Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Edible's Eat Drink Local Week and a Greenmarket Surprise

I've had an interesting food-oriented week this week, and it's not even over yet.  On Monday, I attended several panels at The New School as part of Edible Magazine's Eat, Drink, Local Week.  I was able to hear the thoughts behind the supposed renaissance of DIY food creation, like butchering and canning, and to listen to whether or not "authentic eats" are just coming into their own or if they are already past their prime.  The topic of what are "authentic" eats was quite debated, as this is a term that morphs with each wave of immigrants to the city and what cuisine gains ground through osmosis into the American culture.

Unfortunately, I couldn't stay for the entire third panel, which covered the changes in the New York area food system from the earliest menus on file at the New York Public Library to the founding of the Greenmarkets and beyond.  Having read Appetite City: A Culinary History of New York by William Grimes, I've been fascinated about how what previous inhabitants of this area ate and how things have changed.  In some ways, I thought that all of these should have been melded into one giant panel or brought together in some manner, as they seemed to cover an arc of food history that encompasses how we make our food (pre-packaged vs. DIY), what kind of dishes we eat (Italo-American, German, Jewish, etc.), and how we actually get the items we need to make meals to eat (i.e., local farmers' markets and small speciality shops)

As part of the Eat Drink Local Week, Edible is partnering with several organizations, including GrowNYC, which organizes the Greenmarkets.  Edible has even issued a challenge to make folks more aware of their local food community and the resources that exist in their region.  While some of these are specific to New York, it's not a bad list to try to tackle in any area to become in tune with what might be some locavore options where you live.  I've actually done quite a few items on the list as my diet has become more oriented towards shopping in the farmers' markets in the city.  The one thing I did decide to do this week is a variation on item #2; I decided to go to the Union Square Greenmarket but on a different day.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Eggplant Parmesan

This is what I had for lunch today: Homemade Eggplant Parmesan (from a recipe in the October issue of Food & Wine magazine) on a toasted whole-wheat olive roll.  Now that I no longer have a company cafeteria to rely upon for my mid-day repasts I have to [sigh] fend for my self when it comes to figuring out what to eat every day.  Fortunately, on some days this is easier than on others.

The visual in the magazine was enough to draw me in to attempting to make this.  The mozzarella came from Tonjes Farm, whose product I have used before and really loved.  The basil was also from the Greenmarket, as were the gorgeous in-season eggplant, which I had picked up last weekend.

Monday, September 20, 2010

FeastUp Picnic in Central Park

Yesterday, grabbing on to one of the more beautiful days that are marking the end of summer this year, hosted a picnic in Central Park for food bloggers.  This gave me a chance to bring out my Rosemary-Garlic White Bean Dip, or as I like to pitch it "the alternative to hummus that always appears at gatherings."  I also attempted to make a Roasted Red Pepper and Goat's Cheese Dip, but that seemed a little less successful, so I'll have to work on that.  Armed with a beach towel, the two dips, and loads of gorgeous summer vegetables from the Greenmarket, I piled everything into a beach tote and headed across town to the meeting point.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

How to Peel a Tomato

In my last blog, I posted a recipe that called for peeling tomatoes.  This is something that I hadn't actually attempted to do myself before making that dish.  For the Pappa al Pomodoro, however, I felt that using end-of-summer fresh produce would be the best way to highlight their flavor so I launched in to de-skinning these round red delicacies myself.  Truthfully, if I were to make this in the wintertime, I would use canned, peeled tomatoes, but there's no need for that now.

Start off by making an "x" on the bottom of the tomato

Submerge in pan of boiling water and cook on each side for 15-20 seconds, until skin wrinkles

Allow to cool and with knife or tongs, peel skin away starting from the "x." 
The skin should come off easily without taking the flesh.

Tomatoes are ready for chopping up to be put into dishes that call for peeled tomatoes.

Kitchen Witch Tip:
To capture even more of the tomato flavor for the above dish, when de-seeding the tomatoes while chopping them, put the seeds and other bits into a sieve placed over a bowl, and push the liquid through the sieve to get some of the reserved juices to add to the pan when cooking down the tomatoes.

Buon appetito!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Pappa al Pomodoro

Last week Eataly opened up for business, this past week The Kitchn has been running Italian-themed posts, and the issue of Food & Wine that hit my mailbox yesterday features "Italian-American Favorites."  Sense a pattern here?  It's as though that part of my life is calling to me to rekindle my love for Mediterranean food.  Even yesterday, after going on an art gallery tour in Chelsea, I ended up at BuonItalia showing someone the specialties found there.

