Valley Shepherd Creamery’s Oldwick Shepherd and Apple Tart with Rosemary

On a recent visit to the Reading Terminal Market, I took the opportunity to stock up at Valley Shepherd Creamery. In particular, I bought a large piece of their Oldwick Shepherd cheese, as I was anxious to try the Cheese and Apple with Rosemary Tart recipe included in their September email.


Rather than using store-bought pastry (as recommended in the recipe), I made my own using Castle Valley Mills Soft Wheat Flour and Hillacres Pride butter. I let it rest overnight and rolled it out in the morning as the oven pre-heated. I used Stayman apples, which are particularly good for baking. Also, since the apples were on the small side, I used two apples rather than one.

When I bought the cheese, Zeke wanted me to let them know how it turned out: Zeke, I will be back for more Oldwick Shepherd very, very soon.

Beer, Wine, and Booze · Recipes

You Must Return Here With A Shrubbery

Several years ago, I was enjoying a drink (at a now-shuttered restaurant) so much that I complimented the bartender on my cocktail. He nodded in agreement and replied, “Shrubs are cool.” I am ashamed to admit I had no idea what he was talking about. (That’s not entirely true. There was muddled thyme in my cocktail, so I assumed he was referring to that.) Only very recently did I connect that statement with the Martha Washington Raspberry Shrub served at City Tavern, even though I have walked by the sign advertising said shrub at least a thousand times.

Needless to say, I am an extremely late-comer to the possibilities of fruit shrubs. (For those readers who truly are the last people on Earth to learn of them, shrubs are fruit-based syrups mixed with vinegar.) One day several weeks ago, I decided to experiment with some underripe strawberries, using this recipe. After a little more research, I came about this from Michael Dietsch. Taking Dietsch at his word, I used the cold method for my next shrub. However, I wasn’t using strawberries this time; I was using rhubarb recently picked from our garden.


The result was definitely more flavorful, and Dietsch is absolutely correct that the acid mellows in time, but this shrub did not have the viscosity of the cooked one. I am confident enough in the cold method to use it for any other fruit, but given the texture of rhubarb, I think I would use the “hot” method in the hopes it might further break down and exude its juices. Nonetheless, Dietsch’s cocktail recipe was much better than the previous, and it made a delicious cocktail with club soda and Bluecoat Gin.


Pickle & Peach Salad


I use the word pickle deliberately here, despite the fact that these clearly are not pickled or fermented cucumbers. They are, however, Kirbys – those small sweet lovely crisp cucumbers that any self respecting South Jersey native simply calls pickles. These are from Blooming Glen, and I might have knocked a person or two over in my rush to get at them at Headhouse Farmers Market. None made it to the actual pickling stage, but hopefully there will be more tomorrow for that. The mozzarella is from Valley Shepherd Creamery. Looking at their cheese case at Reading Terminal – packed with different varieties and styles – it might be easy to miss the freshly made mozzarella mentioned on the chalkboard. You shouldn’t, especially at this time of year. The salad below came together the day after we had gorged ourselves on mozzarella and tomatoes and wanted something a bit different.

Pickle and Peach Salad

3 Kirby pickles, sliced into half moons
2 peaches, cubed
A handful of greens
2 green onions, white and green both sliced
1/4 pound mozzarella, diced or torn into small pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
generous pinch of salt

Toss all ingredients until well combined. Add salt if necessary. Serves two as a meal.


Some Green Amid the Gray

Long after the allure of simmered stews, mashed root vegetables, and gratins has worn thin, there are still weeks (months?) to go before the farmers’ markets open. In the meantime, much of the greens we eat are either hydroponic bibb lettuce or microgreens. This is not a complaint about either; I just want a bit more variety. For the past few weeks we’ve been enjoying arugula from the Honey Brook Harvest Collective, which we get through Philly Foodworks. Not content with just another green for salads, I decided to make it into pesto. After all, is there any better reminder of summer?

The following is based on a recipe found in Pasta, a cookbook I strongly recommend if you are interested in refining your pasta dishes. The recipes are sequenced in order of difficulty, and in every recipe it stresses the importance of balance and the marriage of shape to pasta sauce (something I am only now learning to appreciate). Originally, the recipe called for both walnuts and pine nuts, but in keeping this as local as possible, I used only walnuts. Further, I used Valley Shepherd Creamery’s Hunterdon for the cheese. Last, I used Vesper Brothers Whole Wheat Penne.



Sauteed String Beans in Tomato Sauce


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.

Books · Recipes

Four-Minute Squid (or Less)

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.



Cod and Potato Ravioli

Bear with us on this one. We were looking for a filling for ravioli that wasn’t ricotta, but still had a creamy texture that could incorporate another ingredient. The cod was leftover from a huge filet from Shore Catch, simply poached and pureed with the boiled potato and some parsley. We made a slightly sweet tomato sauce from our canned tomatoes and added black olives and more parsley. We had enough dough and filling to make two batches.
We use an old metal ravioli tray of my grandmother’s, which along with the Kitchenaid pasta attacment makes short work of it.
We didn’t miss the meat. Or the ricotta, for that matter.


