Calling all Farmers!

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I am currently working on my senior tutorial research with two of my colleagues, Eric and Mike. We have spent most of this summer driving to farms, meeting farmers, and learning about what they grow, how they grow it, and how the changing climate has effected that process. We are always on the look out for additional small-scale farms in this region so, if you are a farmer or you know a farmer that may be interested in participating in this project please see the calling card below…

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Research Project Titled:
Farmers Perceptions of, and Adaptation Strategies for, Climate Change
Eric Werner, Sarah Susan, & Michael Finewood, Ph.D.

 The purpose of this research is to assess how small-scale farmers perceive the changing climate and if adaptive strategies are being used. Participating farmers will be asked to provide information in a semi-structured interview form that will address themes including farming background, growing practices, effects of climate on production, any adaptive strategies in place, and long term plans.

 If you have further questions about this study, or would like to participate, please contact Eric Werner (ewerner@chatham.edu), Sarah Susan (ssusan@chatham.edu), or Michael Finewood (mfinewood@chatham.edu).

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Greenhouse Tavern

UnknownLast night my husband and I took a trip up to Cleveland to check out the Greenhouse Tavern, which turned out to be quite possibly the best meal I have ever had. Here are a few reasons why…

Atmosphere 

Very approachable environment, with tons of repurposed items being put to good use. Bicycles hanging on the walls, old VHS tapes shelved near the entrance, bare wooden tables, and low lighting. Not a normal tavern, but blue jeans are definitely welcome.

Service

I had ssoo many questions, about food, sustainable practices, and local sourcing. Our server, Adam, was happy to answer them and seemed excited to talk about it! I took a tour of the kitchen, escorted by the pastry chef, and left with a strong sense of their mission as a restaurant, and their methods of implementing green practices.

Composting

They have a composting system where all food waste goes into a certain bin that is eventually picked up by a composting service. I this is important, and I would love to find a way to encourage it in the Pittsburgh area. Using waste as the beginning of new growth instead of the end is something I strongly believe in and support.

Food

The food was stunning. We decided to go with a chef’s tasting. One vegetarian and one meat. The tastings are a choose-your-own-adventure style, where there is a certain price and you pick one item from each of the four courses. We decided to have the kitchen choose for us. Bread plate was impressive. Many styles of bread from On the Rise, and 6 homemade spreads to go with them. We loved the carrot butter and huckleberry jam. Smelt, grilled broccoli salad, clams, semolina pasta, pork loin and belly, quinoa, tofu skin, kimchi, pot de creme, and chocolate cake. yes, we were filled to the brim.

Great wines by the glass and on draft. French press with dessert. Stunning meal. well done food. This place is a must visit.

Improvise.

mail-2Yesterday, I posted my favorite strawberry jam recipe, and then followed my own advise by picking up two baskets of local berries and made the jam! I also had 1# of tart cherries that I wanted to use so I substituted them for 1# of strawberries.mail-3

The jam came out beautifully. For lunch I made peanut butter and jelly crackers, so I could feast on the fruits of my labor!

mail-1Check out this link for more jam ideas.

Strawberries! Where to find them and what to do with them

strawberry-field-2It’s strawberry season in Western Pennsylvania! Berries were one of the items that came a little late this year, due to the lingering cold weather, but they have finally found their beautifully juicy red fruits into our fields. There are many places in the Pittsburgh area to find fresh local strawberries! You can buy them at most of the farmer’s markets including farmer’s at the firehouse. Or you could pick-your-own at Soergel Orchards in Wexford!

My favorite thing to do with strawberries is make JAM, so I can have them all year! Rachel Saunders of Bluechair Jam makes my favorite kind.

Strawberry Rosemary Jam 628x471

(From Bluechair Jam Cookbook)

  • 3 pounds 14 ounces hulled strawberries
  • 2 pounds 6 ounces white cane sugar
  • scant 3/4 cup strained freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Approx. 1/8-1/4 cup sweet or medium-sweet Marsala
  • 3 to 4 6-inch stalks fresh rosemary

-Start with a stainless steel or copper pot and combine the sugar, lemon juice, and berries on medium heat until sugar dissolves.

-Bring the mixture to a heavy boil making sure to stir often, approximately 25-30min

-When the mixture turn dark, shiny, and foamy turn off the heat, scoop off the white foam and stir in the marsala

-Return the mixture to medium heat until the texture thickens.

