Crack Open A Book

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

With Sunday’s Headhouse Market closed due to the Papal Visit, we had stocked up the week before.  Then the weekend came, and the blissfully car free streets full of happy residents and visitors made eating out seem so much more appealing than cooking that fridge full of food.  I was feeling a little dispirited by the idea of getting through it all, until I decided to take a look at a cookbook or two for some motivation.  A few minutes later, having flipped through 100 or so pages of Tender by Nigel Slater, I had three recipes we could easily make with everything we had on hand.


It seems so silly to say “and then I thought of my cookbooks!”, but this time of year I really do tend to forget them.  So much of what’s available right now needs little in the way of a recipe to make a delicious dinner.  Blogs, newspapers, and magazines all offer recipes perfect for the season.  But a cookbook like Tender, as the subtitle “A Cook and His Vegetable Patch” suggests, is perfect for looking up individual vegetables and finding simple, seasonal dishes.  I immediately made a broccoli and bacon soup for lunches, the recipe available here, then moved on to baked eggplant with tomato and parmesan for dinner. 

Posted by Donna on 09/29 at 06:09 PM

Last of the Summer Wine

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

As the Summer of 2015 is officially coming to a close, I wanted to include one last word.  We drank several local wines throughout the summer (especially Hawk Haven‘s Pinot Grigio), but the standout was unquestionably Turdo’s Sauvignon Blanc.  Like Gruner Veltliner, Sauvignon Blanc can come off a bit austere.  Bracingly acidic and bright, but with little in the way of nose or finish.  Not Turdo’s.  First, the color has a slight blush - perhaps from some contact with the skin.  Second, the nose contains citrus fruit, but there is also something, in my opinion, herbal to it.  The acidity is nicely balanced, and the finish surprisingly long. Rather than suggest a perfect pairing for this wine - because it is so versatile, I would find it impossible to recommend only one - I suggest a perfect setting: a blanket on the beach, some cheese and salumi to snack on, and a late summer sunset. 



Posted by Kevin on 09/22 at 05:11 PM

Local Food Access During Papal Visit

Sunday, September 20, 2015


We stocked up at the Headhouse Farmers’ Market today, as it will be closed next Sunday for the Papal Visit.  While I can’t find anything specific on The Food Trust’s site, which runs Headhouse, Farm To City does list which of their city markets will be closing this week:  Dilworth Park on Wednesday, Jefferson Market on Thursday,  Gorgas Park on Friday, and Rittenhouse, High Street and East Falls on Saturday.  That leaves the following open: Rittenhouse on Tuesday, University Square and The Fountain at Passyunk on Wednesday and Chestnut Hill on Saturday.  Suburban markets seem unaffected. 

As for local food purveyors, Green Aisle Grocery plans to be open regular hours at all their locations, with some curtailed deliveries later in the week.  The Fair Food Farmstand is extending their hours to 7 PM on Friday and Saturday and opening early at 8 AM on Sunday.  Their last delivery is expected on Thursday, to resume Tuesday.  Greensgrow will have no farmstand or CSA pickup on Saturday or at Greensgrow West on Thursday or Friday.  Weaver’s Way is not indicating any closures on their site. 


Posted by Donna on 09/20 at 05:50 PM

    A New Cheese In Town

    Tuesday, September 15, 2015


    So I suppose this doesn’t look like much, unless you know you’re looking at fresh feta, and even then may not convey the utter deliciousness that this soft, creamy, salty cheese from Valley Milkhouse is.  Called Foxtail sharp and creamy feta, it’s a far cry from the chalky crumbliness of a more traditional feta.  Don’t waste it in a complex dish - the flavor ended up being overwhelmed in the cous cous salad we put it in, but it was fantastic eaten by itself straight out of the milky liquid it comes in.  We got it at Greensgrow, but their website lists all the typical local food purveyors, various farm shares and the Clark Park Farmers’ market.  Go find it soon, as it seems to be seasonal. 

    Posted by Donna on 09/15 at 03:18 PM

      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

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