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
Thursday, May 09, 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 05/09 at 10:22 PM
Last Year’s Jam
Tuesday, April 30, 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.
New Hope: Eat Local and Support a Local Author
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
This weekend I’m heading to New Hope, Pennsylvania for a signing of my new novel at Farley’s Bookshop, which I’m quite excited about—and not just because of my author event. New Hope has always seemed kind of magical to me, for reasons I’ve never quite been able to articulate. It may have something to do with the really great chocolate shop. Or it could have something to do with all the restaurants.
There are some really great places to eat that feature locally produce, so if you’re going to be there soon (either for my book signing, to which you are cordially invited) here are some places to check out:
Sprig & Vine: This vegan restaurant is on Union Square Drive. It changes menus routinely to focus on the best locally grown produce they can get their hands on. Right now you can get locally grown salads, as well as a small plate of pickled local cauliflower and baby carrots.
Cafe Blue Moose: Located on West Mechanic Street, Blue Moose features locally-sourced foods and an eclectic menu. The place has a neat story—it was started in 2006 by a couple of teenagers.
Triumph Brewing Company: There’s a Triumph Brewing outpost on Union Square. In recent years Triumph has added locally grown ingredients to their menu—that includes cheese from Cherry Grove and Valley Shepherd Creamery, as well as meat, produce, and fruit from local growers. Plus, you know, good beer.
Marhaba: Across the bridge from New Hope is Marhaba, a great BYOB Middle Eastern restaurant. They also strive to use local ingredients.
If you’re in New Hope on Saturday, April 20, after you’ve stuffed yourself full of great food, stop by Farley’s from 1-4pm. I’ll be signing copies of THE TRAJECTORY OF DREAMS (which you can also pick up at Farley’s), and I’ll also be pelting people with a fun giveaway: astronaut rubber duckies.
Whole Wheat Rye Sourdough
Sunday, April 07, 2013
Since this was (a) a Mark Bittman column and (b) featured in the Sunday Times Magazine, it’s doubtful that too many people missed his article on whole wheat bread. I was most pleasantly surprised by the sourdough rye loaf, into which I incorporated about 1/4 cup of rye berries that I soaked overnight. It was the first whole wheat sandwich I loaf that I’ve been happy with - and all with the tang of a sourdough.
Posted by Kevin on 04/07 at 06:02 PM
Pici with Swordfish
Wednesday, April 03, 2013
I know I’m repeating myself, but I really love Shore Catch’s offerings through Winter Harvest. Although, perhaps I love them too much because I was having difficulty imagining yet another night of pan-grilled swordfish steaks. (That’s rather spoiled, isn’t it?) Thankfully, I had also been wanting to make pici because of Emiko Davies.
Pici are incredibly simple to make, and Emiko’s instructions are as easy-to-follow and accurate as always. However, I would recommend watching a couple of youtube videos about how to roll them out. Seeing the physical process was immensely helpful. There is no locally-grown semolina flour (yet), but I combined Bob’s Red Mill Semolina with Daisy Organics White Pastry to get this:
These had a really cool, chewy texture totally unlike any egg pasta that you may have made before. I can easily imagine pici sauced in hundreds of ways; this sauce (canned tomatoes, onion, garlic, and oregano from the few sprigs popping up in the garden) was worlds away from the duck sauce of Emiko’s original. Regardless, if you mess up irrevocably (though I can’t imagine how), you won’t have sacrificed any egg yolks, and if you find your pici too misshapen, then just start over again. I will caution you, though, not to make them too perfect. The lack of uniformity is part of the charm.
Posted by Kevin on 04/03 at 05:18 PM
Thursday, March 28, 2013
I really hope this is the last of the winter produce recipes until Thanksgiving, not because I don’t love hard squashes, cabbages and brassicas, but because I am really just sick of winter. My longing for asparagus and rhubarb is starting to become acute, and each of these spring snows is making me despair that tomato season is never coming.
While we’re all cursing the groundhog, this butternut squash spread is at least a bright and sunny color, and warmly spicy enough to maybe convince yourself that you’re in the Mediterranean, if you close your eyes. It’s adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s beautiful cookbook, Jerusalem, and combines caramelized roasted squash and tahini into a hummus-like dip. This version has been made vegan by replacing the original yogurt with soft cooked red lentils and a hit of lemon juice, and instead of plain cinnamon I used a Syrian spice mix. You could use za’atar, ras el hanout, berbere, or any similar blend if you prefer.
