Thursday, December 23, 2010


The 2011 Il Moya Tree
 Oh, for sure, we:  "Need a Little Christmas"

It's Christmas, go ahead and be that child that hides inside all of the rest of the year!

Remember:  you can't cure all of the world's problems - try to at least make a dent in one - be charitable, give of your time, yourself, and your money if you can.  And, if you are still shopping - do it at an independently owned small business, please!!!

Sing Carols, get misty - eyed at the little ones wonder at it all, and INDULGE!!  It's the Holidays and it's a long winter.

Be kind to one another - there can be a bit of stress popping up now and then!

Let's all bring out the best we can be.

And - you Foodies - I know that you are shopping and cooking and creating and planning - and enjoying every minute of it!  Good for you/us!!

See you in 2011. 

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Surviving and Thriving during the Holidays with a Cocktail and the Easy and Fabulous Gypsy Stew!

The Last of our Potato Crop!

Sharing this picture totally out of pride that we got away with harvesting just a few more delicious potatoes on December 8th!!  That's it now, though. 

OK, on to other things. . .

One of the "rules" we've learned over the past few years - at this time of the season when you feel the stress piling up - is STOP!  Catch your breath and ask yourself why you aren't appreciating this "most wonderful time of the year".  Be honest in figuring out why you are stressed and crazed.  There are many, many reasons that you find the holidays the most stressful time of the year - many of these reasons can't be addressed here (valid though they be) - so let's concentrate on the, "things we can change".  Like for instance,  is your stress level up because you have to find the "perfect" gifts for your nearest and dearest?  If so, read on . . .!

First Rule:  political and economic issues aside for just a moment, anything you buy in a big box cheap import store or even a chain department store  - the giftee can buy themselves!!!  If you are really looking to WOW someone, find some original, one of a kind gifts:  So, that means, shop at your locally owned, independent stores.  OR, if you are thinking of something more personal, make something - there are so many wonderful foodie gifts that would get used, and would be appreciated, and would show that you actually took the time to make something wonderful for someone - especially, if in fact, the recipient is a Foodie.  Think about the gifts that have WOWED you in your adult life.  They were probably unexpected, unique and definitely NOT something you would buy yourself.  Sieze that rule!!!  And maybe they weren't even the most EXPENSIVE gifts you ever received either.  Definitely sieze that rule! 

Think about Nut Butters - they are delicious, they keep in the refrigerator for ages and they are great for Midnight Snackers (I've heard!).  For bakers, nothing beats a lovely bottle of real Vanilla Extract (put really good split vanilla beans in a pretty bottle, fill with good vodka, let it steep).  And for all of us who cook, Vinegars are always welcome - and also keep well.  I like to do Red Wine Vinegars (keep using up the last few sips of that bottle of good red from last evening by adding it to your developing vinegar - as the French do).  To the Vinegar you can add garlic for a bit, herbs, hot peppers, . . .use your imagination.  Lastly, a good Cordial is always welcome after dinner on a cold night - or at any other time of day, frankly.  Cranberry Vodka cordial is gorgeous and delicious and "just right" for the Holidays.  The possibilities are endless.

And of course, as you plan your gift giving, find a program, not for profit organization, shelter, any service setting -  in your community - and put a little aside to share with those organizations.  Maybe someone you know would love to see a donation made in their name? Times are tough for the programs that regularly do the "hard stuff". 

For us, it's pretty much always animal protection organizations and food programs, but pick what means the most to you and give, for yourself and for others - these will be gifts you will truly give to yourself.

Now, onto recent recipes that have proven to be fabulous, warming and most importantly, easy.

Cocktails are an important part of life in our home - a nice cocktail at the end of a challenging day is a wonderful treat, but nobody likes the "same old/same old".  Here's one we found while going through a pile of years of clipped recipes.  Seeing that we needed to do research, we made a couple of these little glasses of happiness immediately!

POMEGRANATE MANHATTAN (From the late, great Gourmet Magazine, June 2005)

For two small cocktails:                                                                          

3 oz Bourbon
3 oz pure pomegranate juice (we use POM)
1 teaspoon superfine sugar
4 dashes Angostura Bitters

Fill a shaker halfway with ice, add all ingredients and shake well - you want to dissolve that sugar!
Strain into cocktail glasses with a maraschino cherry.  Enjoy!

Now this next recipe will have you and everyone around the table moaning and dipping and slurping - come on, how can you pass that up?

Gypsy Stew (I am told there are many variations of this low cost, feed a crowd recipe; I would love to hear about them)

In a Dutch Oven place:

1 stewing chicken, cut up
1 large can of Chicken Broth (original recipe calls for College Inn - we have gone a bit upscale from time to time but the College Inn works great)
8 medium onions, quartered
1/2 bottle inexpensive Sherry (really, inexpensive is the way to go!)

Cook the Chicken and stock and onions and sherry in the Dutch Oven on the stove top - don't boil it, but keep it at a nice even simmering heat; when it is cooked - probably about an hour - allow it to cool.  Pick the meat from the bones.  Discard bones and skin (or make "cracklin's" from the skins, just a thought!). Put the chicken back into the broth and onions.

Add to the Chicken mixture in the pot:

8 tomatoes, quartered (in non-tomato season, which is when we mostly eat this, we add 1 large can of tomatoes with the juice; we use kitchen scissors to cut the whole tomatoes up a bit)
add the other 1/2 bottle of Sherry -inexpensive, remember
3 - 5 dried red peppers (we have used fresh hot peppers and/or a mixture of fresh hot and not hot, too)

Simmer this mixture for about 1/2 hour; if you are using fresh tomatoes it will take a bit longer than a half hour.

Now for service:

Put a couple of slices of sharp cheddar cheese in the bottom of a large soup bowl
Ladle the stew over the cheese into the bowl

Serve with good, crusty bread and a green salad.  You will need plenty of bread, and plenty of cheddar cheese.  The broth is absolutely amazing and tastes even better the next day.  There is some sort of magical interaction between the broth, the chicken juices, the inexpensive sherry and the veggies that makes an elixir that you will really want to just eat with a spoon.


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Doing more than "surviving" the Holidays & Thanksgiving Memories coming later this week!

The Philly Foodist will have a large post later this week.  I'll be posting some recipes, resources and ideas as well as fond memories and pictures of our beautiful Thanksgiving at Larken Springs Farm!

Following that big, lush Thanksgiving meal, life automatically becomes twice as stressful for just about everyone - now, the "holidays" are in full swing and all of us feel it.  I will be making some suggestions for enjoying the season, measuring what we all "have to do", as well as including some fun, locally sourced and creative ideas for gifts - especially gifts for foodies.

Media Alert:  Keep your eye on the Perdue lawsuit story by the way.  Insiders have long cited Perdue as one of the cruelist and least sanitary of the mass chicken producers.  Stay informed!

See you later in the week!

And just for a hoot:  Here's what Brussels Sprouts look like in their "real"state.  Enjoy!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Thanksgiving Thoughts and Your Favorite Dishes of the Season

Well folks - the verdict is in - we"re really into the Fall, aren't we?  Philadelphia's wonderful trees are sporting beautiful colors and those wonderful drain spouts are filling up with the products of our old and gorgeous trees.  Even if you are able to ignore the growing tendency of the retail world to push every holiday way before it's occurance - the weather, the time change, the leaves - all have got to have you thinking about Thanksgiving.  You're a Foodie.  It's a Feast.  It's unavoidable.

I have to say that I have always thought that Thanksgiving was a wonderful holiday.  How perfect the day is for locavores, slow foodies, and foodies in general.   The whole concept of the celebration is supposed to be "local" and "seasonal" - the idea is to celebrate the harvest and the fact that you actually have some good foods from the harvest as you prepare for the long winter months.  And you don't have to run around trying to find the perfect gifts - it is truly a time to be together with loved ones and just feast!!  How could that be bad?!? 
And never does one meal do more for the concept of leftovers.  Starting a few hours after the actual feast has wrapped, the "picking" begins, to be followed by days of sandwiches, soups, and of course, the ever fabulous Turkey Tetrazzini!  We have gone so far as to order two turkeys so that we can wallow in left overs after the big day is over and the guests have gone! 

