buy fresh, buy local, cook deliciously

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Sundays invariably become a cooking day for me. I often get things lined up for the week ahead. Today I made another batch of fresh Gazpacho and put a small beef roast and chicken breasts into marinades for cooking over the next couple of days.

I toss the meat and chicken into their own (as in individual) ziplock bags with either a homemade or semi-homemade marinade which includes fresh herbs out of my garden, garlic cloves peeled and sliced.

Marinades are easy. There are tons of recipes out there, or you can use a prepared one and tweak it. I like Stubb’s marinades and Pete’s Produce has their own line of marinades too which are very good, and KC Masterpiece has a couple which aren’t bad. I seem unable to use these marinades on their own, I tweak them to what I want. I never add more salt, but I might add herbs, spices, lemon juice, lime juice, fresh ginger, and so on.

We buy our meat and poultry from a local Chester County butcher who in turn buys from a lot of local farms. We use Worrell’s Butcher Shop on King Street in Malvern (Borough). You can’t beat the quality, and truthfully their prices are competitive with supermarket chains. If you have never tried them, you should. They will prepare custom freezer orders for customers too.

Since I have moved to Chester County I have made an effort to source our food locally. I love the East Goshen Farmers Market and West Chester Growers Market, but am becoming increasingly fond of Pete’s Produce on 926 because they pull in from a bunch of local farms, including for dairy products. Also on my list is Sugartown Strawberries and Strattons’ Wynnorr Farm. Also to be included in the rave category is the Phoenixville Farmers Market.

The locavore movement is continuing to grow in this country and there is more than a little truth in local food is better on so many levels. In Chester County we are lucky to have so many farms and farmers markets, so why not support the local farm economy?

Buy fresh, buy local, cook deliciously.

Thanks for stopping by!

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it’s pesto season!

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I love planting herbs in my flower beds, and now I get to start to reap the rewards: it’s pesto season!

The basil needed a bit of a haircut, so that’s what’s for dinner, pesto. Olive oil from A Taste of Olive in West Chester, and fresh garlic from the farmers market. It doesn’t any get easier than that!

I must admit, my kitchen smells marvelous right now with the scent of the basil!

Fresh pesto and homemade salsa is yet another reason why people should garden more!

simple summer suppers

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When the wether gets warm I like things like simple and fresh pasta salads for supper. So that’s what I’m having this evening and it couldn’t have been easier to make.

I got some beautiful vegetables at the Thornbury Farm CSA Saturday including what I like to call lollipop, or large spring onions and fresh snap peas. I already had some beautiful bright sweet bell peppers in the refrigerator at home and a lot of herbs in my garden and some celery.

All I did was cook a bag of regular frozen cheese tortellini, boil up a couple boneless skinless chicken breasts, steamed my snap peas, chopped up the other vegetables, and tossed together with a honey-herb-mustard vinaigrette that I made. The main herb in the vinaigrette (which also had garlic and a shallot in it ) was fresh dill, but I also to the salad added chopped fresh fennel tops, fresh flat leaf Italian parsley, and basil.

Summer dinners are meant to be easy!

strawberry rhubarb pie

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My mother is coming for lunch tomorrow. Normally that wouldn’t be a big deal, but this is her first outing of this kind with a longer car ride since she had heart surgery earlier this spring. So I thought I would make a festive late spring lunch inspired by the herbs growing in the garden and the early produce from the farmers markets locally.

When I went to the East Goshen Farmers’ Market yesterday, Brogue Hydroponics had the most beautiful strawberries and young rhubarb. So I planned the dessert first: strawberry rhubarb pie. I have been making variations of this pie for years, and I decided today I would write things down to the best of my abilities so I could share the recipe with you.

Hopefully everything works for you the way it did for me. Anyway, here is the recipe:

preheat oven to 425°

2 cups of fresh sliced strawberries
2 bunches of as thin as possible rhubarb from your farmers market – you will end up with 2 cups or so by the time you trim and clean it.

1 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
Scant 1/4 cup of instant tapioca
Zest of one lemon
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
Dash of cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons of butter cubed small
1 tablespoon softened butter
Grated fresh ginger to taste

Pie crust: you need two pre-made rolled up refrigerated pie crusts as this is a double crust. Or you can make your own pie crust and roll out enough for two crusts.

I think the brand I bought yesterday was Pillsbury. I didn’t have time to roll out pie crusts so I bought them this time. These rolled up pie crusts can be found in the refrigerated section next to the dairy in your supermarket. (Look for where your supermarket stocks pre-made cookie dough and biscuit dough you will find the pie crusts.)

Line a deep dish 9 inch pie plate with one crust and use 1 tablespoon softened butter to coat bottom of crust- this will keep your piecrust from getting soggy. Put pie plate and crust into refrigerator to stay chilled.

