Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Reason for the Seasons: Eat Fresh & Local and Toss the Fiber Drinks!

Strawberries:  In Seaason Locally Now!

As you shop for goodies for the long holiday weekend, please remember our Farmers' Markets, Farmers' Stands and, for you local folks,  Fair Food Farms in the Reading Terminal Market.  These are all places where you can find fresh, non-chemically altered, humanely raised food for your cookouts and celebrations.  You will also be able to buy seasonal food from these producers and vendors.  Why do I harp on this seasonal thing so much?  Well, folks, there a tons of reasons to eat food that is "in season"!

Let's think about it.  In order for produce to be shipped thousands of miles to a stupermarket - so you can buy it out of season - it is picked before it's ripe and then sprayed with chemicals to preserve it, and then sometimes sprayed again with chemicals to speed up the maturation process after it lands where it is going. Yum!  Consider also that agri-business is committed to food that looks "perfect" (they have to make up for all those chemicals somehow) so we have been conditioned to believe that anything that looks real is bad.  This lead to tremendous waste!  Listen to folks looking at tomatoes at the Markets - eventually you will hear someone say, "This is not round!  Look it has a mark on it!".  Gently educate if you can stand it. Please!

See the strawberries in the picture above?  See the little one we removed from the box?  Not perfect.  In fact, very weirdly shaped.  It would never make it to that stand of "perfect" strawberries in the stupermarket.  But it was delicious!  Nature doesn't screw up that way - we do when we waste food!

Just two more points worth considering:  First, if you can, why wouldn't you support your local producers instead of paying for products grown or "developed" far, far away?  Eat from where you live. Nothing is better for "outgrowing" allergies!  Find out what's available in your area and use it.  We live in a rich, rich area - Lancaster Farmers, Mid State ranchers, cheese makers, local honey producers, free range chickens, fabulous farm fresh eggs, and of course Jersey Tomatoes, Corn and Blueberries - just to name a few items among the bounty we have literally outside our doors.

Secondly, there's the health issue.  If you are going to eat something, isn't it worth a few more dollars not to put something into your body that's covered with chemicals and hormones and/or that has led a  tortured life?  And, for our purposes here, I am not even going to get into a discussion of "shelf stable" dinners in boxes, frozen "foods" that are really a lab in a bag, etc. And remember, our support of local producers gives them the ability to provide fresh food to people in lower income areas as well.

Eat fresh, local, seasonal, and humanely raised and you can get rid of that disgusting powder stuff so many people I know drink in their orange juice each morning!  You can stop eating that faux yogurt a la Jamie Lee Curtis (why doesn't she return to the movies?) - probiotics EXIST in real food!!!  Fiber EXISTS in real food!  As do vitamins and nutrients.

The elephant in the room here, for many folks, and many folks I know for sure, is that when you buy fresh you have to cook!  In the coming weeks I hope that we can start having a conversation about effective ways to shop and cook fresh and local even when our schedules are tight - and who's schedule isn't?

For now, just remember:  there's a reason for the seasons!    Have a Happy Memorial Day weekend and for goodness sake, cook something!!!

Artichokes and Baby Eggplants!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Feeling So Lucky to Live in this Food Heaven and Some Easy Recipes

Head House Famers Market Goodies!
The Markets

We woke up to a gray, slightly rainy - again -  morning on Sunday and we weren't "feeling it" for walking up to the Market.  We'd picked up some staples at Fair Food Farms in the Reading Terminal on Saturday and frankly the weather was making us lazy.  But the puppy loves the Market - and of course so do we - so we got our bags, made a short list of what we "needed" and headed out to Head House Farmers' Market.

Fifteen minutes later our spirits were soaring! Nearly everyone, vendor wise, is now back at their stands.  As soon as we strolled up to say hello at Youngs Flowers we saw gorgeous Peonies - ice cream for mosquitos as my better half's Mom says - we do love Peonies!  Gotta get some of them on the way out we said. And, we did!  Thanks Youngs! The Youngs also carry a wide array of herb and tomato plants at this time of year; we are planted to the hilt, but we noticed many shoppers stocking up on herb plants.  Wonderful.

We did our usual stroll all the way through the stalls, looking before we started shopping/supposedly making a plan.  By the time we got to the end of the Head House, we had some meals planned and our mood had totally changed!  Oh how happy we were!  Under that one gorgeous old roof we were able to purchase food that we would never be able to get in a stupermarket - from the folks who produce them - what could be better?