Roasted Butternut Spread
(Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, Jerusalem: A Cookbook, 2012)
For roasting the squash:
1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into roughly 1-inch cubes
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon Middle Eastern spice mix of choice
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
For the spread:
1/4 cup red lentils
1/2 cup water
5 tablespoons tahini
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt to taste
Preheat oven to 400 F. Toss the butternut cubes with the oil, spice mix and salt in a roasting pan. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and roast the squash until soft all the way through and slightly caramelized on the edges, approximately 1 hour. Cool completely.
Boil the lentils and water in a small saucepan over medium heat until the lentils have completely broken down, adding just as much water as needed to prevent them from drying out until they reach that point.
Combine the roasted squash, cooked lentils, tahini, garlic and lemon in the bowl of a food processor and pulse just until chunky. Add more lemon juice and salt as needed, then add the olive oil and pulse a few more times to combine.
Serve in a shallow bowl, garnished with an additional drizzle of olive oil, and with pita chips or crudités on the side.
Brewer’s Plate 2013
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
It’s a mark of the vitality of Philly’s local food scene that we have multiple annual events that celebrate local food. After all, it takes a thriving local food culture to make any of these events possible, much less all of them. How many cities across the US would be able to do this?
Chief among these events is Brewer’s Plate, held Sunday night at the Constitution Center. The Fair Food fundraiser pairs dozens of breweries and restaurants in one long beer-and-slider fueled evening. Imagine the spirit of an old-style beef & beer function, with the beef and beer diversified by a factor of thirty, and you will have some idea of the variety offered on Sunday night.
Going in to Brewer’s Plate, I had extremely high expectations for both the beer and the food, and - somehow - even those expectations were exceeded. Normally, you expect to sacrifice quality for an event of this scale, and you accept that since, you know, it’s for a good cause. But what I had to eat and drink rivaled many sit-down meals I’ve had at individual restaurants, and the crowd was more good-natured and enthusiastic than I could have hoped.
Food wise, what stood out? My personal highlights include:
- Pork pate and a beer cracker from Southwark, paired with BPA from Nodding Head
- Victory’s “White Monkey” - Golden Monkey beer aged in Chardonnay barrels
- Brooklyn Brewery’s Sorachi Ace Saison, paired with sliders from Varga Bar and brewed with Champagne yeast.
- Bent Spoon’s Wort Ice Cream - served on the cutest ice cream cone imaginable.
- Aimee Olexy’s cheese-and-beer tasting, in which she proved equally conversant in describing the qualities of beer as cheese, giving us not only a lesson in fantastic local cheese, but in different ways to pair flavors.
- Lancaster Coop is also a buying club with drop offs at many of their CSA locations.
When you attend an event like the Brewer’s Plate, the “danger” (if I can call it that) is that you will take it for granted, that of course the food and beer is local. Local food and drink have come so far so quickly, that it is difficult to remember their humble and relatively recent origins. I was reminded of this as Aimee Olexy discussed the immense effort it took to procure quality local cheeses only a 10 years ago. With credit due to local food advocates such as Fair Food, we can all enjoy these labors of love, and the artisans that create them can command a fair price.
Here’s counting down to the Farm Fest on April 14th.
Posted by Kevin on 03/13 at 03:59 PM
Neighborhood Foods Accepting 2013 CSA Applications
Tuesday, March 05, 2013
When searching for a CSA, I imagine most Philadelphians look outside of the city and into the lush farm land that so fortunately surrounds our city. Most people would reason that a small urban farm could not possibly supply all of their food needs, especially when taking part in a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Program. But when an urban farm looks like this:
buying from the local urban farm becomes a pretty good deal, especially when the farm can build community through feeding people. And that’s what Neighborhood Foods is doing in West Philadelphia. In partnership with Urban Tree Connection, a 501(c)(3) non-profit, Neighborhood Foods runs educational programs for people of all ages, bringing neighbors together through events and making fresh local produce accessible in low-income neighborhoods. All of the income from their CSA goes to support these programs.
