So Good You’ll Forget It’s Raining

Saturday, August 22, 2015


We’d already walked a distance in light rain, and now we were sitting down to dinner on the Marine Parade Grounds of the Navy Yard as it rained harder.  As soon as we tasted the pork pate, none of that mattered.  Made by La Divisa, the pate was creamy and flavorful, but with none of the excessive richness or slight funk of more traditional pates.  We ate it as our first course at Diner En Blanc with equally excellent Oldwick Shepherd cheese and cured olives from Valley Shepherd Creamery.  I wouldn’t go so far as to say the pate cleared the sky, but it did stop raining shortly afterward, music and dancing started, and yet another beautiful spot in our city provided a luminous backdrop for the evening.

For those of you who missed it or didn’t get enough of the Navy Yard, tickets are now on sale for Pheast, the PHS sponsored fundraiser for the wonderful City Harvest program.  Come celebrate the urban farmers and community gardens who supply the program and the night with local produce.

Posted by Donna on 08/22 at 10:43 AM

Drink Up In The Garden

Thursday, August 20, 2015


We’ve talked before about how seeking out local food on vacation has enriched our travel experiences, and a recent trip to London was no exception.  We attended the Midnight Apothecary, hosted every Saturday night in the beautiful rooftop herb garden of the Brunel Museum in southeast London.  Just across the street from the Thames, the Brunel Museum sits atop the very first tunnel under the river.  We preferred to stay above ground, and had delicious cocktails made from herbs grown right in the garden.


The beer served was Hiver,, brewed with honey from urban London apiaries.

Posted by Donna on 08/20 at 01:11 PM

    A Summer Picnic

    Saturday, August 01, 2015

    As soon as I tasted our naturally fermented pickles made a few weeks ago, I knew we had to put a picnic together.


    Headhouse Market newcomber La Divisa meats made it easy, with a wonderful thinly sliced ham we slathered with Green Aisle Grocery’s horseradish on Ric’s Bread.  And of course there had to be a tomato sandwich.



    For dessert, I cooked down a bunch of rhubarb from our garden and made a rhubarb fool.  This was one of those too pretty desserts I had never gotten around to trying.  Definitely worth the minimal effort in the summer - it was cool, slightly tart, and did I mention pretty?



    Posted by Donna on 08/01 at 05:22 PM

    Sauteed String Beans in Tomato Sauce

    Saturday, July 25, 2015


    While I thought it was fitting to use my grandmother’s bowl to serve this old fashioned dish, the result didn’t taste much like the stewed green beans I remember from childhood.  For one, I briefly blanched the beans while the simple tomato sauce was cooking so they could be thrown in at the end to just cook through.  I also used a combination of wax beans and two varieties of pole beans for a mix of flavors.  Our lovely San Marzano plum tomatoes on the plants we got at Savoie Organic Farm aren’t quite ripe yet, so we used several beautiful Persimmons.  They were definitely more juicy than a plum, but that worked well for this quickly cooked sauce.  We did add some chunks of fresh mozzarella from Hillacres Pride just before eating - purely for the protein, of course.

    Sauteed String Beans in Tomato Sauce

    1 pound string beans
    3 cloves garlic
    2 tablespoons olive oil
    5 medium tomatoes
    12 basil leaves

    Trim beans, blanch in salted water and set aside.  Using the same boiling water, blanch tomatoes just long enough for their skins to crack.  Rinse briefly to cool, remove skins and chop in 1 inch chunks.

    Mince garlic and saute a minute in olive oil over medium heat.  Add tomatoes and a few pinches of salt and leave simmering until tomatoes begin to break down and sauce thickens.  Add beans and cook until beans are desired consistency. 

    Serves 2 for lunch or 4-6 as a side dish.



    Posted by Donna on 07/25 at 02:52 PM

    A Garlic Harvest

    Wednesday, July 22, 2015


    Last October, we popped a couple of bulbs’ worth of garlic cloves in the ground pointy side up and about 6 inches apart.  Two weeks ago, we pulled about 15 beautiful heads of garlic out of the ground.  There really was nothing else to it, save cutting the garlic scapes (long, sometimes curly stems with tiny buds on the end which appear in late spring) to help the plants concentrate on bulb growth.  We waited for the leaves to start to brown - and a little push from our neighboring gardener - to pull them.  As you can see above, most had developed the papery skin necessary for curing.  Don’t let the sound of the word curing scare you off, as with garlic this simply means hanging them in a well ventilated pantry or shaded spot for a few months, at which point they should be usable for several more.  We did have to cut most of our leaves away due to our cats’ obsession with anything they can chew on, but ideally leaving the leaves and much of the roots on aids drying.  The garlic is good for immediate use as well, which means you can easily set yourself up with your entire year’s garlic with one harvest so long as you don’t mind braids of bulbs hanging atmospherically around your porch or pantry. 

    Posted by Donna on 07/22 at 06:08 PM

    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. 


    Posted by Kevin on 07/18 at 08:53 AM

    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.

    Posted by Donna on 07/15 at 08:22 AM

    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.

    Posted by Donna on 07/08 at 07:34 PM

    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. 

        Posted by Kevin on 06/10 at 03:14 PM

        Market Highlights: Headhouse Market June 7th

        Sunday, June 07, 2015

        Green Beans

        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.

        Posted by Donna on 06/07 at 05:42 PM

        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. 



        Posted by Kevin on 05/27 at 06:01 PM

        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

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