Our bounty included: White Turnips - you can eat them raw like radishes or thin slice and quickly sautee them; Tasoi - a spinach like, but firmer green, really delicious; Purple Radishes - fat tangy radishes with the best radish greens we'd seen in a long time; Asparagus (of course it's still in season!); Spring Garlic; Rhubarb and Strawberries; a couple of early Tomatoes; and of course a stop at Birchrun Hills Farm for Red Cat and Fat Cat cheeses (we are addicted); Chicken from Mountain View Poultry; and lastly a real surprise: Spotted Alaskan Prawns from Otolith Sustainable Seafood.  This last was a purchase we hadn't planned on at all - total impulse.  Excellent impulse.  These are amazing shrimp, flash frozen and vacuum sealed on the boat and fairly and humanely harvested.  With these shrimp we may be able to sway those who think gigantic boxes of chemically treated frozen shrimp from big box stores is such a "great deal" - if they can taste at all!! We sauteed them in butter and garlic, butterflied them with the shells on - they were delicious and the difference in the flavor is well, scary - in an oh so good way.

We lugged everything home and made our weekly stash of butter (and so had a yield of buttermilk for biscuits) and started planning our approach to these fabulous products. We came up with at least 4 fabulous dinners and some goodies for quick weekday breakfasts.  For example, we made stewed Rhubarb and Strawberries and Buttermilk biscuits.  With good strong coffee on a weekday morning, you are good to go with that delicious combo!

It was hours before we noticed that it was still gray and damp and threatening rain!!!

A Few of the Recipes

Our newest, best cocktail hour appetizer, which we shared with the Birchrun Hills and Talulah's Table folks on Sunday (just in case you see it on the menu at Talulah's Garden!):

Red Cat Poppers
Bring a round of Birchrun's Red Cat Cheese to room temperature
Slice a couple of fat strawberries as thin as you can
Get out your best Balsamic Vinegar

Put a slice of strawberry on a piece of the cheese (you may need a spoon if the cheese is getting runny and fabulous)
Put just a few drops of Balsamico on top of the strawberry slice
Pop into your mouth
Remember who told you!!  You're welcome!

Red Cat Poppers Ingredients

Buttered Eggs
This recipe comes to us from the Canal House Cookbook, Volume 6 (

Cut hard boiled eggs in half;  arrange them on a plate
Sprinkle good extra virgin olive oil on top of each 1/2
"Butter" the top of each 1/2 with good mayonnaise - not Miracle Whip, please . . .
Salt and Pepper each 1/2 - we used sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Sprinkle finely chopped herbs over each 1/2 - we used a combo of our chives and our par-cel (a celery and parsley combo plant) but you can sprinkle whatever you want to add flavor
You're done and they are delicious!

Warm Fresh Greens Salad
Remember those beautiful radish greens I mentioned above?   And those white turnips?  They star here:

Take a bunch of greens - in our case, the Radish Greens
Clean the greens, remove the stems, chop coarsely, rinse again
Let the greens drain
Saute a bit of Spring Garlic and if you like a some finely chopped jalepeno in olive oil
Slice a couple White Turnips on a mandoline if you have one - if you don't just get the slices as thin as you can
Thinly slice a half of a red onion
When the Spring Garlic and Jalepeno are softened add the red onions, and the white turnip slices to the pan - saute for about 5 minutes or less - just softened
Add the radish greens, toss thoroughly with the rest of the ingredients, and let the greens warm
Add salt and pepper to taste
Drizzle with your favorite vinigarette - we used a basic dijon vinigarette
Serve warm

It is possible to shop only once or twice a week and eat delicious, nutritious and seasonal food at home.  It just takes a bit of planning - and sometimes the planning takes place AFTER the shopping!  Enjoy!

Monday, May 9, 2011

A Farmers Market Gift Idea

Asparagus, Rhubarb and Spring Onions make a beautiful arrangement

If you know a Foodie - or just a fan of fresh food, consider this type of "bouquet" to mark their  celebratory day!

This was for Mother's Day and came from the Headhouse Farmers Market a la Tom Coulton Produce; everything had been picked the morning it was presented.  You can't beat that for freshness.

The little vase is a selection from our garden - a mix of blooms, sage flowers, and some rosemary and lavender snips.

It was very well received!!

Enjoy this wonderful weather and get out there and plant something!!

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Farmers Markets are Back! Garden Notes and A Delicious Frittata Recipe

Headhouse Farmers Market 2011
Happy Days are definitely here again as the Headhouse Farmers Market opened for the season on Sunday May 1st.  The above shows the gorgeous asparagus, rhubarb, and spring onions already available from one of the vendors.  We arrived almost right at opening at 10:00 AM and the Market was already crowded.  Not every vendor is set up yet, but more were present on an opening day than we had ever seen - and of course, there are no tomatoes or corn or peaches right now - but you can keep us going for quite awhile on that asparagus!!