Cornmeal Skillet Cakes with Bacon and Ginger Butter

Okay, so I may have completely stolen this idea from Kennet’s wonderful brunch menu, but it was the first dish I thought of when I looked at the fresh ginger offered by Blooming Glen Farm at the Headhouse market. Who knew it would be the perfect early fall dish because that’s when the ginger is harvested?


Cornmeal Skillet Cake with Bacon and GInger Butter

1 cup cornmeal (I used a very fine grind and a much rougher grind mixed together for a really pleasing texture)
1/4 cup spelt flour
2 tbsp baking powder
pinch salt
1 tbsp sugar

In a bowl, mix cornmeal with spelt flour, baking powder, sugar and salt.

In another bowl, mix buttermilk and egg.

Cut bacon into small strips and cook at low heat divided into two small skillets until some fat is rendered and bacon is crisp. Using a slotted spoon, remove bacon to paper towel. Pour rendered fat into small bowl to cool slightly before pouring into liquid ingredients. Quickly saute ginger in one of the pans to cook slightly before mixing into butter.

Combine liquid ingredients with dry and stir in bacon. Heat skillets to medium and pour mixture into two skillets. Cook for a few minutes on each side.


In Search of the Perfect Potato Salad

Anyone who grew up near Vineland in South Jersey will surely know Joe’s Poultry. Our parents would never consider fast food appropriate for dinner, but a stop at Joe’s little shop for a rotisserie chicken was a different case altogether. But it wasn’t the chicken that was my favorite – it was the potato salad. Almost creamy, with bits of shredded carrot and diced pickle and never too much mayo, the potato salad deservedly became the standard by which all others were compared in my family. (Joe’s Poultry is still going strong, by the way, and if the reviews on Yelp are any indication, we’re not alone.)

A few years ago I tried my hand at potato salad, thinking I could definitely come up with something delicious with all the wonderful local potatoes at hand. Nope. I used Tom Culton’s lovely fingerlings, which according to many recipes should have been the perfect texture, and left the skin on. The result was more like like pieces of potatoes dressed in mayonnaise – not at all the moist and flavorful texture of Joe’s. While the skins were delicious, there was way too little potato exposed, so nothing cohered. I tried again, this time choosing young potatoes with thin skins, but big enough to allow for pieces with plenty of exposed potato. I also mashed the potatoes slightly with a fork and added tiny diced bits of pickles and chives. My family wholeheartedly approved.

IMG_5779So why is the potato salad pictured purple, you ask? We picked up a massive jar of naturally fermented pickles made by Amanda of Phickle at the food swap the week before and they had a fantastic half sour taste that was perfect for potato salad. The only potatoes we had on hand were from Savoie Organic Farm and just happened to be purple. Prettiest batch I ever made.

2 pound potatoes, skin on is fine if they are new potatoes, cut into pieces of 1 1/2 to 2 inches
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons mayonnaise, or more, depending on your preference
1 bunch of chives, chopped
1 dill pickle, diced

Put potatoes in a pot and cover with water. Add 1 tbsp salt and bring to boil. Boil potatoes until fully cooked – usually no more than 10 minutes, but test with fork. Drain and allow to steam dry.

Transfer potatoes to a bowl and roughly mash some with a fork to desired consistency. Toss potatoes with mayonnaise, chives and pickle. Add 1 tsp salt and taste to adjust salt or mayonnaise. Serves 4-6.


Vegetarian Mapo Tofu

I’ve yet to meet an Asian noodle dish I didn’t like. My favorites lately, particularly on cold days, are those dishes with a lovely gravy-like sauce such as dan dan noodles or especially mapo tofu. Since we have such wonderful locally produced tofu, I thought this might be a good dish to try at home where I could also use local pork or even go vegetarian.

IMG_3963While I’ve made this recipe in the traditional manner, with ground pork and small cubes of tofu, and it was delicious, here I decided to use all tofu and crumble it, adding small, diced delicata squash that had been sitting around. Any winter squash would likely work, but delicata is particularly useful since it peels easily and cooks quickly, remaining slightly firm. The recipe below is adapted from Epicurious. In addition to swapping out the pork for squash, I also make the sauce on its own rather than adding the components to the dish, as I’ve found simmering the sauce separately and incorporating at the end creates sauce that’s nicely thickened without overcooking the squash. This dish comes together remarkably quickly.

1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
3 scallions, sliced, with whites and green separated
1 tablespoon minced peeled ginger
1 delicata squash, peeled and diced in ½” cubes
1 pound tofu
1 tablespoon chopped parsley

2 tablespoons bean paste
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon cornstarch dissolved in 2 tbsp water

Combine bean paste, soy sauce and chicken broth. Heat in small saucepan over medium heat, adding cornstarch dissolved in water. Simmer until sauce thickens slightly. Set aside.

Heat sesame oil over medium heat in a wok or saucepan. Add garlic, the whites of the scallions and ginger and cook for one minute. Add delicata squash and stir fry until squash cooks to desired texture. Add crumbled tofu and sauce. Cook together for one minute or until sauce thickens to desired consistency and add greens of scallions and parsley. Serve over rice or noodles of your choice.