The skinny on figs
Friday, September 07, 2007
I was delighted to see lots of figs when I picked up my CSA share yesterday at the Fair Food Farmstand in Reading Terminal. Of course, I snagged some of Becky’s famous figs (straight from the tree in her South Philly backyard). They are green figs of an unidentifiable variety. They’re much juicier than other varieties I’ve tried. Normally, juicier would be better, but these seem watery rather than juicy. Don’t get me wrong: these figs are good. They just wouldn’t be the first figs I’d pick up.
There were also a few boxes of these figs. I can’t for the life of me remember whose farm they came from, but I think they are organic or low spray or something. These figs are amazing! They’re about the size of a quarter or a little bigger and have a great taste. They’re not any less juicy than the green figs, but they’re less watery. That carton of figs did not last the night!
For the green figs, I may dry them and see how that goes. It would be great to have some figs preserved!
I don’t give a fig
Friday, August 31, 2007
Figs are coming in hot and heavy at the farm stands around town, and I am overwhelmed with delight to see it. I love fresh figs…so much so that I bought a couple of fig trees earlier this Summer (which are doing great in our USDA hardiness zone, I might add. South Philly, in particular, is filled with little back yards overrun with fig trees).
My little trees may not be bearing fruit yet, but the Fair Food Farmstand has found a source for figs in South Philly - her name is Becky. She plucks figs from her tree every week and delivers them to the stand on Wednesday morning. Act quickly - as I found out yesterday, those babies don’t last long. I was told by the woman on duty that the figs are gone by Wednesday afternoon.
Figs from some random woman’s tree in South Philly? Yeah, that’s totally worth an extra stop into Reading Terminal Market.
It kind of reminds me of the Fallen Fruit initiative out of Los Angeles - residents are encouraged to contact city administrators to ask that fruit trees be planted in the city, rather than a tree that doesn’t produce anything. The idea is that any person on the street can than feed themselves from public trees. And not that I have any plans to stand outside Becky the Fig Woman’s house and hope for her fig trees to bear fruit on the street, but I like the idea of finding public and free sources of food. It satisfies my inner forager.
Have you found any public fruit in the city or the surrounding areas? Perhaps we start our own little mapping project.
Head to Headhouse and Make this Soup
Thursday, August 30, 2007
The bounty of the much-touted Headhouse Farmers Market inspired this soup recipe. Make a list of the ingredients and head to the market to see if you can get one item from a different stand to spread the love around. Or, just stop by our table, Weavers Way Farm, and buy everything but the corn. Deliciously fresh, this soup can be served hot or cold so it’ll make the transition between seasons with you. To stock up for the colder months, buy extra fresh corn to cut off the cobs and freeze. Then buy bushels of tomatillos to make salsa verde to also freeze or can. That way, when winter settles in, you can call upon your stockpiles to make this hearty soup to remind you of the freshness of summer.
Corn and Tomatillo Chowder
Adated from The Cook’s Encyclopedia of Soup
2 T. peanut or corn oil
4 large shallots or 1 medium onion, diced
1 hot pepper such as Hungarian Hot Wax, diced
1 sweet pepper (purple, red or green), diced
2 ears of fresh sweet corn, kernels cut off (about 2 cups)
12 or so tomatillos
3 c. of vegetable or chicken stock
1 c. light cream
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Husk tomatillos, place in a small sauce pan and cover with water. Place on high heat until water boil and then reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes until tomatillos loose their bright color and float to the top.
Meanwhile, heat oil in large deep skillet. Add the diced onion and peppers, reserving a tablespoon or so of the pepper for garnish later, to the hot skillet and saute over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes until they get soft and brown on the edges. Add the corn kernels to the skillet and saute for 2 minutes until softened and the color pales. Finally, drain tomatillos from their hot water and add to skillet to toss with sauted vegetables. Stir to incorporate.
Carefully pour contents of skillet into a blender (or use an immersion blender for extra ease) and process until smooth, adding a little stock if needed to loosen it up. Transfer blended contents back to skillet and slowly add in stock over low heat. Allow soup to simmer for 10 minutes, stirring every few minutes to scrap up any corn sticking to the bottom of the skillet.
Remove skillet from heat and stir in cream. Serve soup chilled or warm. If serving warm, gently reheat - never allow soup to come to a boil. Garnish each bowl of soup with diced pepper and thin slices of an uncooked tomatillo.