Try to stop yourself from focusing on the hectic nature of the weeks following Thanksgiving - concentrate instead on the actual day and what it means and what it has meant at various times in our nation's history. Lose yourself, instead,  in the selection and preparation of many of the wonderful, local products which we are so lucky to have.  It sounds trite perhaps, but spend a little time thinking about what you truly are thankful for and voice it.  It will make you feel good - and even more hungry!

Again, we live in an absolutely wonderful part of the country when it comes to putting together a Thanksgiving feast.  Our Farms and producers are second to none and our climate allows for wonderful Fall produce to accompany those free range turkeys and pumpkin pies.  It's all right here for us - so we get to skip the travel costs - in money, in taste and in quality - that many other folks wanting a traditional Thanksgiving have to pay because they don't have such easy access.

In the next couple of weeks, I would love to hear from you as to your favorite Thanksgiving recipes.  What has to be on the table or it's just not Thanksgiving?  What do you like to do with the left overs?  Who are you spending the Holiday with this year? 

I will be posting more about what we'll be feasting on and with whom in the next few days.

Lastly, a plug that I must include:  we are faithful customers of Fair Food Farms in the Reading Terminal Market when it comes to ordering our bird.  They provide wonderful options, and all are humanely raised and free of all that "stuff" that makes those turkeys in your stupermarket freezers look so - well - weird.  Get your order in soon!

Please share your recipes, traditions and plans for this year!
Enjoy the Fall.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Marc Vetri beats an Iron Chef! Smoky Chowder recipe. Summer weather in Fall!

Hi Philly Foodies!

Sorry for the time away; back from the road now and looking forward to some extended time off the road.  Fall in Philadelphia - a great time for Philly Foodies!

First of all, a great big congratulations to Marc Vetri, authentic Philadelphian and chef owner of Vetri, Osteria and Amis, for his impressive victory over Michael Symon on Iron Chefs!  If you have ever dined at Vetri and you see the show, you will note that Marc really went to his "authentic" Italian roots.  We wanted to climb through the screen - the dishes he produced were amazing.  Congrats too to his team:  Jeff Michaud and Brad Spence - you did Philly proud, Gentlemen!

Are you getting a bit worried about this strange and unusual Fall/Spring weather we are experiencing?  It's hard to get excited about Apple Cider and "Brown" cocktails.  In the garden, things are sort of "returning" in a weird way - Basil, Oregano, and our Savory.  Yet I am not sure that this is going to be the best for the Fall lettuces and arugula we recentlyplanted.  Also, even though the weather is warm, our cherry peppers, while large, are not turning red.  What are other city gardeners experiencing?  I always figure too that 65 in the areas outside of Philly is at least 70 in a city neighborhood, so while the leaves in the suburbs are changing we're having a protracted Indian Summer.

And speaking of "street food" - in its worse form - may I make a special request that people be a little more aware of what they are doing with their left overs when they are dining on the street.  Anyone who walks a dog in the city will know immediately what I am talking about. Half eaten sandwiches, slices of pizza, french fries (tons of french fries) and all manner of stryofoam containers, paper plates and cups, smeared with all sorts of former food "smears".  Now I have a couple of theories about the sources of these messes, mostly revolving around the fact that I believe this happens most often from people either in or about to get into their cars.  Which means I am damn sure it's not my neighbors, and I am beginning to wonder if it is always city dwellers at all.  I recall when we lived in Old City watching folks leaving the clubs (and the city) get in their car - parked in front of my building - and, believe it or not - empty their ashtrays and all of the trash in their cars onto my sidewalk/gutter!!  Apparently, their belief was that in "the city" you can just dump trash all over the place.  I am wondering if the same mind set is just tossing all of this food refuse on our streets.  City dwellers or visitors, let's all please be a bit more conscious of each other and our environment.

OK, a great recipe that we made this weekend.  From Food and Wine (November 2010):

Smoked Whitefish Chowder

Makes 8 servings - (we cut it in half and it made a lovely 4 servings)

1 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup milk
Salt and fresh ground pepper
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 celery ribs,  finely chopped
1 leek, white and green parts, thinkly sliced
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
1 cup dry white wine
3 1/2 cups organic, low salt chicken stock (recommended - low salt gives you more seasoning leeway)
1 10 oz package of frozen corn kernels, thawed
One 2 pound smoked whitefish (AKA Sable), skin and bones discarded, coarsely flaked (around 3 cups)
2 tablespoons chopped dill
2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley
Tabasco Sauce/or your favorite hot sauce

In a medium sauce pan, cover the potato chunks with the cream and the milk.  Season lightly with salt and pepper and bring to a boil.  Partially cover and simmer until tender about 15 minutes.
In a large soup pot melt the butter in the oil; add onion, celery, leek and thyme - cook over moderate heat until softened, about 4 -5 minutes; add the white wine and boil until the liquid is nearly evaporated, about 5 minutes.  And the chicken stock, season with salt very lightly.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer 1/2 of the potatoes to a bowl.  Set aside.

Using a hand held mixer, a blender, or ideally a hand held emersion blender beat the rest of the milk, cream and potato mixture until smooth.
Add the potato chunks, the corn, and the potato/cream/milk puree to the soup pot, heat through - about 5 minutes.

Stir in the whitefish, add the dill and parsley and season with the Tabasco.  Serve Hot.

The Main House and Kitchen Garden at Bartram Gardens

If you get a chance, especially as the weather holds, but most probably in the Spring, do take the tour of historic Bartram's Gardens and Bartram's Home.  Just amazing.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Discount "Food" Store Opens; Political Commercials attack common sense; and a great recipe!

First some musings on things that have gotten my attention - since they have something to do with Food, of course!  And then a recipe for something yummy that I think is "on the Horizon".  Also a Fall Veggie tip that we learned about this weekend at the Head House Farmers Market.  More Fall recipes coming later this week.

To begin:   I am assuming that many of us have heard the sad news about the opening of "Bottom Dollar Foods" in King of Prussia.  This relatively new chain is reflective of what is causing so many of the tragic problems that result from lives spent subsisting on subpar food like substances (thank you Michael Pollen!). The worst "foods" are the cheapest, and if shoppers don't want to go with name brands - they can buy even cheaper versions (the Bottom Dollar label).  So, think enormous snack food and soda aisles, and even larger than enormous frozen food cases! Also - when our own does commercials yet is supposed to be a news station, Channel 6, did a flattering piece for the opening of this chain, they showed "produce rooms" - full of out of season/out of this area, produce in crates. 

Now, we do know that "cheaper" is very often not "better" - especially when it comes to what you put into your body - we do that, don't we?  But the lure of cheap - and "convenient" food (although I don't get what's so convenient) - and kids who demand junk food as a main course - will certainly drive many shoppers to this chain.  And, as a society, we will end up - at some point - paying for it!  There is a reason for the epidemic of Diabetes in the United States!  I am just going to keep saying it - it's not a coincidence!

And to those readers who would use that old chestnut argument,  that, "poor people" can't afford fresh, local food - trust me, as someone who shops almost exclusively at Farmers Markets and Fair Food Farms Market in the Reading Terminal - folks who are experiencing financial challenges in this economy seem to be represented quite well at these markets.  They are using their Access Cards as well as making use of the SNAP program - through the Farmers' Trust by the way.  Also, the growth of Farmers Markets in every section of this city is indicative of the success of these supports. 

Again - we realize that "poor" doesn't mean "stupid" - - although frankly, I am beginning to think that "lazy" may indeed mean "stupid"!