Chop up the rhubarb into little quarter inch slices and slice up your strawberries and add the sugars, tapioca, ginger, cinnamon, vanilla, and lemon juice and lemon zest. Mix together gently but well and set aside for 15 minutes.

Once your oven is preheated, remove the chilling piecrust in the pie plate from the refrigerator and put on a baking tray that is lined with parchment paper. This is a pie that can bubble over so you definitely don’t want this sticky goo all over your oven.

Fill your chilled pie crust with the fruit mixture and next take one egg white and 2 tablespoons of water and whisk it together in a small bowl. Using a pastry brush, paint the edges of your bottom piecrust in preparation for adding the top crust.

Add the second piecrust or top crust to your pie. Then use a fork or your fingers and crimp the edges together. Using your pastry brush wipe the top of the pie with the egg white and water mixture. Don’t soak it, just enough to make a couple tablespoons of granulated sugar tossed over the top stick.

Next use a paring knife and cut that holes in the top of your pie. I cut them in a circle so they almost look like flower petals.

Now your pie is ready for the oven. I cover the edges of my crust with tinfoil gently on top of that so they don’t overly brown. You can also buy one of those piecrust rings out of either metal or silicone rubber stuff that goes in the oven. Keep meaning to get one of those and I just keep forgetting.

Bake the pie at 425° for 15 minutes. Then reduce the heat for 350° and bake another 45 minutes to an hour depending on your oven. The crust should be slightly toasty in color and the filling mixture bubbling out of the vents you cut ever so slightly.

You can serve the pie warm or cold. Some people like serving the pie with fresh whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. I like it by itself without anything.

Again, this is the first time I really written this recipe down so I hope everything works! Enjoy!

first strawberry!

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When I was little I planted strawberries in the garden beds. As a child I delighted in picking the fresh berries that the birds didn’t get.

This year I decided to plant strawberries again. This morning I picked my first ripe berry. I have to admit it was just as much fun picking that berry this morning as it was when I did the same thing when I was about 10 years old!

Strawberries make an attractive plant, and they are an easy groundcover in flower beds. They like to grow among perennials and roses in particular.

I grow them mostly as a decorative ground cover. I don’t know how many berries I will get in the end every year because I have a lot of birds, but it’s fun to grow them.

When I want delicious fresh strawberries (as in more than one or two) I can either stop and visit Sugartown Strawberries on Sugartown Road, or pick them up at the East Goshen Farmers Market or West Chester Growers Market!

now that’s italian

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So I got my weekly email from the East Goshen Farmers Market and they said they had this chef/author coming. So I checked her out at the market, and maybe it is just an Italian thing, but so fun!!!

The book is called Gravy Wars and it is by Lorraine Ranalli. Part cookbook, part memoir, and all fun! If you know anyone who is Italian, especially Philadelphia Italian, they will love it! Even if you are not Italian….you will love it!

If you belong to a book or cooking club, I would ask her to come- she is that fun! And besides, a few recipes better than mama makes ? Nothing wrong with that either!

http://www.gravywars.com

Ciao!

channel your innner grandmother: pickle something

beet2My kitchen is full of the spicy sweet scent of pickling.

I don’t know why, but I woke up and thought I might try pickling some of those glorious beets I purchased from NorthStar Orchards at East Goshen Farmers’ Market yesterday.

I already have the jars, so I went to the store and bought fresh apple cider vinegar, new pickling spice and a bag of cipollini onions.

Yes I channeled my inner Pennsylvania German heritage and I swear somewhere up there my mumma is smiling.  A pickled beet is a sweet pickle, and that makes me think of her.  My great aunts on my father’s side were Italian and they did the hot pickled peppers and when I was really little I remember them canning tomatoes and peaches.

I did not do the whole hot water canning method.  These are a small batch of simple pickled beets that will keep refrigerated about six months or so. I kick them up a notch by adding dill and hot pepper flakes and garlic. I hadn’t written this down before so I hope my proportions are right….

Here is how you do it:

6 to 8 medium to large fresh beets, scrubbed and top free*

2 cups sugar

2  cups cider vinegar

1 cup water

1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons Kosher salt

2 cinnamon sticks broken up

6 cloves of garlic not peeled

1 bag of small pearl or cipollini onions not peeled

1 Tablespoon  allspice

4Tablespoons pickling spice

4 Tablespoons dill- freeze-dried or fresh chopped

1 1/2 Tablespoons hot pepper flakes

Makes 3 jars – these jars in my photo are the Weck 744 Tulip and they hold about 2 cups of whatever in them. I think in European measuring they are 1/2 liter. I love these Weck jars. They have wide mouths and can even go in the freezer.

*Option I should mention:
Roast beets in foil instead of boiling. If you roast, roast in a pan in an aluminum foil “bag” at 350 degrees for about an hour.