So, today when a picnic that I was supposed to attend was canceled due to the dreary weather, it seemed like a good day to make Pappa al Pomodoro, a Tuscan dish which I haven't eaten since I was in graduate school.  I had picked up some tomatoes at the Greenmarket yesterday from Keith's Farm, and I had some stale bread left over from one of the meals that I had had at Eataly last week.  With two of the key components in hand, I decided to put this together for lunch. 

As with many Italian dishes, it is the attention to using the best ingredients possible to pull together the flavors that makes the difference.  Using seasonal ingredients, like the tomatoes, basil and garlic, high-quality olive oil, and good (but stale) bakery bread, are key to create a meal that is simple but fulfilling.  With the end of summer approaching, this is a great way to try to capture the last of its warmth in a bowl.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

FoodieLink and Fall Recipe Contest

Recently, I became involved in a newish website project called FoodieLink.   The aim is to promote sustainable, healthy eating and to bring together the local food communities.  At the moment, much of the material is New York-based as that's where the founder lives (as well as many of the contributors, such as me).  If you have any suggestions for content you'd like to see or things you'd like us to check out, we're open for ideas.  

Yesterday, we launched a Fall Seasonal Recipe Contest!  Do you have a favorite fall/autumn recipe using seasonal ingredients?  Would you like to see how it stands up to the competition?  One of the judges for the contest will be FoodieLink friend and Bravo Top Chef Andrea Beaman.  See the website for more contest details and how to enter.  We're hoping to get some great new recipes to try!

I don't really talk about it all that much, as I try not to be soapbox-y, but, especially with the food scares of the past few years, this has become an issue near and dear to my heart and stomach (and other vital organs).  First of all, seasonal eating, as I discovered when I lived overseas, just tastes better.  The quality is higher, the food fresher, and the prices much, much lower.  Does it mean I sort of overdose on asparagus in the spring or can't stand to see another batch of apples once berries start to hit?  Yes, definitely.  

On the other hand, I noticed a long time ago that I didn't seem to be hit by as many digestive issues as I'd had at one time once I started eating local products and organic items.  My body reacted better to the food that I was eating, and I really enjoyed getting to know the people from whom I buy my produce by going to the local markets.  It has also made me more adventurous in terms of recipes.  Do I stick to this 100%?  No, I'll be the first one to admit it, I do buy things that are not local, such as avocados and mangos, but I do try to stick to this philosophy most of the time.  

So, I'm excited to get to know the others in and around the area in which I live who are working with locally-sourced foods to create all kinds of wonderful eats.  It's also a chance to reach a new audience with some of my recipes and food-finds as well.  The bottom line is that we all love really great, delicious food.  Some of the best of it can be find right in my backyard (or at least up river in the Hudson Valley), and I'm glad to join a community of folks who are also exploring this foodscape to preserve our resources and make people more aware of the bounty around them.

Buon appetito!

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Foraging in Central Park with "Wildman" Steve Brill

What did you do over your Labor Day weekend?  Well, aside from checking out the food trucks on Governors Island for the Parked food festival, I ended up looking for some real locavore eats.  On Monday, I joined about 30 other people for a tour of the edible plants that can be found in Central Park.  "Wildman" Steve Brill has been leading tours of this and other areas in and around the city and upstate to show people the bounty that can be found right in their back yards.

This activity has long been on my to-do list; I've read stories about it for years.  Brill is a font of amazing information and stories about the plants and herbs that are right under our noses.  I still wouldn't really feel confident about going around and picking things out of the ground to eat or to cook with, but he makes it seem like it could really be possible to find some great culinary and/or medicinal items in and around us in our local parks.  There were several folks who were repeat customers on his expedition.

He hunted down the local apples that we gathered and American hackberries that we sampled.  Some impressive poison ivy was pointed out to us, from which we were told to stay away.  At the same time, we were shown the plant that would take away the ivy's itch, should we get too close to it.  I never knew that a sprinkling of epizote on cooked beans could cure farting, but I do after yesterday's tour.  I also discovered that sorrel in several forms grows in Central Park and, when tender, is great in salads and soups.

Sheep Sorrel
The tour was about four hours long, including a brief lunch break (pack your own) and a bathroom break along the way.  He gears his talks to the audience, allowing children to be the first to sample some of the pickings.  The amount of information that he shared and the number of photos that I took were too much and too many to post them all here, so I put them on Facebook under the blog's account.*  Please check them out there.  Unfortunately, I think it was too early to be able to pick my own mushrooms.  I was so hoping that we could find chanterelles so that I could have some for dinner that night!

Buon appetito!

*Caveat - This was my first time on the tour so I tried to take as many notes as possible and have tried to be accurate regarding the plants we saw; however, no one should just pick what he or she finds on the ground and eat it without being absolutely certain of what it is.  My notes should not be taken as a guide to your own foraging efforts.
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