Please keep an eye on Bottom Dollar Foods - with any luck they will stay in King of Prussia or they will close and leave quickly!

One more note:  That commercial? You know the one with the woman pushing her shopping cart down the junk food aisle of her favorite stupermarket, ranting about "taxes on soda, juice, and even flavored waters", while all the time the camera is focused on the huge plastic bottle of generic soda in her hand?  She assures us that she can make the decisions for what her family eats and that she doesn't need the "government to interfere".  Really?  No, Really?  Don't you just want to go through the screen and slap her silly?  The cart is full of junk!  The message is clear:  Americans are going to stuff themselves and their kids with junk, frozen food - like substances, chemically altered stuff,  and as much high fructose corn syrup as is possible, damn it, 'cause that's their right as Americans!!!

Again - we'll pay - eventually.

Recipe Corner:

I am going out on a limb here and predicting that Nut Butters are going to be one of the next big things that foodies will enjoy playing around with in their home kitchens.  They are healthy, delicious and extremely verstatile.  Here's an easy recipe for Almond Nut butter from Fine Cooking magazine (Oct/Nov 2010).  From personal experience so far, it's great on Oatmeal, as a topping on sauteed green beans, on a cracker, and most importantly dolloped over ice cream!

Roasted Almond Butter

Yields about 1 cup

2 cups toasted/roasted almonds (I used whole)
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 1/2 to 4 tablespoons Canola, vegetable or other neutral oil ( I used Canola and used all 4 Tblspoons)
1 teaspoon Honey

Put the nuts in a high quality blender or a very good food processor (I went with our Blender - it'sold but it's the high performance Waring -  just remember that bringing nuts to a smooth consistency require some real blade strength)

Pulse until roughly chopped; add the salt and then puree the nuts until the nuts are smooth - all the while adding the oil through the pour spout - but be careful, too much oil will make your blend a soupy mess - just keep adding a bit at a time until the mixture is the consistency you want, smooth, buttery but now puddles of oil.

Add the honey and pulse a few times more to mix.

Transfer the mixture to a sterilized jar - you can store it in a cool, dry place for up to 2 months, BUT you can store it in your refrigerator for up to 6 months.

Just remember it's in there!

Lastly, check out Ti Tsao - basically an Asian version of baby spinach - we got this beautiful bunch at Head House on Sunday and sizzled it up quickly in a hot saute pan with some garlic, pepper flakes, good olive oil and salt and pepper - it's also delicious raw.  Check it out.

Baby Spinach - Asian Style - Delicious!

What are you cooking as we get into the real Fall season?

Friday, October 1, 2010

Weather; Composting; A Fabulous Fall Soup Recipe; and A Foodie Event!

The rain and the winds seem to be moving out of the area as I write this - but what a couple of days we had!  While no one would doubt that we needed the rain, no one would have asked for THAT much.  Plus the rains pretty much played havoc with anything left on plants, trees and vines.

This morning, I was greeted by what looked like a carpet of concord grapes in our garden.  A shame and a big loss for the various birds we share our grapevine with each year.  The post storm work was mostly about dumping water, sweeping, and restoring our environment out there.  I am hoping that we will still have plenty of hours spent enjoying the garden, even though I can feel the air changing around me.

The storm was a good reminder that leaves - which can be great in your compost or just tossed in your garden - can be very damaging if they pile up in your downspouts and drains.  We emptied out our French drains of a lot of material - just in time for the rain to arrive.  I am also reminded of the age of some of the enormous trees on our block - when the ground becomes hypersaturated, there is a greater chance for these wonderful old residents of the neighborhood to literally lift up out of the ground and end up on cars and houses.

Speaking of compost, it is a good time to take a look at what you are getting.  This is our first year with a full blown Composter in our side alley - we have been faithful to it and it looks like our efforts have been rewarded, at least a bit, for our first year effort.  We see beautiful black rich matter at the bottom of the composter - how wonderful!  As cooks who mainly use fresh, natural products, we have never been short of "stuff" for the composter and it is yielding some gorgeous results.  I can't encourage city gardeners and urban mini-farmers enough:  it IS worth it; it is not much work and the results will be very useful to the health of your growing space, now matter how small/no matter how large.

Our Urban Composter

Just a reminder:  it is time to get those seed garlic bulbs in, along with any lettuces, arugula, and spinach that you hope to be able to harvest into late Fall. I got a feeling the cooler weather is here to stay!

We had some success this year growing Black Kale - a fabulous italian green - which, after we harvested a good deal of it in early summer, kept right on growing right through the hottest days.  We have been so anxious to make this week's recipe using this fabulous - and good for you - kale.  It also provides us with another use for our Swiss Chard - which also did very well this year.

Black Kale

(means "reboiled")

This is really the most authentic of all of the Tuscan soups.  It is very popular in Florence and we had wonderful steaming bowls of it on a rainy day in a lovely wine bar in Voltera, a beautiful hill town in Tuscany.  It is reflective of the Italian belief that "nothing should be thrown away" - this dish is a wonderful use for stale bread!

Serves 6 - 8

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
2 minced garlic cloves
2 medium onion, diced fine
2 celery stalks, diced
4 carrots, roughly chopped
3 large ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 bunch of Swiss Chard washed, trimmed and chopped
1 bunch of Black Kale washed, trimmed and chopped
1/2 head of Savoy cabbage, shredded
2 potatoes, peeled and diced
2 cups cooked white beans - with their liquid
Salt and pepper; a pinch or two of red chile flakes
1 loaf of stale Tuscan bread or other sturdy country white bread - sliced thickly
Additional EVOO for drizzling over the soup

Heat the EVOO; add the garlic, onions, celery and carrots.  Cook until the onions become translucent.
Add the chopped tomatoes - cook another 5 minutes
Add the remaining vegetables, including the beans and their liquid, add salt and pepper to taste, and a pinch of red pepper flakes
Add enough water to just cover all; bring to a boil
Reduce the heat, cover the pot and simmer the soup for about 2 hours - until the veg is very tender and the broth is rich and flavorful

NOW - this is the "Ribollita" part - you can eat the soup as it is - it is a fantastic minestrone OR you can "Reboil" it (the meaning of ribollita) with the bread.

To reboil the soup:  layer bread in another pot, alternate with full ladels of soup
Bring the soup to a boil slowly; remember to cook carefully so that the bottom doesn't burn. 
Stir frequently to mix the bread evenly throughout the soup. 

The soup is done when the bread dissolves completely and is absorbed into the liquid. 
Ladle into individual bowls and drizzle with EVOO
Ribollita goes very nicely with a rich Italian red wine!

Foodie Event next Week! 

The first Night Market will be held Thursday October 7th from 6 pm to 10 pm at East Passyunk and Tasker.
Exotic Eats, Live Music and Fun Drinks.

Come support this wonderful neighborhood event!!!  Let's make Night Market a regular event!

Friday, September 24, 2010

High Fructose Corn Syrup Renamed!!! Veggies for Trick or Treaters!! Best Roast Chicken Recipe!

Goodies from the Farms!!

So many fascinating things in the news this past week concerning food and food issues!  For me, the most disturbing tidbit - kept relatively under wraps, in my opinion - is that the makers of that all pervasive poison, High Fructose Corn Syrup, have petitioned the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ask that they be allowed to change the name of High Fructose Corn Syrup to "Corn Sugar".  How infuriating is it to think of the low regard in which these manufacturers hold consumers! 

Yes, it is pretty clear what they think - you can almost hear the planning meeting:   "Look let's just change the name to corn sugar - they won't realize it's the same stuff we have been packing everything with for years now - it'll be a snap, their not very bright, they see sugar, they'll go for it".  Yeah - unfortunately, we have taught them what's important to us as consumers.  If we were smarter and more educated we would be making lots of noise about the connection between this garbage and the growing rates of diabetes in our population.  