They aren’t growing all of the food on their land. They are also partnering with local Philly food businesses including Green Aisle jam, Philadelphia grown honey, Four Worlds bread, and Green-street/La Colombe coffee to provide a well rounded and value added CSA share. They have drop-off locations all over the city and the CSA runs from May 24th through October 25th. Sign up now at neighborhoodfoods.org.
Once again, being able to support progressive community development while getting to enjoy healthy local food is why I love this city. So go show your love to Neighborhood Foods and sign up for a share.
Posted by Nic on 03/05 at 04:29 PM
Winter Harvest Plug: Fresh Seafood
Saturday, March 02, 2013
Not too long ago, I would lament that fish was either sustainably raised/caught or local, but not both. It may be that I simply wasn’t aware of my options, that those options had expanded, or both. But this past year I’ve made two very happy discoveries about seafood. First, there is the peerless Ippolito’s Seafood in South Philly. I’ve already written about this fantastic fishmonger, and if you haven’t already shopped there, do so. Second, Farm to City’s Winter Harvest Buying Club, has fresh, flash-frozen seafood by Shore Catch (caught off the coast of New Jersey) available for purchase. The options include scallops, flounder, cod, tuna, monkfish, and swordfish. Though I’ve tried them all, this was the latest delivery: sushi-grade tuna. The original recipe, from Mark Bittman, called for salmon, but any fish steak should work.
Based on Mark Bittman’s Four Spice Salmon
Salt and Pepper
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
4 six-ounce tuna steaks brought to room temperature
Grind the coriander and cumin seeds with a mortar and pestle until a coarse powder forms. (You don’t want too fine a rub, or you will lose the crunch.) Salt and pepper the fish steaks and rub the spice mixture onto both sides. Film a skillet (I like to use cast iron here) with oil over medium-high heat. Cook for two minutes and each side.
Note: If you wish to have the fish fully cooked, you can preheat the oven to 400 and then put the skillet directly into the oven to finish for 4-8 minutes, depending on your preference.
Sunday, February 24, 2013
Traditional spaghetti carbonara is pasta tossed with crisped pancetta and a mixture of raw eggs and parmesan, which cooks just enough from the heat of the pasta to form a silky, creamy sauce. It’s not vegetarian-friendly, obviously, which is why when I decided to use the beautifully golden-yolked eggs from the market in a carbonara-esque dish, I had to replace the meat with something sufficiently flavorful and colorful.
The answer was a combination of shredded brussels sprouts and sun-dried tomatoes in the pasta itself, and a topping of fresh breadcrumbs, crisped in olive oil and seasoned with a combination of garlic and Spanish smoked paprika. Brussels sprouts keep well, stay wonderfully green as long as they’re not overcooked, and add both brightness and a punchy contrast in flavor. The tomatoes add both a bright pop of color and a slightly chewy texture, and the crumbs add both the missing crunch and the smokiness that comes from the pancetta in the original dish. The smokiness is further enhanced by a handful of shredded smoked cheese after the pasta is sauced.
This recipe is very, very loosely adapted from one in Deborah Madison & Edward Espe Brown’s The Greens Cookbook (1987). In theory, you could further adapt it into a still-flavorful and pretty vegan dish by leaving out the eggs and cheese, although you couldn’t really call it carbonara at that point. (Then again, most people wouldn’t consider it carbonara the minute the meat is taken out.)
Spaghetti Carbonara with Brussels Sprouts, Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Smoky Breadcrumbs
3 slices multigrain bread (the heels of the loaf are fine)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, run through a microplane grater or garlic press
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
Salt to taste
8 ounces spaghetti
3 tablespoons olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
1 dry pint brussels sprouts, shredded
1/4 cup dried tomatoes, diced
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 cup grated smoked Gouda or other semi-firm smoked cheese
Roughly tear the bread slices and pulse in a food processor long enough to form medium-sized fresh crumbs. Warm the garlic in the olive oil in a wide nonstick sauté pan over medium heat just until the garlic begins to release its aroma, then add in the breadcrumbs and toss to evenly coat in the oil. Continue cooking, tossing or stirring frequently, until the crumbs are well-toasted and crisp, stir in paprika and salt to taste, and remove from the pan.
Boil the spaghetti in well-salted water until al dente, according to the package directions. Meanwhile, heat the garlic and chili flakes in the remaining oil in the pan until the garlic begins to color lightly. Add in the brussels sprouts, sun-dried tomatoes and a generous sprinkle of salt, sautéing just until the sprouts have wilted but remain brightly green. Taste and adjust salt as necessary.