-Remove from heat, steep whole rosemary spring for 1 min, then remove.

-Pour into sterile jars and process!

Scaling Down

Currently, as I prepare myself for the rigors of Graduate School,  I am experiencing the transformation from commercial Pastry Chef to home baker. I thought that it would be a welcomed change from the humid, windowless, rigorous back of the house production lifestyle. I envisioned myself drinking margaritas, in sundresses and colorful aprons, while the summer breeze brushed across my freshly iced cupcakes.

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Keep the colorful apron but toss out that margarita and lackadaisical undertones. I have found myself feeling very limited and often frustrated in my home kitchen. I was trained in a commercial kitchen with walk-in refrigerators and daily produce deliveries. I’m used to the stacks of bakery boxes and cake boards, 50-gallon containers of flours and sugars, all of which never went empty. I never had to run to the store 5 times during the baking process to buy ingredients that I ran out of. I also never had a problem getting an ingredient that I needed. 4 gallons of freshly squeezed lemon juice! Thin disks of 72% dark French Chocolate in 15-pound boxes! These are the things that I miss about running a Pastry Department.

So! I realized that I had to do my best to create that familiar commercial environment in my own home! I set out looking for local suppliers of commercial kitchen equipment, and packaging supplies. I sourced out local farmers to begin building a relationship with them so that I can buy direct from the farm. My husband built shelves at the bottom of our basement steps that lead into the kitchen and I began labeling and organizing like I would in a commercial kitchen. I take weekly inventory so I can always guarantee that I will have the essentials I need to work on any simple pastry project.

It’s a start in the right direction. I hope to expand my small operation into a local sustainable Bakery. Until then, I will continue to source out local products and perfect my new home operation. I want to start with a strong understanding of how to operate on a small-scale before I transition back into large production.

In the mean time, I’m busy making delicious simple treats….

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Photo By: Ashley Rose.

http://www.ashleyrosephoto.com

Planting!

I have transplanted myself from California to Pittsburgh! Eating seasonally and locally is a bit of a chore on the East Coast. You have to be willing to fatten up on meat, legumes, and root vegetables in the winter with the promise of asparagus, mulberries, and rhubarb when spring begins to come. It’s thrilling though, to have to wait for something delicious to grow. To anticipate it, rolling recipes around in your mind until finally its harvested and you get the chance to cook and eat it! As Americans I feel as though we are groomed to demand mass variety of produce all year round. We have tended towards craving things that are out of season and demand their availability. I am rebelling against that common more is better desire and relishing in the life of seasonal local eating. I want to eat what the earth is offering me in the climate that I’m living in. So, in order to kick-start my busy baking mind into what seasonal means for the East Coast I am planting a small garden, and seeing what grows and when!

April is a little early to plant most vegetables and herbs because there is still a threat of frost. However, some things are a little more durable than others. Like onions!

When planting onions keep in mind what you want to yield. If you would like to harvest scallions plant the bulbs about an inch a part and pull them when they reach the height you want. If you’re hoping for larger onions plant them 4-5 inches apart and stomp down the green as it begins to grown to encourage nourishment into the bulb.

Happy Planting!

Kiwi

Yum! I love kiwi, and in Southern California ripe kiwi have started to arrive at many local markets. If you’re looking to buy kiwi to eat right away go for the slightly soft skin, but if you do not plan to eat them for a few days go for the firmer option and let them sit at room temperature to ripen until you’re ready for them.

Kiwi are great in a fresh tropical fruit salad with papaya and mango, or on top of a coconut gelato. My favorite kiwi accented dessert is a fresh fruit and sour cream tart. If you’re on your way to a pot luck, this is the sweet treat to bring.

Fresh Fruit Sour Cream Tart 

2 C ground graham crackers

1/2 C melted butter

1Tbs. honey

6 ounces cream cheese

1/2 C sour cream

1/3 C sugar

2 tsp. lemon juice

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

2 pints mixed berries

2 kiwi cut into slices

-To make the crust: begin by rubbing a 9″ removable bottomed tart pan with butter or shortening, then set aside

-In a small bowl toss melted butter and honey into the graham crumbs until evenly integrated. When you grab a fistful of the mixture it should hold form when you release your grip. If the mixture breaks apart add 2T more of melted butter.

-When crust is ready press into tart pan and bake for 10 min @ 350*. Remove and let cool before adding filling

-To Make filling: bring sour cream and cream cheese to room temperature.

-In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix remaining ingredients until smooth.