The best we can do - given the impotence of the FDA with past issues - is to inform everyone we know who eats - and especially those who do the food shopping - that High Fructose Corn Syrup and Corn Sugar are one and the same thing and both are to be avoided - even if it means a bit of inconvenience.

Another interesting piece of news involved Carrots (Rick Nichols, "On the Side" column in the Philadelphia Inquirer, 9/23/10).  Apparently baby carrots are being touted as "junk food" to appeal to children and snackers in general.   Baby carrots - and sliced apples as well -  are being packaged in 3 oz bags for Halloween.  I agree with Rick in hoping that, while this certainly isn't bad food news, we can only hope that kids do also get to once in awhile see full grown carrots and whole apples.  Americans have less and less knowledge of where their food comes from, what it looks like in its original state, etc.  Propagating this ignorance further would be going in the wrong direction!

You have to wonder how Trick or Treaters are going to respond this year to bags of fruit and veggies!!

So, what are you cooking in this very un-Fall like weather?  It is a challenge given the arrival of squash, apples, pears, other root vegetables - not to mention all of the food magazines arriving at your door with wonderful Fall dishes on the cover!  What's a foodie to do?  For that matter, what's a gardener to do?

Our peppers are going crazy - I guess they like this up and down weather; I am hesitant to begin the chopping and mulching of the garden as the garden doesn't seem to know it's late September.  I am also putting off the planting of garlic and late salad greens and spinach - too hot!  I am worried that the cold will arrive quickly and with a vengenance and we'll all be caught behind schedule!

Worrying - such a part of the gardening and urban farming experience!!!

Friday's Recipe:  "The Simplest and Best Roast Whole Chicken"

The French believe that the test of a great cook is the ability to make a really delicious roast chicken; I have to say I agree and I also am worried it is an art that we are losing.  So many recipes tell us now to "pick up a roasted chicken " from the stupermarket or chain places.  The problem for me with that is that I don't know how the chicken was raised - and if it is shot up with chemicals and hormones.   I need to be able to procure whole chickens that are free range and chemical free.  So, I need to roast my own chicken!  This recipe, from the classic little cookbook, Roast Chicken and Other Stories by Simon Hopkinson, has some steps that may not be familiar - but I promise you - you will make the best roast chicken you have ever tasted.  The recipe is also open to creative additions - it's the techniqe that is important; learn that and then get creative!

Roast Chicken

1/2 cup of good butter at room temperature; a 4 lb free range, organic chicken; salt and pepper; 1 lemon; sprigs of thyme and tarragon; 1 garlic clove peeled and crushed (or a bit more if you enjoy garlic flavor).

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees
Smear the butter all over the chicken - inside and out - don't miss any parts!
Put the chicken into a roasting pan and season it liberally with salt and pepper and squeeze the lemon all over the chicken
Put the herbs, the crushed garlic cloves and the squeezed out lemon halves into the chicken cavity

Roast the chicken for 10 - 15 minutes at 450 degrees; Baste the chicken with the pan juices and turn the oven down to 375 degrees and roast the chicken for 30 - 45 minutes more (it really does depend on your oven); baste occasionally.  The chicken should be golden brown all over; the skin should be crisp and buttery, lemony juices - nut brown in color - should be in the bottom of the roasting pan.

Turn the oven off; leave the door ajar; leave the chicken in there to rest for at least 15 minutes before carving.

Carve the chicken;  the author calls for carving it in the roasting pan (we have come to love doing this, you get to retain all of the juices and it makes clean up much easier).

Take a whisk and whip the juices in the roasting pan together - you don't really need anything else - it makes a wonderful "gravy".


Thursday, September 16, 2010


Whole Plum Tomatoes with our Basil
After canning over 50 pounds of tomatoes over the weekend, I wasn't sure that we would be able to look at a tomato, let alone whip up a tomato recipe.  But, no surprise, we dove right into this absolutely lush, fabulous recipe.  The concept is to use heirloom tomatoes if you can get them and/or have grown them, but good meaty tomatoes will work - no matter what their pedigree.  This is also a great recipe for using your herb garden.  As the weather cools up, this will be the tomato recipe you turn to - I guarantee it!

Tomato Bread Pudding

1 pound of hearty white bread
1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
2 cups of onion - small dice
2 tablespoons of finely diced garlic
2 pounds of tomatoes, seeded and diced (I do not peel good heirloom tomatoes for this - it's up to you)
2 teaspoons of salt
2 teaspoons of finely chopped thyme
1/2 teaspoon of finely chopped rosemary
1 tablespoon of coarsely chopped parsley (flat leaf, italian preferred)
7 large eggs
2 cups of milk (whole milk preferred - raw is always best if you can get it)
2 cups of heavy cream
1/2 cup of grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup of grated Gruyere or imported Fontina (basically what you have on hand)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees; cut the bread into 1/2 inch cubes and spread them in a single layer on a baking sheet; toast them until golden brown - about 15 minutes.

Heat the olive oil in a saute pan; cook the onions until translucent and add the garlic and saute it until it becomes aromatic; pour the onions and garlic into a bowl with the chopped tomatoes and set it aside.

Whisk the eggs and add the milk, the cream; throw in some salt and stir.

Toss the Gruyere or whatever cheese you are using into the bread and tomato mixture.

Butter a baking pan - a large one - think lasagna pan size.

Add the bread and tomato and aromatics mixture to the large baking pan; pour the egg and milk/cream mixture over the cheese, bread and tomatoes in the baking pan; let the pan rest for awhile - stir it a couple of times until the milk/cream mixture has been absorbed.

Top the mixture with the grated parmesan  cheese.  Be generous.

Bake for 25 minutes or more in the 350 degree oven. 

If desired, flash under the broiler quickly to get the top bread cubes crispy and brown.

Remove from the oven and let the pan rest for 10 - 15 minutes.

Suggestion:  Serve with a cucumber/red onion salad in a vinigarette - it's a very rich dish, the cukes and onions make a nice foil for that richenss.

A hearty red wine rounds it out.

Savory Tomato Bread Pudding
 Lastly I couldn't resist adding this picture.  For those who only shop in what I like to call "Stupermarkets", these tomatoes will look really, really strange.  Why?  Because the tomatoes those folks are getting have been factory produced, forced into a particular size and shape - and are generally tasteless!  These two definitely make the case for the fun - and sense of humor - of the natural world!!!

Real, Delicious, and Not Perfect!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Fall is Creeping In! How Do You Prepare for It?

One of our Multi - Herbed Fritattas - a great way to use your herbs!

It's hard to believe as we see a thermostat reach 91 degrees out in our garden but Fall is on its way folks and for the food obsessed, it's a busy time of year.  So, some musing on Fall . . .

After a weekend of peaches, pickles, okra, corn and green beans - all being "put up" in one manner or another - we know that we need to, very soon, start on tomatoes.  Whole, pureed, and some chopped up and frozen - with good tomatoes, the more is definitely the merrier.  The line up of jars filled with goodies in the basement is growing - a good sign for the cold months to come!

We also have to consider that in just a short few months we'll be "on our own" in the city - without our favorite Farmers Markets for a bit.  So, all the more reason to figure out how to hold on to a bit of deliciousness and freshness.  I know that some of us keep hardy herbs in pots in the kitchen window all through the winter - a really good idea if you can do it; the frozen ones have flavor, if no eye appeal, but there's something about just snipping a bit here and a bit there from a living plant when you are in the process of creation in the kitchen that just can't be replaced.

Our new composter - just right for a city sized "alley-way" is starting to produce some nice black loam, and some "tea".  We will have plenty of rich organic material for our garden - and probably every garden on the block at this rate!  It has been wonderful to have a use for all of the organic material we used to have to throw in the trash.  At some point, I hope to have more of a conversation about the importance of composting especially for city dwellers.

