Posted July 2nd, 2015

Peggy Paul Casella, Resident Wordsmith (and Farmstand Associate)

Summer_Sweet Corn

Do you have a favorite summer recipe? For me, it’s Ina Garten’s Fresh Corn Salad, tossed with basil, diced red onion, and a simple vinaigrette. I discovered it years ago when I was looking for something easy-yet-impressive to bring to a picnic, and it quickly became my go-to dish for every cookout and potluck of the season. Like other classic hot-weather salads (think capresetabbouleh, and watermelon-feta), its beauty lies in its simplicity–one focal ingredient enhanced by a few complementary flavors. And with yesterday’s arrival of sweet white corn from Fifer Orchards (just in time for the 4th of July weekend!) I see a lot of it in my future.

07.2013_Blue.Rasp

Of course, corn wasn’t the only exciting new delivery of the week. Yesterday we also received our first crates of yellow cling-stone peaches from Fifer Orchards; Oasis (Lancaster County) rolled up with an order of black raspberries; and Redhead Farms (Hammonton, NJ) brought fragrant flats of red raspberries and blackberries. Plus, we have plenty of blueberries from Blueberry Bill Farm (Hammonton, NJ) and a few more flats of sweet and tart cherries from 3 Springs (Aspers, PA) to round out whatever favorite recipe you’ll be cooking up this weekend.

Whether you’re planning to toss some burgers and hot dogs on the grill, make a vegetarian feast, or construct the perfect Independence Day pie, we’ve got you covered. And if you’re still in the planning phase, here are a few patriotic recipes for inspiration:

Posted June 4th, 2015

Peggy Paul Casella, Resident Wordsmith (and Farmstand Associate)

 

Here we are at the turn of a new growing season, as we place our last orders for strawberries, asparagus, and rhubarb and anticipate the first local harvests of cucumbers, peas, green beans, celery, broccoli, blueberries, and more. But before we turn all of our attention to the shiny new items of summer, let’s relish the flavors of late spring, and preserve this sweet season for months to come.

Check out the following tips and recipes for preserving these last spring-crop deliveries–and enjoy them all year long:

ASPARAGUS: To freeze it, make sure you start with very fresh, rigid spears. Rinse them well, blanch them in boiling water for 3 to 4 minutes, then plunge the blanched spears into a large bowl of ice water for 3 to 4 minutes to stop the cooking and lock in the bright green color. Drain well. Pat the asparagus dry and transfer it to resealable bags or vacuum seal bags. Suck out all the air and freeze for up to 1 year.

Other ways to preserve asparagus:

RHUBARB: To freeze it, trim the stalks, then wash them and pat them dry. Cut the stalks into 1-inch pieces and place them in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Freeze until solid, 2 to 3 hours, then remove from the freezer and transfer the rhubarb to resealable freezer bags or vacuum seal bags. Suck out all the air and freeze for up to 1 year.

Other ways to preserve rhubarb:

STRAWBERRIES: To freeze them, wash and hull the strawberries, and pat them dry. Place them in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Freeze until solid, 2 to 3 hours, then remove from the freezer and transfer the strawberries to resealable freezer bags or vacuum seal bags. Suck out all the air and freeze for up to 1 year.

Other ways to preserve strawberries:

 

Posted May 21st, 2015

Peggy Paul Casella, Resident Wordsmith (and Farmstand Associate)

It’s officially cookout season, and whether you’re throwing your own get-together or bringing a dish to someone else’s, we’re fully stocked with everything you need. See below for a handy guide to crafting a delicious, locally sourced feast, from grilled meats and vegetables to salads, sides, and desserts.

 

ON THE GRILL

Burgers: We’ve got all kinds of ground meat for your burger-making needs–chicken from Griggstown; turkey from Koch’s; beef from Buck Run, Landisdale, and Philly Cow Share; pork from Sweet Stem; lamb from Jamison; and goat from Stryker. Click here for basic instructions, and click here and here and here and here for extra inspiration. And see below for some tips for pairing cheeses with the different burger meats.

Chicken: The sustainably raised whole chickens from Griggstown and Meadow Run farms are ideal for cooking on the grill. Try your hand at beer can chicken or spatchcocked grilled chicken, both of which are super easy to make and impressively succulent.

