01:57 PM
A Holiday Fruit Cake (not Fruitcake)
Saturday, November 30, 2013
As should be pretty clear by now, quinces are one of my favorite fall/winter fruits, and since they’re sadly a bit of a luxury to find, I generally mix them with apples to stretch them further, and because they get along so well together, as in this fragrant and holiday-appropriate cake. If you don’t care for or can’t find quinces, you can make the cake with just apples and apple butter, as the original recipe did, and it will also be great.
If you don’t make your own quince jam, you can often find it in Mediterranean or Middle Eastern markets. More likely, you’ll instead be able to find the dried and pressed Spanish version, dulce de membrillo, at your local cheese shop, which will work just fine once loosened back up with a bit of extra liquid.
Apple-Quince Bundt Cake
(Adapted from Dorie Greenspan, Baking: From My Home to Yours, 2006)
1 large quince, or 1/2 cup golden raisins
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, slightly softened
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup quince jam, or quince paste gently heated with enough water to loosen to a jam-like consistency
2 tart-sweet apples, peeled, cored and grated
1 cup hazelnuts, toasted, skinned and roughly chopped
1/3 cup powdered sugar
2-3 tablespoons apple cider or milk
If using the quince, peel and core it, then chop it into four or so large pieces. Poach the quince in just enough water to cover until it has changed color (anywhere from buttery-yellow to salmon, depending on the variety) and is tender when pierced with a sharp knife. Drain off the liquid, chop the quince into small dice, and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350F, and butter and flour a large (12-cup) bundt pan.
Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and salt.
Place the butter and sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, and cream together until smooth and thick. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well between additions, then beat in the quince jam at lower speed. Mix in the grated apple, followed by the dry ingredients, mixing only until incorporated. Fold in the diced quince or raisins and the hazelnuts.
Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for 50-60 minutes, until the top is golden and springy, and a cake tester inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool on a rack for 5 minutes, then unmold the cake and cool completely.
To glaze the cake, mix just enough cider or milk into the powdered sugar to make a thick but free-flowing icing. Drizzle the icing evenly over the cake, letting it run down the sides. Let the icing firm up before slicing the cake.
Leftovers keep well in an airtight container for 2-3 days, although it’s best to glaze it the same day you serve it.
Local Holiday Shopping
Friday, November 29, 2013
If you’re heading out to shop for holiday gifts this weekend, don’t forget to stop in and visit one of our local food purveyors. In addition to an incredible selection of local produce, meat and dairy, the choices below also offer gift worthy preserved foods, ingredients to stock a terrific food basket, even chocolates and candies beautifully packaged and ready to give. Try not to eat them on the way home.
Fair Food Farmstand
The Fair Food Farmstand in Reading Terminal Market carries many preserves, dried fruit and vegetables and candies made from local products. Create a gift basket from Tait Farm Foods, offering jars of blackberry and cherry jams, fig and honey conserve, rhubarb chutney, tomato bruschetta and more. Or put together ready to make soup jars with dried beans from Cayuga Pure Organics or a selection of local flours from Daisy Organics for bakers. Fair Food also carries John & Kira’s Chocolates, flavored with ingredients from local and urban farms.
Green Aisle Grocery
Head to Green Aisle on East Passyunk Avenue for a huge array of their own brand of preserves, chutneys, pickles and nut butters made in small batches featuring produce from local farms. Current offerings include Apple Vanilla Ginger Chutney, Five Spice Beets and Sriracha Carrots. They can also put together an impressive gift box if you need help.
Obviously we think of Greensgrow for their produce and nursery, but they also carry gift items like cheese, hot sauce, and preserved food. Either they make the items themselves, or they come from farmers Greensgrow knows and trusts. In addition, over the next month Greensgrow is hosting a Holiday Bazaar featuring local artists. So even if it you can’t find the perfect local food gift, you may still be able find a perfect local gift.