The garden itself starts to require a different kind of level of interaction at this time of year, too, doesn't it?  What we pay attention to now - and spend time on now - will have ramifications for the Spring and next year's growing season.  And now, when we go out the back door or onto the back deck we almost can feel the garden changing right in front of us. Our gardens are more dependent on us now than they are in "full bloom".

And, lastly, I don't know about you, but I have already started planning what I want to plant next year in the "mini-farm".  This year was really the first - and they are always experiments in the city, but now I have a better idea of what I want to grow - and most importantly, what has a good chance of a decent yield.

Tomorrow is Recipe Thursday.  What will you be making, and what will you be preserving as Fall creeps in?  Please share with your fellow foodies right here at The Foodist.

See you tomorrow!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Foodist's Favorite Summer Cocktails

Hello and Happy Holiday Weekend to all the Foodies out there!

We're still battling computer problems and, now blog hosting problems, but I seem to be able to post a few recipes for the drinks we have discovered this Summer.

The most important to remember when playing around with alcoholic beverages is to relax, take chances with combinations and remember to taste as you go!  The recipe is not written in stone!  Try a different ingredient or method of service.  Don't be afraid to experiment.  It's a cocktail, after all.

1.  The Il Moya Summer Cooler - we have named this delicious sipper after our beloved home.  We have a grapevine in our garden (concord grapes) and thus are able to access our own grape juice - but I am pretty sure any good grape juice will work just fine.   Pour a jigger of vodka into a cocktail glass (2 oz/4oz - it's your call); add concord grape juice and stir; add a shot of Cointreau or any orange liquor; stir;  add a good number of ice cubes to the glass (you want this drink really cold); top the glass off with a splash of club soda.  A nice slice of lemon or lime makes a lovely garni and if squeezed will cut into the sweetness of the drink for those who like a bit more tart to their beverages.

2. The Dark and Stormy - this one has certainly been around for awhile - we re-discovered it in Volume 4 of Canal House Cooking ( Fill a tall glass with ice; pour in 2 oz of dark rum; top this off with about 4 oz of ginger beer (available at Health Food stores like Essene and some supermarkets - don't use ginger ale - it's a different taste); add the juice of 1 lemon wedge and the juice of 1 lime wedge.  Garnish the drink with the wedge of lime.  Incredibly refreshing.

3. The Pickle Martini - You may be chuckling now, but you won't be if you try this one.  I actually think we are going to continue to whip these up well into the Fall!  First of all, get out your dill pickles. Now, we make refrigerator pickles and we were lucky enough this year to find some very small kirby cucumbers - Head House Farmers Market vendors continued to have these tiny Kirbys last Sunday.  We sliced these into very tiny slices - just right for looking pretty in a martini glass - and put them in the 'fridge, in a pickling brine,  for 6 days before we used them.  BUT - a good snappy dill pickle that you buy at the store will work fine. The Weavers Way "Philly Fresh" hot 'n spicy pickles (available at Fair Food Farmstand in the Reading Terminal) are wonderful.  You will have to slice them down to size, but you will probably have to do that for any pickle you buy.  Put the appropriate sized pickle in your martini glass.  Coat an ice filled cocktail shaker with dry vermouth - then pour the remaining vermouth out; add your favorite vodka (again 2 oz/4 oz - it's your call, but, please NO flavored vodka) and pour in about a jigger of pickle juice.  Shake well and pour into your pickle garnished martini glass.  Amazing flavor and an almost perfect marriage of aroma and taste!  And keep in mind that pickle juice is a remedy for dehydration!  This drink goes so very well with many small bites, especially tangy and salty things and pate and of course it is delicious all by itself.  If you get really hooked on these, you will find yourself running out of pickle juice - no worries, just add some white vinegar, some peppercorns, mustard seeds, and dill to your pickle jar and shake it well.   It will only take a day or two for it to incorporate.

4. The Bull - this one was apparently a big hit with tourists in Mexico in the 60's and 70's and a more detailed recipe is available from our friends at Larken Springs Farm at their site,, but I include it here as well, because it's one of those drinks - like the pickle martini maybe - that you have to taste to believe.  Into a tall glass pour one part good tequila to two parts good lemonade (I am partial to the homemade lemonade available from the Amish people in the Reading Terminal); stir and then add beer to taste.  Yep, beer. Add ice cubes if you wish.  The type of beer is up to you - we have had friends say they prefer something light, like Corona - we make it with the only kind of beer we ever have around, a "hoppy" beer like Hop Devil.  Both make a delicious drink. I wouldn't recommend using the watery "light" beers like Miller Lite or Coors Lite - why ruin a good tequila?

OK - that's what we've been sipping through this hot weather.  How about you?

Enjoy the long holiday weekend and don't forget to visit your local Farmers Markets!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


Hi Fellow Foodies!  It's been very frustrating waiting for computer repairs during the best time of year for the Markets and for cooking!  But at last, my Dell is back and better than ever.  Over the coming days, I hope to catch up and share photos of the Farm and the Farmers Markets we've visited, as well as new recipes, AND discussions about that all important activity of Preserving (canning, freezing, refrigerating) the bounty of this season.

So, yes, there's so much to talk about, but I thought the current news about salmonella loaded eggs was a good place to start!  Frankly, I just have to start there. Some of us don't think that this place in Iowa is a solitary situation.  In fact, we actually believe that this is what the agri-business really is!  What we do believe is happening is that there are more and more whistle blowers out there - thank goodness - who are willing to report what they have seen in these places.  I am hoping that this is just the tip of the iceberg in exposing the awful  and unsanitary conditions that exist in the production of what Americans are told is "food".

I have had many people tell me that they can't read Michael Pollan's books and they absolutely can't watch "Food, Inc" - so sad, all those tortured animals, etc., etc.  Yeah, yeah, I get it - they're sensitive.  BUT they will allow those situations to go on!  They will continue to purchase factory farmed, drug loaded, blister wrapped meats and chicken; they will continue to purchase eggs from caged hens - by the way, what did you THINK that meant?; and, they will continue to eat food with a carbon foodprint of about a million miles!  Asparagus on the East Coast in February?  Sure!

A second reaction that always floors me - those folks who call themselves "picky" eaters  (I take offense, I am a picky eater - they are "limited" eaters) and who seem to be afraid of everything: new flavors, fresh food, and of course, all "Street Food" (that's a discussion for another time) - and yet, these same folks will eat lunches and dinners that they buy in boxes which supposedly contain meat and that can be kept on a cabinet shelf or in your desk drawer.  Huh?  These are the folks who use margarine ("it's healthier"), while dining at your home, find the free range, drug free beef "chewy", and who avoid those heirloom tomatoes because they have "blemishes".  Wow, all I can ever think is, friend, you are afraid of all the wrong things! 

And now, their beloved stupermarket eggs - even the ones with the little red letters stamped on them - are tainted.  And their response?  "Don't eat eggs".  NO, that's not the answer - the answer is, don't eat eggs from caged hens incarcerated in factory farms!

In the Tri- State area - and in Philadelphia in particular - we are so lucky to have numerous Farmers Markets, set up on days throughout the week and throughout the city, where fresh eggs, raw milk, yogurt and butter, local, seasonal produce and humanely raised, drug free protein is available to all of us.  Stupermarket shopping is easier, I have been told - just how far does this particular form of laziness extend?  You eat the stuff you buy there!  Isn't that worth a bit of your time? If it's not, what is?

I also have to voice my sadness at what the lives of the chickens in these awful places must be like.  Chickens are entertaining, funny and engaging creatures. Not to mention what they provide for we humans. When you have had the pleasure of sitting and watching them walk around and peck the ground and come up and sit on your shoulder and basically just be a pleasure to be around, your heart breaks - again - for the awful way we treat living creatures for our own use.