Chops and Steaks: Grilled lamb chops (from Jamison) will blow your mind, and the bone-in pork chops from Country Time will also grill up beautifully, with lots of flavor and plenty of moisture (if you do it right). Plus, we’ve got all kinds of steaks from Philly Cow Share and Troutman that are perfect for the grill (see here and here and here for inspiration).

Hot dogs/sausages/brats: From Mosefund’s Smoked Bratwurst and Country Time’s game-changer hot dogs, to Griggstown’s chicken sausage and Stryker and Sweet Stem’s pork sausages and brats, you’ll have no problem filling those hot dog buns. And to ensure that not a morsel goes uneaten, here’s a handy guide to grilling sausages, via Serious Eats.

Shish kabobs: Start with a pack or two of beef cubes (from Troutman) or goat cubes (from Stryker), defrosted. Marinate the meat,* and then thread it onto skewers, along with onions or other vegetables that strike your fancy. Grill the kabobs for about 6 to 8 minutes, or until the meat is cooked to medium-rare. *Try this recipe for goat or lamb, or this recipe for beef.

Vegetarian mains: If you or any of your guests are vegetarian, or if you’re just looking for lighter grilling options, pick up some thick portobello mushrooms (from Mother Earth) or firm tofu (from Fresh Tofu). Marinated tofu is a delicious alternative to burgers and other animal proteins, and grilled portobello mushrooms have a deep, complex flavor that will satisfy even your most fervent meat lovers, too.

 

SIDES AND SALADS

Grilled vegetables: Definitely pick up some asparagus (green from Fifer Orchards and purple from LFFC) for grilling, and also some onions (from Tuscarora), scallions (from Trauger’s and Eagle Road Farm), and radishes (from LFFC, Buzby, and Oasis).

Green salads: With Country Hill’s lacinato kale and romaine lettuce, Gehman family’s mixed-head lettuce, Landisdale’s bagged spinach and arugula, Blue Moon’s microgreens, Heritage Farm’s arugula/mustard mix, and LFFC’s watercress, we’re pretty sure we’ve covered all your salad bases. Ask anyone at the Farmstand cheese counter for the best cheeses to add to the mix, and don’t forget to toss in some fresh herbs, too (from Heritage and Oasis farms). Click here and here and here for homemade salad dressing recipes that will complement these amazing local ingredients.

Potato salads: Whether you’re a traditionalist or an adventurer when it comes to potato salad, we’ve got you covered. Use new red or Yukon potatoes (from Country Hill) for American, German, or herbaceous potato salad. Or grab some multicolored sweet potatoes (from Landisdale) for this mustardy version or this one with herbs and arugula.

DRINKS AND DESSERTS

Beverages: First of all, make herbal or strawberry soda, and be sure to save the strawberry tops to make refreshing infused water. For stronger libations, pick up some lemon balm (from Oasis) for this or this cocktail; basil (from Bux-Mont) for this one; or experiment with rosemary and thyme (from Heritage) and other herbs in mixed drinks of all kinds.

Granitas and ice creams: You don’t need an ice cream maker to whip up some awesome springtime freezer desserts. Here’s a super-simple recipe for Strawberry Granita (from Epicurious), and here’s a recipe for strawberry ice cream, both with and without an ice cream maker.

Baked goods: This is the time for strawberry-rhubarb everything! Try the classic combo as a pie, a bar, a crumble, a crisp, a cobbler, or even a parfait.

 