(makes 4 large servings)
Local produce report, 28 August
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
I basically skipped my usual farmers’ market shopping last week—I picked up some apples and asian pears (asian pears! in August!), but then I left town for the weekend—so I got this week’s supply of local produce at my neighborhood food co-op instead. Going clockwise from the top left, I picked up a watermelon, some hormone-free skim milk, two kinds of tofu (one atop the other), red peppers, white mushrooms, zucchini, scallions, and chickpea flour in the center. Everything except the milk is organic.
Much as I enjoy going to the farmers’ market and speaking to the farmers, it’s wonderful to have more consistent access to local foods.
Jampacked Headhouse Square Market
Monday, August 27, 2007
The Headhouse Square Farmers Market was crazy yesterday. Last Thursday’s article in the Inquirer brought the people out in droves. I got there a little before 1 pm, a full hour before the market was scheduled to close, and the pickings were really slim. Jennie at the Weaver’s Way Co-op table said that it had been nonstop people since they opened and Albert (staffing the PhillyCarShare table) said that some of the vendors had run out of food to sell by 11 :30 am.
I didn’t feel like competing with the three women picking over the last of the fresh corn, so I went without this week. I did manage to come home with a nice haul nonetheless. Spending just $19 (there are some benefits to having your choices limited) I purchased:
1 head of lettuce
6 roma tomatoes (not nearly as tender or juicy as the slicers I got last week, but very tasty)
3 skinny purple eggplants
1 regular eggplant
1 quart of white nectarines
1 yellow pepper
2 onions (red and white)
CSA Weekly Report: Red Earth Farm
Thursday, August 23, 2007
I’d completely forgotten about what I’d ordered last week so this week’s share was a surprise.
I ended up with a bunch of leeks, a head of summer crisp lettuce, a bunch of curly kale, a quart of green beans and tomatoes. Lots of beautiful, stripy, red, green, orange, yellow and purple tomatoes.
I’m not a tomato person, but these tomatoes are just so pretty I want to eat them and like them anyway.
We ran out of fruit this morning and since it’s not a fruit share week I stopped at the farmer’s market in Fairmount on my way home from the gym. It was my first time at the Fairmount farmer’s market this year. Unlike the Roxborough farmer’s market there are a couple of different stands. One vendor seemed to be selling meat as well as fruits and vegetables but I didn’t ask any questions. Another vendor ( I wish I’d picked up their flyer) was selling cheese and Bobbi’s Hummus, whose garlic hummus may be the best I’ve ever eaten. The Amish stand, like the stand near my house, was also selling canned and baked goods.
I appreciated the variety, but compared to my local farmer’s market the prices are outrageous. Corn was selling for 60 cents an ear at one stand and 80 cents an ear at the other. I bought corn for 25 cents an ear last week after complaining that 50 cents an ear was too much at Linvilla Orchards. I did not buy any corn but I did spend just over $20 on fruit. The amount seems exorbitant to me, but then again it’s fruit and it’s only in season for a short time so I may as well enjoy it while I can.
I bought a quart of apples, a quart of pears, a pint of raspberries, a watermelon, a quart of peaches and a pint of grapes. The pears are ripening in a paper bag, the raspberries were a bit disappointing though Sam will eat them anyway, and I haven’t yet tried the peaches. The watermelon may end up being a vodka depository because my teacher husband goes back to work on Monday and might need a treat. The apples are fantastic. I’m not positive, but I think the farmer told me they were called Sansa. I asked if they were best for cooking or eating. He told me that they’re eating apples and he wasn’t kidding. They are sweet and crisp and my son ate two of them this afternoon.
The grapes are also amazing. I’m so used to eating supermarket grapes that when I bit into a truly grape tasting grape I wondered for a second if it was artificially flavored. These grapes are so good I called my husband from the car on my way back home and told him they were the best grapes I’ve ever eaten. They’re so good I don’t want to eat them because I don’t want to lose them. They’re so good I’m saving all of the seeds in the hopes I’ll somehow learn how to plant grapevines in my backyard next year.
I love farmer’s markets.
Monday, August 20, 2007
This week’s Red Earth Farm CSA share contained
1 quart of red slicing tomatoes
1 head of escarole
4 Walla Walla onions
1 pint of tomatillos
1 bunch of perpetual spinach
peaches and nectarines
Feeling like the share just wasn’t enough, I headed to my local neighborhood Farmer’s Market on Friday and picked up
1 red pepper
1 yellow pepper
6 ears of corn
For dinner last night I made Grilled Vegetable Tostadas with Two Salsas. All of the vegetables for the tostada and the sauces were local, including hot peppers and eggplant from my garden, and I topped the tostadas with local Amish Cheese.