Posted by Donna on 11/29 at 11:30 AM
Thursday, November 14, 2013
On Friday, October 18th the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society held Pheast, its second annual celebration of the growers who contribute to the City Harvest program. Held in the PHS warehouse at the Navy Yard, Pheast brought together farmers, chefs and purveyors to honor the diversity of our local food production.
Posted by Kevin on 11/14 at 10:04 PM
Tuesday, October 22, 2013
Did you know that Seckel pears are native to Philadelphia? The story is either that they’re the only native American pear, or that farmers in this area bred them from European varieties, but either way they’re from Philly.
Even without the local connection, these little guys are one of my favorite varieties, since apart from being cute, they’re both firm and flavorful. That makes them ideal for poaching, although why stop there? Baked on top of a buttery pastry base and a rich almond cream, Seckel pears make a wonderful cookie or a party-ready tart, and their poaching syrup is a perfect contribution to fall-themed cocktails.
Seckel Pear Frangipane Bars
(Adapted from French Pear Tart in Dorie Greenspan, Baking: From My Home to Yours, 2006)
Serves 18-24 as a cookie, 12 as a dessert
For the poached pears:
2 lbs Seckel pears (around a dozen or so)
1 cup granulated sugar
3 cups water
3 strips lemon rind
1 vanilla bean, split
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
Pinch of salt
For the pastry base:
2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
3/8 teaspoon salt
14 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 large egg yolks
For the almond cream:
9 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons ground blanched almonds
1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
1 large egg plus 1 yolk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
Combine the sugar and water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat , then lower to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. In the meantime, peel, halve and core the pears. Add the pears to the pot, along with the lemon, vanilla, peppercorns and salt. Simmer until the pears are tender, about 15 minutes. Refrigerate the pears in their syrup until ready to bake.
In a food processor, combine the flour, sugar and salt for the base and pulse several times to combine. Scatter the butter pieces over the top, and pulse again until the largest pieces are the size of peas. Beat the yolks briefly with a teaspoon or so of water to lighten them, then add to the processor through the feed tube with the motor running. Stop as soon as the egg is incorporated and small clumps have started to form.
Line a quarter sheet pan with enough parchment to overhang the sides by a couple of inches, dump the pastry onto the lined sheet, and gently press it into the bottom and up the sides, just until it holds together. Cover the lined sheet with plastic wrap and freeze for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375F and butter one side of a piece of foil large enough to cover the surface of the dough. Remove the plastic wrap and replace it with the foil. Bake in the center of the oven for 25 minutes, until the pastry has set but is not browned. Remove the foil and cool completely.
Combine the butter and sugar in a food processor and run until a smooth paste forms. Add the almonds and process again until blended, then repeat with the flour and cornstarch. Add the egg and yolk and process just until incorporated, then add the vanilla and almond extracts and pulse briefly again. Spread the almond cream evenly over the chilled pastry base.
Preheat oven to 350F.
Remove the pear halves from the syrup and gently pat dry with paper towels to prevent excess syrup from making the filling soggy. Slice a pear half thinly, keeping the slices together, then lift the sliced half with a spatula and carefully place onto the almond cream in the bottom left corner of the pan, pressing down just enough to fan out the slices a bit. Repeat the process with enough pears to mostly cover the cream in evenly spaced rows (around 18 pear halves total).
Bake 50-60 minutes, until the cream has set around the pears and turned deep golden brown. Cool to at least room temperature before lifting the entire sheet out of its pan by its parchment. Slice into cookie-sized bars or tart-sized squares according to your preference. Serve the same day if possible, although they keep well in the refrigerator for a day or so.
Turning Over a New Fig Leaf
Tuesday, October 01, 2013
Like everything else this year, the figs in our garden arrived three weeks later than usual. At one point, I was anxious about any figs at all this year. Thankfully, summer is exiting warmer than it entered, and there are plenty of figs to be had. The fig harvest seemed so precarious this year, that I felt the need to commemorate it in some way.