**Recommended burger cheeses**

  • Beef: blue cheese; Ely Farm’s Washington Crossing; Keswick’s Wallaby or Frecon; Hidden Hills’ Buttercup or Old Gold; Doe Run’s Seven Sisters or St. Malachi; Connebella’s Horseradish Cheddar or Sharp Cheddar; Wakefield’s Bouche
  • Chicken: blue cheese; Hidden Hills’ Old Gold or Buttercup; Doe Run’s Hickory on the Hill, Seven Sisters, or St. Malachi; Calkins Creamery’s Smoke Signal; Parish Hill’s Idyll; Clover Creek’s Tussey Mountain or Mature Aged Cheddar; Cherry Grove’s Buttercup Brie; Wakefield’s Bouche
  • Goat: Shellbark Hollow’s Sharp Chevre; Yellow Springs Farm’s Cloud Nine, Fieldstone, or Blue Velvet; Misty Creek’s Kidchego; Meadowset’s Camel’s Back
  • Lamb: blue cheese; Hidden Hills’ Bolton Feta; Caputo Bros. Ricotta; Meadowset’s Camel’s Back, First Bite, or Last Straw; Parish Hill’s Suffolk Punch; Ely Farm’s Washington Crossing; Connebella’s Horseradish Cheddar; Roundtop’s Sheep Camembert
  • Pork: Parish Hill’s Idyll; Doe Run’s Hickory on the Hill; Cherry Grove’s Lawrenceville Jack; Goot Essa’s Der Alpen Kase; Clover Creek’s Tussey Mountain or Mature Aged Cheddar; Keswick’s Frecon; Calkin’s Cow Tipper; Wakefield’s Bouche
  • Portobello mushroom “burgers”: Misty Creek’s Kidchego; Meadowset’s Camel’s Back, First Bite, or Last Straw; Ely Farm’s Washington Crossing; Caputo Bros. Ricotta; Connebella Sharp Cheddar; Wakefield’s Bouche; Shellbark Hollow’s Sharp Chevre
  • Turkey: Clover Creek’s Mature Aged Cheddar or Tussey Mountain; Connebella’s Sharp Cheddar; Doe Run’s St. Malachi, Seven Sisters, or Hickory on the Hill; Yellow Spring’s Farm’s Fieldstone; Hidden Hills’ Bolton Feta or Old Gold
  • Veal: Doe Run’s Hickory on the Hill, St. Malachi, or Seven Sisters; Parish Hill’s Idyll or Suffolk Punch; Clover Creek’s Tussey Mountain; Meadowset’s Camel’s Back, First Bite, or Last Straw; Ely Farm’s Washington Crossing; Misty Creek’s Kidchego

 

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Posted May 7th, 2015

Peggy Paul Casella, Resident Wordsmith (and Farmstand Associate)

As any seasoned gardener will tell you, Mother’s Day weekend is prime time for planting warm season plants. It’s that sweet spot in the year when the soil is fully thawed and still moist from April rain, and the temperatures are above frost point but not high enough to scorch baby leaves and blooms. Plus, planting new flowers and vegetables seems like a good way to honor the one who gave you life, am I right?

To get your spring/summer garden started, head over to the Farmstand for some Bennett Compost (we’ve got 5- and 25-pound bags). Bennett collects food scraps from residences and businesses all over Philadelphia, which they then compost in bins located in gardens around the city.

compost

New to the composting scene? Compost is simply organic matter (leaves and food waste) that has broken down naturally over time into a dark, crumbly substance resembling topsoil. It’s a key ingredient in organic farming, as it naturally improves the structure and health of the soil while serving as a biological control against unwanted pests.

Here are a few ways to use compost in your home garden and backyard:

  • Work 1 to 2 inches of compost into the top 3 inches of soil in all in-ground and container vegetable and flower gardens.
  • Sprinkle a handful of compost in the bottom of each hole when you transfer plants to your garden.
  • When your plants grown to mid-size, spread 1/2 inch of compost around the base of each plant monthly to promote high yields and healthy vegetables.
  • Treat bald spots in your yard by working an inch of compost into the soil and then reseeding.
  • Apply compost as mulch around trees, shrubs, and other plants to prevent weeds, help reduce moisture loss, and stabilize the soil temperature.

Once your gardens, window boxes, and containers are tilled and treated with compost goodness, throw down some Pollinator Project Wildflower Seeds(available now at the ‘stand) for a splash of color. The Pollinator Project was founded by a local beekeeper in response to the staggering decline in honeybee populations, attributed to the widespread use of certain harmful pesticides. Each packet of seeds contains a mix of perennials and annuals that will bloom year-round, creating a sustainable–and safe–energy source for honeybees and other pollinators.

No worries if your thumb is more black than green, or if you don’t think you have the space to garden. Just fill a pot with soil and compost, toss in some of the wildflower seeds, water generously, and set it in a sunny spot. (For other gardening tips and projects, click here or here or here or here.)