So, what are you going to do with this recent knowledge about egg farming?  Do you feel it's worth changing some of your shopping habits?  If you have already grown up and are buying fresh and local products and supporting our farms, how are you trying to educate those who haven't progressed?

Let's hear from you!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Frolicking at the Farmhouse

The Foodist and her much better half are off for a long weekend in the country at our friends' farm.

Look for a full report from the Foodist mid week, next week, on what we cooked - totally Farm to Table - what markets we visited, and what inspiration we took away from the wonder of the Farm.

We'll be doing a lot of toasting, "To the Farm"!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Tomatoes again - I just can't stop!

Heirlooms for the Salad/Pasta Recipe

One more week with a tomato based recipe from me - they are just too good and too available in so many fascinating forms, I can't resist sharing this very versatile and easy recipe.

The World's Best Tomato Salad AKA Great Summer Pasta Sauce!

Chop an array of heirloom tomatoes into chunks; cut really good cherry tomatoes in half.  The idea is to have a colorful, varied in color and size, collection of tomatoes.

Put all of the chopped tomatoes into a strainer over a bowl (Remember last week's recipe?  Don't forget to collect that tomato water!).  Salt the tomatoes and toss them lightly (hands work best, you don't want to mush them); salt a bit more - I use a good chunky sea salt - toss again, and then let the tomatoes sit and drain for 15 - 20 minutes minimum. 

After the tomatoes have drained, save the tomato water for other uses - we use a jar in the 'fridge - put the chopped tomatoes in the bowl and add the following - all the additions are really to taste;  if in doubt, 3 parts olive oil to one part vinegar is a good rule of thumb for the liquids:

a chopped chili pepper - if you like a bit of spice
crumbled good dry oregano
a few slivers of fresh garlic
sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
extra virgin olive oil
good red wine vinegar

Again, gently toss.  I like to cover the bowl, let it sit at room temperature - the tomatoes will absorb the flavors of the spices more that way.

This mixture is great on toasted bread rubbed with garlic; it's wonderful over fresh greens with some chunks of fresh mozarella; and it is also wonderful all by itself as a side dish.

It keeps well in the 'fridge for about a week - especially if you add more tomato chunks as you eat the salad.

NOW - when you have a bit of this fabulous tomato salad left AND you have a craving for some pasta - here's a delicious way to use it.

Cook your pasta - whatever kind you like, but farfalle, fusilli - in general "shaped" pasta works best in catching all of the juices and flavor;
Drain your pasta well;
Pour the tomato salad - all of it - over the hot pasta and toss well;
Add good grated parmesan, or mozarella chunks, or both if you want;
You may also want to toss in some fresh basil leaves if you have it; and a sprinkle of red pepper flakes, you get the idea, feel free to play with the add - ons.  Recently we added some anchovies - fabulous!
You may also want to add more extra virgin olive oil - but so far, I haven't needed it;

Enjoy!  Believe me, you will!

That's this week's Thursday recipe from the Foodist - what's yours?

Monday, August 2, 2010

It's a Very Special Week

This week we celebrate National Farmers' Market Week.

What a wonderful time to show our support for the Markets that set up every week in so many of our many Philly neighborhoods - these are the folks we depend on for fresh, local, safe and humanely raised food.

We are very lucky in the Philadelphia region to have so many markets AND we are lucky that lead organizations have worked so hard to make those markets, and their wonderful fresh products, available to everyone.

Thanks to the Food Trust, to Farm to Table and to the Philadelphia Slow Food Movement, among others.

For my weekly shopping, thanks to the Fair Food Farmstand in the Reading Terminal for every day and for teaching me so much;  to the Headhouse Shambles Farmers Market on Sundays; to the Passyunk Market on Tuesdays; and, of course,  to the Italian Market.

What are your favorite Markets?  What have you been cooking from your favorite Markets?

Thank a Farmer - today and everyday!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Tomato Water Dressing: The Foodist Favorite New Recipe

A few goodies from our city garden

At this time of year, many of us are cooking, slicing, and chopping as many wonderful tomatoes as we can get our hands on at the local markets, as well as harvesting what our urban mini-farms are putting out. There's nothing like eating a freshly picked tomato off of the vine.  I don't make it back into the house most times with our Sun Gold tomatoes - I pick, spritz, and eat.  My big old Coon Hound loves them as well.  People come to the garden and say, gee, what were  these?   This while staring at a tall bush of, well, branches.  I inform them that the bush was - and will be again - the glorious Sun Golds.   Bless them, they just keep growing!  The time for these treasures, fresh at least,  is short - so we are compelled to use them in all sorts of ways. One of our favorite tomato "recipes" is, I am sure, one of yours:    Is there anything in the world like a really wonderful Jersey - or Lancaster County - tomato with fresh, soft, sliced white bread, thick slices of the tomato, a bit of salt, perhaps a few slivers of fresh basil ,and a spread of real mayonnaise? This, my friends, is the paradise of the summer months.  I am salivating just writing these sentences!  But you all know about that.  Now for a use of something "tomato" we discovered last weekend.

Many recipes calling for sliced or chopped tomatoes require that they be salted, placed in a colander and "drained" for awhile.  For many preparations, this makes absolute sense.  That said, we found ourselves wondering what we could do with this "tomato water" - this liquid is produced quickly and as such isn't the same depth and consistency as the wonderrful consomme made by hanging chopped tomatoes in cheese cloth for hours and straining it and flavoring it.  No, this is truly just the quickly produced - usually 15 minutes or so - juice that flows through the colander holes. We felt that this juice in most cases has a high acidic content - so why shouldn't it serve as the acid in dressings?   Here is one tested recipe; we are working on a number of others:

Tomato Water Dressed Potato Salad

Note:  when a recipe calls for salted and drained tomatoes, chopped or sliced, just place the colander in a bowl so that you catch the juice shedding off of the tomatoes.  Don't do anything to it - especially, don't strain it.  Your can store the juice in a jar in the 'fridge for a few days.

Cook  8 - 10 Baby Rose Golds potatoes - washed and skins on (cut into bite sized pieces) in boiling, salted water until just fork tender (if you can't find yukon golds or baby roses, use other larger potatoes, but chop them well)

While the potatoes are still hot, toss them with about 1 - 2 tablespoons of champagne vinegar and a pinch of salt - let the potatoes cool
Note:  go easy on the salt, the tomato water will be salty

In a large bowl, mix together finely chopped red onion, finely chopped celery, and some summer savory leaves

To the mixture in the bowl, add about 2 tablespoons of the collected "Tomato Water"; about the same amount of extra virgin olive oil; 2 tablespoons good mayonnaise; and some white pepper.

Mix this together and add the cooled potatoes and gently stir the potatoes into the dressing.

The layers of flavor are amazing!  The vinegar on hot potatoes is something we have been doing for a long time - it doesn't really identify as vinegar in the final taste of the potatoes - and the hot potatoes absorb all of it, but it gives a heightened "potato" flavor to the spuds.  The flavor of the tomato water comes through subtly and wonderfully in the dressing.

Frankly, we decided this could be a main course for us - with maybe some sliced tomatoes and salad greens on the side! - but it is obviously wonderful for potato salad as a side dish.

I"ve shown you mine - let's hear from you!!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Starting to Harvest: Basil - lovely to have in February!

A Bouquet of Basil!
Hi Foodies in Philly.  Well it was quite a couple of days that's for sure - we started out frying and by yesterday afternoon we were enjoying what my frienbor (friend and neighbor) Craig calls, "real summer".  Given the heat and the fact that we had to give in and turn the AC on, we decided to use the weekend to start harvesting and preparing some of our - and other's - gardens' and farms' output.