-Fill cooled shell with filling, and top with various berries and kiwi.

-If you prefer. This dessert would be wonderful topped with only kiwi, or kiwi and strawberry. have some fun with it!

Enjoy.

What I will miss about California.

I have 37 days and a wake up left in California and I am starting to notice all of the things that I will miss about this sweet sunny place.

The Beach. I have been lucky enough to live within walking distance on the beach. The sad reality of living in a beach town for a while, is that you tend to very rarely take advantage of it. Over the last few month I have been to the beach maybe 10 times. So, as I count down my departure from sand in between my toes to snow on my shoulders, I vow to visit the beach as often as possible. It’s time to pack in the bikini days.

Eating Out. It’s interesting to me that three of my top 5 favorite restaurants in Southern California are Italian. Before I moved to LA I wouldn’t have said Italian food was my favorite. I think that might have stemmed from my inaccurate belief that Italian Food only encompasses pasta, which ultimately likes to increase your waste line. But, the truth is, the Italians know how to stimulate your palate to an extreme level.

Pizzeria Mozza. Excellence. A must go spot in hollywood.

www.pizzeriamozza.com

Fritto Misto. This is our favorite date night spot in Santa Monica. We could ride or bikes there and enjoy approachable delicious Italian Food, and wash it all down with a yummy $5 glass of Cab. Thank you for the good times Fritto Misto

www.urbanspoon.com/r/5/65904/restaurant/LA/Fritto-Misto-Santa-Monica

Capriccio. This is our favorite date night spot in Ventura. a northern version of Fritto Misto within walking distance from our house.

www.yelp.com/biz/capriccio-ventura

The Bazaar. Anthony took me here for Valentine’s day two years ago. It is the most creative and conceptual restaurant I have ever had the pleasure of dinning in. It’s worth saving up your dollarinies so you can say you have been here. If you can, don’t go on a budget! Come with a hungry belly and a bulging wallet!

http://thebazaar.com

La Cabana. Late night authentic mexican fare served to you by a tuxedo clade macho men. No Joke.

www.lacabanavenice.com

Tartine. I didn’t get to visit this gem of a restaurant as much as I would have liked, but Tartine is, without a doubt, the most perfect bakery I have EVER experienced. The pastry is done with excellence, the bread is crunchy, sour, doughy bliss, the coffee is excellent, the small wine and beer bar tucked in the corner makes your lunch time visit feel like vacation, and the environment has the most unassuming, quaint, little coffee shop feel. If they would let me, I would live here.

http://www.tartinebakery.com

Local Produce. I work in one of the largest citrus producing towns in the world, which means I had no shortage of unbelievable local produce. From satsumas to Haas avocados our kitchen was stocked with some of the tastiest fruits and veggies I have ever had. Farmer’s Markets here are wonderful, and varied. Growing conditions are favorable year round, so while seasonal things come and go, you still have a rich selection of locally grown goods all year. When I was visiting Pittsburgh over Christmas, I bought a Pommelo that was grown in the region that I live in, and the taste and quality of the fruit was most certainly different. I will miss that fresh from the field taste that only comes from living near the farmer.

local strawberries being delivered to a local Farmer’s Market

Fruit salad made with local berries

Inexpensive Fantastic Wine at Grocery Stores. Let’s face it, wine is an essential part of any successful food related shopping trip. Therefore, it should be available in grocery stores. Period. Pennsylvania, you have to get hip to this reality. California is filled with fantastic local wine, and has no shortage of Sommeliers. So, if your looking to drink or learn about good wine, Cali is the place for you. The beauty of places like Trader Joes and BevMo is that you can find some tasty wine for $8.

http://www.traderjoeswine.blogspot.com

hot day, Anthony enjoying an inexpensive yummy glass of Pinot Gris.

West Coast Family. I have met some amazing people here, and some of them have become my family. When I first moved to So Cal I starting nannying for a new born baby in Venice named Wyeth, and his Parents Catherine and Whitney made me a member of their family. They helped me in many ways through some of the toughest times in my life, hosted my wedding in their home, and have cemented themselves as family in my heart. I will miss the three of them very much, and are the reason why I can promise that I will be back to visit sooner than later

Cath, Whit, and Wyeth on Wyeth’s 2nd birthday!