 

 

 

Posted April 23rd, 2015

Peggy Paul Casella, Resident Wordsmith (and Farmstand Associate)

 

Nothing said “Happy Earth Day” better than the 80-pound delivery of asparagus that we received yesterday, fresh-picked from Fifer Orchards. Sturdy, elegant, and tender, each spear reminds me of the strength and tenuousness of our planet, and makes me very thankful for the farmers who practice sustainable methods to grow the food we eat. Plus, after an especially brutal winter, we’re all ready for bright-green, snappy flavors and textures–and asparagus, I think we can all agree, is the poster child of this season.

That being said, however, we’ve got a few other early spring vegetables that deserve to share the spotlight. There are breakfast radishes and arugula/mustard green mix from Sunny Harvest Co-op (Quarryville, PA); red radishes and scallions from Oasis (Lancaster County), spring onions and chives from Heritage Farm (Philly); spinach from Marolda Farms (Vineland, NJ), and field lettuce from the Rodale Institute (Kutztown, PA). And expert forager David Siller just brought in an impressive haul of tightly knotted fiddleheads, sinewy ramps, leafy patience dock, and stinging nettles from all around the area.

While radishes, scallions, salad greens, chives, and asparagus are familiar enough to most home cooks, wild-foraged vegetables may seem a little scary (nettles that sting?) or obscure (fiddle-what?). So, to help you glean the most from this time of year, here’s a quick primer on the less-known delicacies of early spring, plus a few intriguing recipes to get you started:

Fiddleheads are furled-up baby fern fronds, which can be found poking through the soil in early to mid spring, on riverbanks and in dewy meadows all over the Northeast. Their season is very short–a matter of weeks–and they are only available as wild-foraged crops. A word to the wise: Raw fiddleheads can make you sick, so it is important to cook them before eating. Just blanch them in boiling water for 5 minutes, then sauté with a pat or two of butter until they are nice and tender. The texture and flavor will remind you of asparagus.

Patience Dock is a long-leafed salad green with mild, lemony flavor that is reminiscent of sorrel, a fellow member of the buckwheat family. It is known for its healing properties and has been used for centuries to detoxify the body, stave off disease, promote good eye sight, and treat skin various disorders. Since patience dock leaves are very tender, they do not take well to sautéing. For best results try them raw in salads, or blanch and stuff them with ground lamb and rice in the Romanian tradition.

Ramps are wild onions that taste like a mix between garlic and leeks. They are one of the first bright things to appear at the farmers’ market each spring, with a super-short season that ends before many people even know it began. Over the past few years they have garnered quite the cult following among chefs and home cooks alike, and–lucky for us–all that hype has led to a wealth of recipes strewn across the interwebs.

Stinging Nettles are flowering herbs with delicious–yet prickly–leaves that can irritate your skin, so make sure to wear gloves when handling them raw. A quick blanch, steam, or sauté will deactivate the nasty stingers and render these greens tender and benign. They are rich in antioxidants, B vitamins, folate, potassium, iron, sulphur, and vitamin C, and they have also been shown to work as a natural antihistamine to alleviate the symptoms of hay fever and seasonal allergies. As far as flavor goes, think milder, more floral-tasting spinach.

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Posted April 9th, 2015

Peggy Paul Casella, Resident Wordsmith (and Farmstand Associate)

The 4th annual Philly Farm & Food Fest is this Sunday, April 12th, and we can’t wait to spend the day hobnobbing with regional farmers and food producers, sampling some of the best artisan goodies around, and geeking out on the local food scene with thousands of other likeminded Philadelphians.

If you haven’t bought your tickets yet, I humbly suggest that you drop everything and click here immediately. General admission is just $20 in advance and $25 at the door, and that will get you an entire day’s worth of workshops, demos, tastings, and exclusive access to the incredible bounty of the greater Philadelphia region.

Looking to join a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program? At this year’s FEST you’ll find a Pop-Up Shop featuring eight local farms that offer CSAs, so you can compare them side-by-side and choose the best one for your taste and budget. While you’re there, make sure to swing by Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperativeand Philly Food Works, both of which have CSA drop-offs at our Farmstand. (Mention the promo code FAIRFOOD when you sign up for a Philly Food Works CSA, and they’ll make a donation to Fair Food!)