The Fair Food Farmstand and some of the Lancaster County folks provided a collection of heirloom tomatoes, as well as some more fabulous corn and squash - the glory of this time of year.  If you haven't made a tomato salad with a mix of heirlooms using Jamie Oliver's "Mothership of all Tomato Salads" recipe, we believe it is the ultimate way to give these delicious tomatoes their due - I will be posting that and other recipes on "Recipe Day" - Thursdays of each week for those who like to get an early start on their shopping lists!   Keep an eye out for Recipe Day and feel free to share.

Anyhow, this weekend we decided to start focusing on when it wasn't "this time of year" and what we would want in our freezer and larder for when the weather's cold and the farmstands are resting.

We started in our own "mini-farm" by harvesting some of the 4 kinds of Basil we are growing. The plants are huge. It has all absolutely loved this hot weather - Basil especially loves hot nights. We decided it was time for "Freezer Pesto".  The best way we have found is to make the pesto (use your favorite recipe of basil leaves, pine nutes, great parmesan and extra virgin olive oil)  and then pour the pesto mixture into ice cube trays.  Sit the trays in the freezer until the cubes freeze solid, pop the pesto cubes out of the tray and bag them up in good freezer storage bags.  You can use them throughout the fall and winter the way you would use any pesto - you may need a few cubes for a substantial recipe, so make sure you freeze yourself up a few large bags at least!!  Remember you don't have to grow your own Basil (although for we city folks it is an easy one to grow) - just buy some local at the Farmstands - or buy up a lot and go ahead and make your freezer stash.

Another way to store good fresh basil is to wash it, dry the plant well and then pull all of the leaves off of the stems.  Store the leaves in a good freezer storage bag.  The leaves will turn black and sad looking, very sad looking - BUT - they will taste just like fresh basil in sauces, eggs, anywhere you can "blend" them in.  Obviously these leaves aren't for finishing off a plate or for salads, but again, the flavor will remain - and all you need to defrost them is two or three minutes on the counter.

The last way that Basil can be stored up is by drying it.  This is my least favorite way - in my opinion, dry basil has very little of the glorious flavor we expect from this versatile herb.  That said, if you want to dry some, I suggest using the same technique as for oregano (which does dry well) and other similar structured herbs:  Cut the plants down; secure the stems together at the cut end with good kitchen twine and hang the bundle upside down somewhere cool and dry.  You will know when they are dry.  Then, it 's merely a matter of running your fingers down the stems to rub off the dry leaves into an air tight container.  Stems do NOT make for good storage and will cause early mold.  Do NOT hang your drying bundle outside - if it gets wet once it is into the drying process, it will be ruined and should go to the composter.

What do you like to preserve for those months during which we can't just run to the Farmers Markets or the back yard?

Share some of your favorites!


Thursday, July 22, 2010

Another Philly Foodie Event!

We were lucky to be able to attend the "Good Food Good Beer" event on Saturday evening, July 17th at the Head House Shambles - the site of our favorite and biggest weekly Farmers' Market.

The idea was to bring the Farm to the City and to raise funds for the Philadelphia conviva of the Slow Food Movement.  It was a great idea and one that we hope becomes an annual event.

The number of tickets you purchased dictated the number of "tastes" you could sample - and all you needed to drink some wonderful local beers was a wrist band saying you were "of age" - we didn't have any problem there!   It was a very hot evening but, even so, the event was packed!! What a wonderful showing by local foodies - taking the opportunity to have some wonderful tastes and drinks and to support Slow Food!

Here are some pictures of the event - including the Foodist's much better half digging into some pulled pork- as you can see everyone is eating, sipping, talking food, and having a ball!

Just a little about the fabulous food and who served it is of course in order.

Fork from Old City did a seared Scallop, Green Beans and Cashews with a peppery kick that was perfect in flavor and given the weather was both satisfying and cooling.  Noble's house made Chorizo was over the top delicious.  A pulled pork sandwich from Swathmore Coop was so much more than a bite and went so well with the dark ale offered by Earth, Bread and Brewery.  Le Virtu offered up a wonderful seasonal Timbale.  John and Kira's booth was busy, busy, busy!  I personally spent two of my coupons - one for a tasting of three chocolates and the other for three of their fabulous gel candies.  There were Tacos, Sandwiches, delicious baked goods and the hit of the night (can there be one?) for both of us:  the "Esquites" served by Xochitl.  This is a common Mexican street food and is basically a cold corn soup - but what a soup!!  Creamy, tangy (from lime), the corn kernels were just al dente, the seasonings amazing - it was wonderful!  Many folks were walking around talking about the esquites - the closest recipe that I have found is one from Jose Garces - our hometown Iron Chef.  I will post that soon.

Also represented were six - count 'em folks - six local craft beer brewers.  The times they have certainly changed for the good.

Look for this event next year and clear your calendar, don't hesitate.  It's another Fantastic Foodie event here in Philadelphia!

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Foodist is on The Road!

Actually the Foodist is preparing to get off the road for awhile, but it has been an interesting food week for me in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  Chattanooga is a small city, with a growing center city core.  The city planners - showing lots of smarts, isn't that wonderful? - are building up and promoting a residential section of the city.  My experience traveling around the country leads me to believe that unless people really live in the city - not commute in for work or school each day and then leave - the city will not be able to support the things we foodies have come to love.  Things like independently owned restaurants and shops, farmers markets, and also,  "events" that keep the city alive and vibrant.

I applaud Chattanooga for taking the next steps to insure a downtown center will thrive and survive - and a tip 'o the Foodist Phillies' cap to the stimulus monies that are helping with that effort.

So, to the food.  I have been traveling to Tennessee for about eight years now, but had never visited this particular part of the state.  I have  to say, I have been pleasantly surprised with what I was able to learn about the food scene here.  "Seasonal", "Local", "Humanely raised" -  appear regularly on menus all over town and at a very interesting grocery store that we frequented for room supplies called, Green Life.  Green Life is sort of a Whole Foods clone, but smaller, carrying many more local products, and lots of young, enthusiastic staff persons.  It was fun to visit and I was able to snack and eat really good food when I ate in the room - thanks Green Life! 

Most importantly, there were a number of intriquing restaurants in the small center city area of Chattanooga - and one in particular deserves mention.  It is called 212 Market - did I mention that in downtown Chattanooga we wandered on Market, Chestnut and Broad Streets!  At any rate, this is a family owned spot that specializes in dishes prepared with seasonal, local products.  I had local fresh water trout, for example. The sources of many of the products contained in the menu items were listed on the menu AND when they weren't and I asked, our server was able to tell us - right away, without returning to the kitchen or somewhere to figure out how to answer my question.  Our server also stood at our table and chatted with us for some time (it wasn't too busy on Wed evening) about eating and shoppng local, about how food is raised, and about the efforts of this restaurant and others to keep folks informed.  We also started talking to folks at a nearby table about the film, "Food, Inc.".  Now I know for many people this all sounds like cruel and unusual punishment but you know how we foodies are - I could have talked all night!  Our server also knew that the Philadelphia area had a large, well coordinated Farmers Market system. I was blown away. 

This was all such a pleasant surprise since  looking at a room service menu in our hotel led me to believe that my access to good food was going to be limited.    I wish I had been here longer - in order to try some of the other spots - folks in Chattanooga call them "green" restaurants - and I hope to get back to do just that.

Ok - to some of the local, what I like to call, "cheese steak" equivalents.  Let me illustrate what I mean:  when I meet people in my travels and I say that I am from Philadelphia, they almost always say - wait for it - "Cheese Steaks!".  "Yes", I usually respond, "Cheese steaks".    They then proceed to tell me how they or their friend or spouse or kid - or somebody - was in town for whatever reason and they went to - wait for it again - Genos or Pats.  I swear it never changes!  IF I dig further, they don't recall one other thing they ate while in our town. How can that be?  More importantly, and with all due respect to a good cheese steak - which in the Foodist's opinion are NOT the ones served at Genos and Pats - how do we change that as the ONLY lasting impression?  On this trip I got the exact same feedback from 3 trainees in the class I was teaching - 3 out of 15!  Amazing - and, I guess, somewhat disturbing.