Their beautiful home, which Whitney created from his brilliant building mind

Wyeth helping me make dinner

Rabalais’. When I moved from Culver City to Ventura I helped to open a New Orleans style bakery/bistro with Tracy and Dave Lippert. They have the biggest hearts in the world, and their restaurant is doing something truly amazing to the local community. Tracy has been a true friend and mentor to me. I am leaving her business only because I have the opportunity to do something greater on an academic level, but if Grad School wasn’t on my bucket list I may have stayed at this job until I was too old to roll out a pastry shell

Tracy and I on opening day!

Rabalais’ inside

Opening day production with my lead assistant Kelly and Tracy

Sliding Scale Power Yoga. Yoga is important to me, and by that I mean yoga on both a physical and spiritual level. Not yoga in a fancy studio wearing mascara, and moving to playlist of corny new age music. Brain Kest has two donation based yoga studios in Santa Monica called Santa Monica Powder Yoga (SMPY). The west studio is a little swanky but the east studio is real, maybe even  a little too real at times. You find models in downward facing dog with their mat right next to a homeless guy doing his best to strike the same pose. I will miss this studio, but will be taking with me all that I have learned there.

California…I’ll miss ya!

So long apple season…see you next year!

-As apple season comes to a close I’m baking up my final apple infused treats. This is one of my favorites. I created this tart on a really busy production day when I needed to come up with something beautiful, delicious, and fast to make. The result was this tasty version of a French Apple Tart.

 

This recipe uses puff pastry. I personally think making puff pastry is a waste  of time. It’s incredibly time consuming, and Pepperidge Farm makes a great frozen version that honestly takes just as good as any homemade puff pastry I’ve ever had.

French Apple Tart (makes 6 tarts)

1 egg

1 sheet Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry

6 Honey Crisp Apples (peeled and sliced)

1C sugar

1/4 C Unsalted Butter (cut into 24 pieces)

1 tsp. cinnamon

Directions for French Apple Tart:

-Using a sharp knife cut the pastry into 6 pieces. Set each piece on a cookie sheet linen with parchment paper

-Whisk the egg in a small bowl and, using a pastry brush, brush each piece with the egg wash

-Arrange the apples on top of each piece leaving a 1/2 inch border along all four sides

-Sprinkle the sugar on top of each piece, begin careful to evenly distribute among all 6 pieces.

-Top each piece with 4 small cubes of butter

-Bake @ 350* for 20-25 OR until pastry is well browned and apples are beginning to caramelize.

-Let cool then sprinkle with cinnamon. Enjoy!

 

Tres Leches Cake

In my opinion, the best part of living in Southern California is the Mexican food. Forget the sunsets and the white sand, bring on the burritos! The savory side of mexican food is dangerously yummy! Carne asada tacos, salsa verde, hand-pounded tortillas, chicken tostadas! So delicious! The mexican bakery side is a little less reliable, serving bright pink and yellow breads that seem as though they should sweet and yummy but are actually dry and flavorless. I havn’t been impressed with what mexican bakeries have to offer EXCEPT when it comes to tres leches cake. If you don’t know…now you know…

Tres Leches Cake

            1 cup unsalted butter

            1 cup sugar

            4 eggs

            3 cups cake flour

            1/4 tsp. baking soda

            1 Tbs. baking powder

            1/2 tsp. salt

            2/3 cup milk

            7 ounces sweetened condensed milk

            6 ounces evaporated milk

            2 tsp. vanilla extract

FOR CAKE

-In the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until fluffy

-Stream in eggs, two at a time

-Sift drys together with a whisk then add to mixing bowl and mix until combined.

-Turn batter into a greased 9”x13” pan

-Bake @ 350* for 30-40 min. OR until toothpick comes out clean

 

-Once cake is cooled invert onto a wire rack.

-Using a wooden skewer poke many holes on top and sides of cake

-In a large liquid measuring cup mix milk, evaporated milk, and sweetened condensed milk together with a whisk.

-Slowly pour milks over the cake, until cake is very saturated

-Wrap cake in plastic wrap and chill for atleast an hour OR overnight to allow milks to fully saturate.

 -Unwrap cake and place on a serving plate

-Place 1C  Sweetened coconut flakes on a baking sheet and toast in the oven at 350* for 5-20 min OR until golden brown.

-While the coconut is toasting, In the bowl of an electric mixer with the whisk attachment add 1C heavy whipping cream, ¼ C sugar and, 1T crème fraiche.

-Whisk until is hold soft peaks

-Spoon whipped cream onto cake and top with toasted coconut

ENJOY!