I am not sure exactly where the idea came from. It was likely inspired by the memory of a fantastic dessert I had a couple of years ago at Supper. What I loved about Supper’s fig cake, in addition to the rich moist cake itself, was that the figs were whole or nearly so. But I also wanted a cake with crisp edge to it, something that crunched before yielding and giving way to a warm center. Eventually, these urges coalesced around the idea of an upside down cake.
As a starting point, I used this recipe from David Lebowitz, who is exceedingly consistent and reliable. However, I needed to make a few modifications. One, rather than one cake, I made two small cakes (by halving the recipe) in these awesome, tiny Lodge cast-iron pans. Two, I eschewed the caramel of the original, as I find figs need little additional sweetness. Instead, I browned butter in each pan, used some of it to grease the sides, and then sauteed the halved figs for a few minutes. Three, I cut the sugar in the cake itself by about a third and used locally sourced maple sugar. Four, I flavored the cake with a quarter teaspoon of cinnamon. Let me be clear: this fourth modification came with the second iteration of the cake, as I felt the cake itself needed a nice contrasting flavor for the sweet figs. I could see using anise, clove, or even cardamon in the cake, but until I am satisfied with the appropriate portion size (a quarter teaspoon was not enough), I don’t want to try something else.
Posted by Kevin on 10/01 at 03:48 PM
Market Highlights - Sept 4, 2013
Sunday, September 08, 2013
Much as we may want to deny it, summer is definitely heading out the door and fall is on its way in. You may be able to ignore the first few apples, but you really can’t argue with pears and hard squash. That said, there are still plenty of late tomatoes, cucumbers, berries, and even some peaches to be snapped up while you still can!
Better Traveling Through Food
Sunday, September 01, 2013
I’ve written in the past about my attempts to eat local food when I am traveling. This may seem obvious while vacationing on an organic farming Tuscany, but less so while in London. Still, the way I eat at home has fundamentally altered the way I eat elsewhere, whether I am working or traveling. While on my latest trip to Italy (a return to the beautiful Spannochia in central Tuscany), I saw three very distinct ways that eating local has actually improved my travel.
Vetting Restaurants. So much dining out when you travel can be a lot of fun, but the search for something worthwhile can also be exhausting. Whether the restaurant has ceased to exist since your guidebook was printed or the address of buildings seem to have no logic whatsoever, we’ve all found ourselves in that miserable state of hunger and fatigue from a fruitless search. You might think that in Italy it’s hard to have a bad meal. While that may be true (though I certainly don’t want to conduct that experiment and be proven wrong), it is also difficult to find a truly outstanding meal in the heavily-touristed places I have recently travelled to in Italy. (E.g., Most of the gelato I tasted was actually inferior to Philly’s own Capogiro.) The Slow Food organization has been indispensable guide to quality restaurants in Italy. Any meal I have eaten at a Slow-Food-endorsed restaurant has been outstanding and because its food is somehow indicative of its location, quite unique and unlike anything I might have here. Also, as much as I love the good folks at Lonely Planet, they are not restaurant critics by any stretch.
Getting off the Beaten Path. Though I am not a particularly intrepid traveller, looking for local food has made it a bit more interesting. Even when I purchase imported wine, I try purchase from small wineries that are organic or biodynamic. (Down to Earth Wines has been a consistently excellent source for them.) In fact, through a recent purchase from Down to Earth, I was very impressed with wines of Montenidoli - so much so that I arranged a tasting when we traveled to Italy. For nearly two hours, our host, Alberto, graciously showed us the estate and discussed their impressive wines. Montenidoli is, however, quite far off the beaten track, even in such a heavily touristed area.
Eating Less Formally. For whatever reason, I tend to think of sitting down to three proper meals when I travel. I have been drifting from that recently, and I suspect it has something to do with years of going to farmers markets and eating from food stalls. Now when I travel, I try to continue this “informal dining.” This was particularly true of our time in London, where we had fantastic - and fantastically cheap - meals at both Borough Market and the Sunday Upmarket. This both left more time for sightseeing and more money to spend on dinner at such fantastic places as Terroirs Wine Bar.