At any rate, back to Chattanooga's equivalents - if it/they exist - of what is sadly our most famous food.  It seems there are a few. Like all good points South, bar-b-que is big.  Ribs are the most prevalent, as opposed to pulled pork, chicken, etc.  An interesting dip concoction made of spinach, artichokes, and various cheeses is everywhere - on every menu - even on 212 Market's appetizer menu.  Everywhere.  So, I tried it in a few spots; my feeling is it is the area's version of pimiento cheese dip.  It's OK, but I wanted to season it up a bit.  Grits of course are pretty available - both as a breakfast dish and also in the low country "Shrimp and Grits" dish.  Pies seemed to be a big dessert item in town.  And better yet, Fried Fruit pies were available in many places.  I personally think fried fruit pies are a gift of the goddesses - so, I was happy to see them be so prevalent.

I guess to sum up - I have to say that I was pleased and impressed to see so many green restaurants and stores in Chattanooga - I wish that I could have been around for the weekend Farmers' Markets as well.

Maybe next time??

Where are you traveling and what are you eating, Philly Foodies??  Share your experiences with your fellow Philly Foodies!

Friday, July 9, 2010

City Gardeners: How is it Going?

Hello Foodies and Gardeners.  Just to repeat, I am hoping that this blog can serve as a venue for urban Locavores, seasonal Foodies, Gardeners, and Farmers' Markets regulars, to share resources, challenges, recipes, questions - you know, all of the areas and issues that those of us who live in the city and want to be more self sufficient, green, and healthy have in common.  Today I am concentrating on the gardening side - and I know that many urban Foodies garden.  Also I couldn't resist adding a shot of our "Patio Princess" tomatoes - they are from Burpee and they are a wonderful cross between a cherry tomato and a full sized one.  Created for containers, very meaty and very good for "uncooked" pasta sauces.

So, a bit of rain today  here in Philly had me all excited!  How about the rest of you city/urban/container gardeners?  How are you and your gardens faring during this time of extremely hot weather and very little rainfall?   Are you finding yourself, as I have been, obsessed with watering?  Do you find yourself "testing" the soil constantly - you know, the "finger test" - down in - is it dry?  Should I let it be dry?  Why is it dry so quickly?  And then there is that laundry list of maladies that can attack your precious growing things - due precisely to the heat and the lack of rainfall.  More about one of those later.

This year, we are growing a list of the usual "back yard" produce - well, certainly "usual" for South Philly neighborhoods:  4 kinds of tomatoes (yes, we have an addiction problem); a couple different kinds of peppers; carrots; swiss chard; and tons of herbs - lots of basil (4 types) to go with all of those tomatoes, and for pesto; and a couple kinds of oregano, and summer savory, chives, sage, rosemary, etc. We also have a couple of small cutting garden areas and gorgeous flowering things and ferns in the "real dirt" areas of our backyard city plot.  There's also a bit of lavendar here and there which we have just harvested and hung to dry. We also inherited a lovely well established grapevine (concords) which provides cover for our dining table and lots of snax for the local birds and furry friends and us.  The grapevine is a breeze - if you have them you know - it's really just a matter of clipping and tucking and then harvesting when the time comes - a piece of cake.  Hopefully, now that I have said that, the vine won't develop some strange and usual disease!

It's mostly the edibles that are taking up most of my gardening time.  As of today, one of our tomato plants is exhibiting signs of "blossom end rot" - which may or may not be caused by "inconsistent watering".  Huh??  I am obsessed with watering! - the right time, the right amount, the aforementioned constant checking . . . hmm, maybe I should just step back a bit.  Anybody have experience with this particular rot?  It is NOT getting my Patio Princess - that's all I can say!

On a lighter note:  what are you cooking this weekend?  It is, without a doubt, the most glorious time of year - and we should enjoy some things early and sadly, quickly too.  The weather is playing hell with local farmers' crops of corn, tomatoes,  . . . frankly everything.  We are in danger of having very slim pickings very soon - and the poor farmers will not be having the kinds of summers they count on to survive.

And yes, I know that you can get corn and tomatoes and other produce from "other" growing areas - but trying to be locavores - AND having fully functioning taste buds - we ain't going for the 1000 mile produce!

Please!  Get out to your Farmers' Markets this weekend!!  You will probably do as we do and buy too much and then need to figure out how to use it all, but that's part of the fun isn't it?  And please share what you did with your bounty here at the Philly Foodist.

We are currently trying to figure out what we want to do with lots of fab sour cherries - something immediate and something for the dark days of winter, I suppose.  We also have Gooseberries - interesting and delicious - any ideas for them?

I guess this weekend it's going to be more corn, more tomatoes - reds and greens, some squash  (a friend is promising a delivery soon, as well!), those wonderful onions and fava beans if we can still score some, and of course, some of the fruits that are showing up at the Markets.  And need I even mention, our local eggs and butter- for me, that's an entire separate conversation! Who can eat supermarket, caged hen eggs after you buy eggs directly from the farmer?  "Egglands Best"????  Are you kidding me?  Those farm fresh,  "neon" egg yolks make my day when I crack one!  And wow do they make a beautiful homemade pasta!

So, how's the gardening? What are you eating and cooking?  What Markets are you shopping?  Have a happy, happy weekend and join the conversation!

Thought for the Day:  "The greatest single act of independence and rebellion is to maintain a garden" (Wendell Berry)

Friday, July 2, 2010

Let's Share Some Holiday Menus!

So  - for the first dinner of the big summer holiday weekend we are doing a Tuscan Garden Dinner.  The goals here are to start off the weekend with a bang - have a big dinner and fire up the hard wood charcoal before the heat wave returns, and, frankly, have some great left overs!

Almost all of the products needed for the meal are either local products OR have been purchased from local, independent purveyors - in other words, nothng on this table came from a supermarket, although the wine and vodka did come from the Pennsylvania State Store!  The steak is grass fed, hormone - free and humanely raised. The white truffle balsamico was a gift from Italy.

The Menu:
Vodka Negronis
Sliced Cacciatore, a Hot (spicy hot) Dry Sausage
Celery and Olive Salad
Fresh Fava Beans (grown in PA!) with Extra Virgin Olive Oil and ribbons of Parmigiano
Caprese Salad:  sliced heirloom tomatoes, sliced fresh mozzarella (from Mr. Mancuso's) and our own basil leaves, sprinkled with extra virgin olive oil and white truffle Balsamico vinegar
Grilled Bread and Grilled Spring Onions
Bistecca - grilled steak, marinated in extra virgin olive oil, pepper and rosmary and topped with a compound blue cheese butter

The Wine - Rizzi Barbaresco

and for Dolce (dessert):  Grilled Stoned Fruit Skewers served with ricotta and honey

So,what's on your table?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Philly Foodies Let's Talk!

Greetings Food Loving Philadelphians! 
I look forward to some fun, informative, delicious exchanges and, yes, debates on this Blog!
I am hoping that this site will be a haven for those of us who consider ourselves dedicated city dwellers,  Philadelphians (either here now or transplanted), Locavores and Slow Fooders - along with just being happy with the label of "Foodie".
It is an exciting time in Philadelphia's food culture.  Many of us urban types are not only dedicated to our numerous Farmers' Markets and Farm to Table restaurants,  but we are also growing our own - or at least a wee bit of our own. Many of us are also attempting to "live green" in a major city - which has challenges all  its own!
So fellow food adventurers - what are you planning for the Holiday weekend?  Where are you shopping?  What are your favorites?  What are your not so favorites? What are you growing?  What are you trying to find that you can't? And, what have you found that you think the rest of us should know about?
Let's have some fun and learn from each other.