Just before draining the pasta, quickly whisk the eggs and parmesan together in a large bowl. Drain the pasta and immediately place it into the bowl containing the egg mixture, tossing quickly with tongs to completely coat the spaghetti. Add the brussels sprouts mixture and smoked cheese and continue tossing until everything is evenly distributed and lightly coated. If the egg mixture appears too raw, return the pasta to the pan and very briefly cook, tossing continuously, to desired doneness.
Serve immediately in warmed pasta bowls, sprinkling generously with the toasted breadcrumbs.
Winter Harvest Plug: Mushroom Mix
Saturday, February 16, 2013
Like many of you, I rely on Farm to City’s Winter Harvest buying club for most of my local food in the winter months. Their product list is constantly expanding, and new this year are mushrooms from Oley Valley Mushrooms. Our particular favorite is “Mushroom Mix 2.” It’s just enough of four different kinds of mushroom for three very different uses: the shiitakes mushrooms in a stir fry; the cremini on pizza; and the trumpets and oysters roasted with garlic, rosemary, and salt.
Posted by Kevin on 02/16 at 10:05 AM
An Earthship Sets Sail
Friday, February 15, 2013
Readers of this blog may remember an article I wrote a year and a half ago about the Earthship greenhouse that we commissioned at Emerald Street Urban Farm. If you didn’t catch that article, here’s a little recap. Earthships employ a style of architecture that relies on the use of trash, earth, and natural systems to create a living house. This design style was developed and championed by Michael Reynolds in the New Mexico desert, and after watching the movie Garbage Warrior that tells his story, I knew that I wanted to bring something like this to Philadelphia.
As fate would have it, I met Earthship activist Rashida Campbell who then introduced me to Eric Fulks who was a student of Earthship biotecture at the time. Eric was looking for a project to cut his teeth on, and when I proposed building an Earthship Greenhouse at Emerald Street, he bit. We built the back wall of the greenhouse out of stacked courses of tires that are packed with dirt to retain thermal heat from the sun. We built the front wall out of discarded two-liter soda bottles to let passive solar through. And we built the frame from re-claimed wood and windows. In all, the structure cost us $300 to make, plus volunteer time. And we were able to propagate many of our flowers and spring crops for Emerald St.
But aside from getting a greenhouse, our main purpose was to create a project that would serve as an educational model for such a structure in an urban environment, and troubleshoot any possible problems. After a few more stints on Earthship workcrews in New England and New Mexico, Eric Fulks is back in Philadelphia to follow through on the original intention of that greenhouse he designed two falls ago—he’s bringing an Earthship House to Philadelphia.
Through a partnership with the Village of Arts and Humanities, land has been secured for an Earthship in north Philadelphia. To get this project off the ground, Eric and the Village are hard at work educating and developing the workforce of volunteers by constructing another greenhouse on the site where the final Earthship house will stand. If all goes to plan, they anticipate breaking ground for the Earthship house in early summer. If you are interested in what they are doing, or what like to attend a workshop tomorrow Feb. 16th at the Village of Arts and Humanities to learn the basics of Earthship design and construction, then please visit their facebook page for more information.
Posted by Nic on 02/15 at 11:01 AM
Life Hands You A Dwarf Lemon Tree
Friday, February 08, 2013
It may seem strange to see a blog on local food in and around Philadelphia, PA include a post on lemons, but I can assure you that these lemons were grown right here in Philadelphia. More specifically, I can assure you that they were grown in my house in Queen Village. We’ve had a dwarf Meyer Lemon Tree for several years, and we’ve gotten impressive (if intermittent) fruit. Nonetheless, last Sunday I picked four lemons.
Of course, I was then left with a quandary of what to do with them. These lemons were far too special (organic! Meyer Lemons! grown in my house!) to just use for their juice or zest. So, I decided to preserve them according to River Cottage Preserves. It’s a basic recipe: salt, lemon juice, bay leaves, and black peppercorns. You sterilize a wide-mouth jar, add all of the ingredients, and then wait four weeks for the rinds to soften. It is probably the easiest preserve recipe I have ever tried.
And the results? I’ll let you know in another three weeks, but I generally prefer them diced as a condiment to fish.