Put beets in a large saucepan or stockpot and add enough cold water to cover them  a few inches over the top. Bring to  boil, then turn heat down to maintain a slow boil. Cook until beets are tender when pierced, about 40 minutes.

Pour water off and let beets cool. Slip skins off once the beets are cool enough to handle. Slice and set aside.

Boil another pot of water.  When water is roiling and boiling, toss the little onions in skis and all.  When a scant three minutes have passed, lift onions out and allow to cool.  If you take a kitchen scissors and snip the end of the onion bulb you should then be able to easily peel these onions or pop them out of their skins. After they are clean set aside whole.

Place the sugar, cider vinegar, water, salt, and spices in yet another saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes.  Turn off.

Working quickly so pickling liquid doesn’t cool off too much, arrange beets and garlic and onions evenly in your jars.  Ladle in the liquid  so it covers the vegetables(you might have a little left over, just toss it if so).
Cover with  lids, seal,  and cool down.  When jars are room temperature, put them in refrigerator.

Let the beets sit at least ten days before tasting.

Keep in the refrigerator up to 6 months. Maybe 8.

farmers’ market couscous

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Market inspired summer salad- my own recipe (but I am digging the 3 cookbooks I picked up on the cookbook swap at East Goshen Farmers’ Market last week)
Anyway farmers market summer couscous salad:I cooked 1 cup of plain couscous according to directions with sea salt, garlic powder and olive oil to taste.

When cooled and fluffed I added two diced medium tomatoes from Thornbury Farm, I diced red/purple lollipop onion from Sunny Slope, minced herbs from plants I bought and planted in my garden from the East Goshen Farmers’ Market (mostly from Brogue Hydroponics) – 1/3 cup chopped mint, 1/3 cup chopped flat leaf parsley.  Then I added 1/3 cup chopped cilantro, zest of one lemon, juice of one lemon, a little more olive oil, wine vinegar to taste, adjusted salt and added fresh cracked pepper.

Toss in refrigerator covered and serve cold

YUM!

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additional fun for july 4th: east goshen farmers market is OPEN! (and there is a cookbook swap too!)

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How totally fun!  The East Goshen Farmers Market is OPEN this coming THURSDAY JULY 4th from 3 pm to 7 pm!!! 

cookbooksThey will feature BBQ recipe handouts, special surprises, fabulous food and produce and a COOKBOOK SWAP!  (Sorry but I am madly excited to go to a cookbook swap!)

The deal with the cookbook swap is bring cookbooks that are gently used but in good enough condition to go to a new home. Bring any  food-related books that you’re ready to trade –  cookbooks, foodie memoirs ,cooking reference books.  Add them to the table.  In return, take your pick from books others have brought. Each home chef is welcome to take as many books as they bring is the unwritten rule of cookbook swaps.

Cookbooks are EXPENSIVE and a lot of the cool ones are out of print, so I hope this becomes a regular market feature here.

4th of July is not just about celebrating America’s birthday and our freedoms, it is also a time of family, fun, friendship, and community. So why NOT head out to the East Goshen Farmers’ Market?  If you are usually working it is a great way to check it out, if you are feeling like you want someone else to bring that little something something to a BBQ or picnic or cook out, why not either check out the amazing produce or maybe find something already prepared to contribute?  Or just come to hang out at a community activity at probably the best municipal parks in multiple counties?

PLEASE NOTE THE MOST UP TO THE MINUTE UPDATES FROM THE EAST GOSHEN FARMERS’ MARKET ARE ALWAYS FOUND ON THEIR FACEBOOK PAGE!  LIKE THEM TODAY!

East Goshen's Market Manager HeidiAnd I have to say a shout out is in order to Heidi, East Goshen’s market manager and her crew of volunteers.  They have done an amazing job fixing a market that some might say was deliberately left in a shambles following the purple huff departure of the former market managers.  And they are all so pleasant, welcoming, and helpful. They want you to have a good market experience.
The layout of the East Goshen market is fabulous and welcoming – you can stroll along as if you are in a more European style market and every week it gets better and better.  I am also discovering a lot of my favorite  vendors from West Chester Growers Market and the West Chester Artisans Market are calling East Goshen home on Thursdays.  As a matter of fact, check out West Chester Patch this morning for a great article about one of the shared producers, Sunny Slope Farms:

Buy Fresh, Buy Local Means Sunny Slope Farms at 2 Local Farmers Markets

These farmers don’t bring food to market the way big stores and growers do.

Posted by Bob Byrne (Editor), July 1, 2013 at 09:50 pm

This is the peak time of year for buying fresh and local summer produce. One Lancaster County farm has a unique “community” business model that puts some of the freshest fruit and veggies on West Chester and other area tables every week.

Sunny Slope Farms of Christiana, PA in Lancaster County is a regular vendor at Thursday’s East Goshen Farmer’s Market and the West Chester Artisan Farmers Market on Saturdays.

The friendly folks from Thornbury Farms