I love that Farm to City facilitates my CSA and ensures that every Friday from June through October a nice Amish family will sell fresh fruits and vegetables (as well as canned goods, baked goods, and crafts) just a few blocks from my house. For a full list of farmer’s markets check out the Farm to City website. There’s a farmer’s market in different areas of the city and suburbs Monday through Saturday.
Drizzly Sunday at Headhouse Square
The Headhouse Square Market was absolutely packed when I got over there yesterday around noon. I had wondered if the unseasonably cool and drizzly weather would prevent people from heading out, but it seems that the farmers market crowd is a little more hard core than that. The main aisle was packed with folks who were tasting and wandering before they bought as well as the more focused shoppers who knew exactly what the wanted and where to go to get it.
In the last month I’ve managed to stop by Headhouse Square every Sunday, and in that time I’ve developed sort of a routine. I know who sells the peppers, corn and melons I want, and where to stop to get purple basil and tomatoes. I know these patterns will continue to shift as the seasons change, but I’m enjoying them while I can. Also, and I know that everyone says this when they are asked why they shop at farmers markets, I’ve really loving getting to know the people who are selling me my food. The guy at Beechwood Orchards recognizes me as the girl who is crazy for his white nectarines. Yesterday, when he saw me coming, he waved me over and said, “I’ve only got two quarts of white nectarines left, I was afraid you were going to miss them!” I bought one, as well as a quart of honeycrisp apples, which were really juicy but still the tiniest bit green tasting.
I spent $29.10 yesterday, which is my highest to date since the market at Headhouse opened. I bought more fruit yesterday than I have in past weeks, which is what knocked my total up. I also got a nice bargain, buying a conjoined zucchini (two for the price of one) for $.50. I love days when two quarters are actually enough currency to complete a purchase. The entire list of what I bought is after the jump.
1 quart honeycrisp apples (the quart was $4 and I didn’t realize until I got it home that there were only four apples in it. Not the best bargain)
1 quart white nectarines ($4.50 a quart for nine nectarines, totally worth the price as they are delicious)
1.5 pounds of assorted plums
1 conjoined zucchini (two fused together while growing)
1 bag of purple basil
2 green peppers
1 red pepper
5 assorted tomatoes
6 ears of corn
1 bag of delicious, spicy baby arugula (I had some last week as well)
Clark Park Market report: 9 August
Friday, August 10, 2007
Fahnestock Fruit Farm: the larger (ginger gold) apples
North Star Orchard: the smaller (summer blaze) apples, the pears, the carrots, and the red peppers
Quaff Meadows: eggs and hot peppers
I am thrilled that it’s apple season. Last week’s apples, my first of the season, barely lasted through Wednesday, so I got a few more this week.
Sunday at Headhouse Square
Sunday, July 29, 2007
Despite the rain that was coming down this morning, I headed out around quarter to 1 pm to walk down to the Farmers’ Market at Headhouse Square. I’ve been trying to get down there every Sunday since they opened, and for one reason or another, I haven’t been able to make it happen. But this morning I got up, with a mostly unplanned day stretching out in front of me. It was still drizzling when I headed out, but the skies started to clear right around 1 pm. I got to the market around 1:15 pm and wandered around for a while, taking pictures, and checking out the vast arrays of lush, gorgeous, drool-inducing produce.
I eventually put my camera away and got down the business of buying some produce. I gave myself a limit of $20 and only went over by a single dollar. Here’s what my $21 got me…
1+ pounds blond cucumbers
2 green peppers
1 generous package of lemon verbena
1 pint sweet orange cherry tomatoes
1 quart white peaches
2 yellow heirloom tomatoes
1 butternut squash (although it seems to early for these guys, she told me they were fresh)
1 bunch kale
1 bunch Swiss chard
2 yellow peaches
4 small yellow plums
3 small pears
Everything is blindingly fresh, mostly organic and all locally grown. Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to eat.
When Fresh Truly Counts
Friday, July 27, 2007
I suddenly feel so accomplished! I made something I thought only restaurants serve. After all, how many times have any of us come to the call of “Dinner’s ready!” to find fried squash blossoms stuffed with fresh herbed goat cheese? I certainly haven’t had the pleasure before. Readers extraordinaire, you must give this recipe a try if you can get your hands on some fresh squash blossoms. It wasn’t nearly as hard as one might think to make these delicate and tasty beauties.