The speciality stand offerings have also developed quite a bit in recent years.  Talula's Table and Garces Trading Co offered cheese spreads, smoked fish and meat - all sorts of lovey little treats - great appetizers or just delicious little finger food possibilities.  John and Kira's were there with their fabulous, locally made chocolates - and they aren't there in the really hot weather, so now is the time!  Otolith - a purveyor of line caught, wild fish and seafood was there and we have a lovely piece of wild Alaskan King Salmon in our freezer!  And of course, one of our favorite local cheese makers, Birchrun Hills was there and we snagged this delicious Blue - one of their best cheeses in my opinion. 
A Much Beloved, Local Blue

A number of other Markets will be opening around the city in the coming weeks - Philadelphia is very, very lucky to have such a network of Farmers Markets - providing fresh, seasonal and local foods to so many of our neighborhoods.  But they need our support to continue, so before you run in and purchase that 1,000 mile asparagus in the stupermarket, stop and find a place where you can purchase it from a local purveyor - the taste alone is worth it!!  It's also wonderful to be able to shop a few times during the week (there's always a market somewhere).  The food is fresher, it's fun and you avoid having to stuff a whole lot of products into your 'fridge from one huge shopping trip!

The Garden
We are very happy with the progress of our "mini - farm" and the rest of the garden so far this season.  The local rainfall and temperatures seem  to be working well for the growth cycle - fingers crossed.  We already have some peppers forming, our fava beans are getting tall and nice and stocky and I am pretty sure that we'll be eating some white radishes this weekend.  Our lettuces - all in pots by the way - have been delicious and a few days after we harvest some, we have lots of new growth.  That will end with the warmer weather of course, but right now, it is such a joy to go out the back door and "snip a salad" - well worth the work!  One suggestion:  if you haven't tried "Par-Cel"- and you enjoy flat italian parsely and love the flavor of celery (both are real big around our house) - you must get your hands on this herb.  We are growing it in 3 different places and using it in all sorts of ways.  The flavors of both italian parsely and celery come through in each little leaf - amazing and very versatile. Something different - introduced to us last year by our friends - (and the source of our wonderful farm fresh eggs) -  at Larken Springs Farm ( The Larken Spring guys found Par - Cel plants at one of their local Farmers Markets; I ordered our plants on line.

On the flowering end, what we are really enjoying currently are our Gerber Daisies - We have little pots all over the house of cut flowers from these gems.  They are quite prolific, a bit finicky (they don't like it too hot and they definitely don't like to get too dry), but the more you cut, the more they grow at this time of year.  Having your own cut flowers around the house can't be beat.  I bought our Gerber plants at Lowe's - they are good hardy plants.

A Recipe
Right now, as mentioned, it's lettuces, arugula, parsely, you know, lots of leafy greens, that are ready for eating in our garden.  Sometimes we cut too much and as homegrown lettuces don't last as long after they are harvested as those that have been sprayed with every chemical under the sun, we always try to come up with ways to use our greens up - even when they seem to be getting a bit wilty in our 'fridge.  This is a Frittata we put together last week from left over salad greens and just about everything else left over in our 'fridge that seemed like it would contribute.  Don't be shy about making Frittatas - they can be eaten warm or at room temperature, they travel well (good for lunches), and with a Bloody Mary they are perfect for Brunch and are delicious!

Il Moya Left Over Greens Frittata

This recipe is really open to your creativity and what you want to put in it - and what's in the 'fridge.
We used:

About 1 1/2 cups mixed greens - Mesculun, Simpson Lettuce, Arugula, some Par-Cel, Sorrel, and a tiny bit of Tarragon - tossed together and cleaned

6 large farm fresh eggs (they ARE the dish, so go for the gold!)

Sun Dried Tomatoes in olive oil - I had about 8 small ones on hand

We had some left over fiddle head ferns - so in they went too

1 small jalepeno pepper and a couple of spring onions

Extra virgin olive oil, salt, freshly ground pepper and freshly grated parmesan cheese

Chop the greens, the spring onions, fiddleheads, the sun dried tomatoes and as much of the small jalepeno as you'd like - toss that all together

Whip together the eggs, some salt and pepper and a little bit of milk or cream - just adds a touch of extra richness

Put a little of the olive oil and a pat or two of butter into a large non-stick skillet

Melt the butter and get the oil hot - toss the chopped mixture in for just a few seconds to warm the mixture; stir it around and spread it out over the pan surface

Pour over the seasoned egg and milk/cream mixture and swirl the pan so that the egg mixture covers to the edges of the pan

Cook over a medium fire until it just starts to set up and seems a bit firm in the middle and still a little bit loose around the edges; push the mixture away from the sides of the pan a bit with a spatula and go all the way around the edges with a tiny drizzle of the olive oil

Sprinkle the grated parmesan all over the top of the frittata

Put it under a broiler - no more than 6 inches from the fire - keep a close eye on it!  You only need a few seconds before it will start to be bubbly and brown on top.

Remove the pan from under the broiler - let it sit for a minute or two and then slide the frittata out onto a large plate or cutting board - that oil you drizzled around the edges will help with this

Cut it into wedges - serve warm or at room temperature
Wrap leftovers up in wax paper and store in 'fridge

Enjoy!!  That Bloody Mary would be the perfect accompaniement!!

Il Moya Left Over Greens Frittata
Enjoy this wonderful, re-energizing time of year.  Support the Markets, grow some of your own goodies, and share your adventures in local and seasonal cooking and eating!