Indeed, the beauty and the flaw of this dish are the squash blossoms themselves. First, they are not a common supermarket find. Second, if you do find them but you don’t get them very very fresh and take good care to keep them cool and moist, they get rather difficult (read: rubbery) to handle (although you can still make it work). That being said, I know there are some of you out there dutifully growing squash plants up the side of the fence in your tiny Philly rowhouse backyard, in urban plots/pots or, for those luckier ducks, in your large suburban kitchen gardens. You, my friends, have no excuse not to give this one a go. In fact, I think you owe it to those that don’t have easy squash blossom access to put your good fortune to use.
How, pray tell, does one harvest a squash blossom? Since squash develop from the blossoms, you don’t want to pick the “female” blossoms that are found low and in the center of the plant. Rather, pick the “male” blossoms that are on long slender stems higher up in the plant. You’ll easily be able to tell the difference once you’re actually looking at a squash plant.
For those of you without your own squash plants, check out the Headhouse Farmers Market on Sunday’s in Philly. This new and unusually lively market is located in the historic “shambles” on 2nd and South Streets. There you’ll find loads of local produce, including a few vendors, such as Weavers Way Farm, selling squash blossoms picked that morning. You really must get them as fresh as possible!
Once you’ve aquired your delicate blossoms by hook or by crook, store them in a ziplock bag filled with air (to cushion them) and with a damp paper towel. Keep in the fridge for up to a day.
Let us know if you try this recipe and how they turn out. Also, what other uses do you know of for squash blossoms. According to my trusty kitchen garden reference book, they are suppose to be good in salads and stir frys. I’m so fixated on the fried stuffed version that I haven’t gotten around to trying either just yet…
FRIED SQUASH BLOSSOMS STUFFED WITH HERB CHEESE
Adapted from Chez Panisse menu
12 large squash blossoms
8 oz. goat cheese, room temperature
1/4 c. finely minced fresh herbs (thyme, basil, chives, sage, or others)
1 large shallot, finely minced
salt and pepper
1/4 c. milk
1/2 c. corn meal mix (look for one that includes salt and baking powder) or masa harina (available in some larger stores)
Freshly ground pepper
1 c. vegetable oil
Place the goat cheese in a small bowl. Mix in the minced herbs, shallots and salt. Mixture will come together easier if the cheese is at room temperature. Once mixed, cover and place in refrigerator for 15 minutes or until firm again.
Prepare your “assembly line” by beating the eggs and milk together in a shallow bowl. Place corn meal mix or masa harina in another shallow bowl and mix in the freshly ground pepper. If blossoms have not already been prepped, gently remove all but a small tip of the stem and look closely for any dirt or insects. If you find anything, gently wipe clean with a damp towel.
When cheese mixture is firm, take teaspoon size amounts and roll into small balls with your hands the way you would chilled cookie dough. Place a cheese ball into the center of each blossom and twist the ends of the petals together to fully enclose the cheese.
Dip each blossom into the egg mixture. Let excess drip off. Quickly and gently roll blossom in dry mixture, shaking excess off. Set blossoms in refrigerator until ready to fry.
Place vegetable oil in a skillet and heat to approximately 350 degrees or until a tiny pinch of corn meal dropped in produces a good sizzle. Carefully place half the blossoms into the hot oil. Turn them over to brown evenly on all sides. When golden brown, remove and place on a paper towel to drain. Bring oil back up to temperature and fry the remaining blossoms.
Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and serve immediately with any leftover cheese as a garnish in the center of the plate.
(makes 12, serves 4)
Sunday, July 22, 2007
I picked up this beauty last Saturday at the Greensgrow Farm Market up in Kensington. Needless to say, it is long gone. However, the local tomatoes are appearing in gorgeous abundance right now. Check out the picture that Jennie from the Weaver’s Way Farm Blog posted today of some of the ‘maters at the Headhouse Square Market. It makes me salivate just to look at them.
When it comes to tomatoes like this, I’m a fan of simple preparation. Sliced with a sprinkling of salt is best, but if you feel you must fancy them up a little more, you can always go the classic basil and good olive oil route. Whatever you do, just don’t put them in the fridge, as that’s the quickest way to turn them into a mushy mess.