Here are a few other ways to get your $20 worth at this year’s FEST:

Meet an alpaca

Attend informative and inspiring workshops with leading farmers, butchers & chefs

Learn how to build a chicken coop

Enter to win gift certificates from Whole Foods Market and Chipotle

 

GET YOUR TICKETS NOW!

Posted March 26th, 2015

Peggy Paul Casella, Resident Wordsmith (and Farmstand Associate)

I’m delighted to report that the first signs of green are popping up at the Farmstand! Just yesterday we received spring garlic from Landisdale Farm (Jonestown, PA), Valley Milkhouse‘s “Clover” (fromage blanc rolled in herbs) is back in the cheese case for the season, and jewel-toned emu eggs will arrive from Boody Mill Ranch (Sewel, NJ) by the weekend. We’re also eager for next week’s delivery of blue-green eggs from Meadow Run Farm (Lititz, PA) . . . plus whatever springy surprises our growers might have in store. (Though asparagus won’t hit the ‘stand until mid- to late April, we’re told that our daydreams of fresh leeks, scallions, and fiddleheads might soon become reality.)

Oh, and did I mention that we’ve got eggs? Just in time for the spring holidays, our dairy fridge is overstocked (eggsploding, if you will) with eggs of all shapes, sizes, and colors–from colossal emu and oblong goose, to duck and multicolored chicken. Of course, if you’re anything like me, you’ve already opened a new tab in your browser to research recipes for custard dessertsquichesfrittatas, and deviled eggs, but don’t forget to set some eggs aside for dying, too. Even the brown ones can be transformed into vibrant gemswith natural dyes made from beets, onion skins, cabbage, coffee, and tea.

For your cooking adventures, here’s a handy guide to the different kinds of eggs:

  • 1 duck egg = 1 extra-large chicken egg; great forbaking–higher fat content will help cakes rise higher and keep meringes more stable
  • 1 goose egg = about 2 large chicken eggs; higher yolk-to-white ratio makes for richer texture and flavor–great for homemade pasta and richer, denser desserts (if using goose eggs for lighter, fluffier cakes, you can offset the richness by tossing in a chicken egg white)
  • 1 emu egg = about 8 large chicken eggs; higher yolk-to-white ratio makes for even richer texture and flavor than that of goose eggs–best used insavory egg dishes (they will take about 2 hours to hard-boil)

**Are you excited yet to plan your spring holiday feast?The deadline for pre-ordering ham and brisket is quickly approaching (5pm on Sunday, 3/29), so make sure you don’t lose out on these delicious, naturally raised meats!**

Posted March 19th, 2015

I can’t think of a better time than early spring to sing the praises of heritage breed and naturally raised meats. For home cooks all over the country, this is the time for traditional feasts of ham and brisket and leg of lamb. And for farmers who raise their livestock the sustainable way–on pasture–this is prime birthing time, when new growth in fields and foraging areas ensures ample nutrients for the young.

Unlike commercial livestock that are confined to stalls and plumped up with hormones and cheap grain, heritage breeds and other sustainably raised livestock roam free with access to the diets their ancestors have been eating for centuries. “Heritage” refers to traditional livestock breeds that have not been genetically altered for commercial gain and display the same attributes as their breeds did hundreds–or even thousands–of years ago. These attributes, such as good maternal instincts and foraging abilities, cold (or heat) tolerance, and disease and parasite resistance, make heritage breeds much hardier than their commercial counterparts. And their natural diets of grass and bugs and other organic materials, paired with their active lifestyles, make them much more flavorful, too. Though it takes longer for these traditional breeds to reach their market weight, and raising them is therefore more expensive for farmers, the benefits of taste, texture, nutrients, and humane treatment far outweigh the cost.

Basically, what it comes down to is this: When you choose heritage breed and naturally raised meats, everybody wins. You get to experience some of the most flavorful, exceptionally marbled meat there is, the farmers get the money they need to keep raising animals the way nature intended, and that gives these heritage breeds a consistent purpose in our agricultural system. (This is a favorite subject of mine, if you haven’t already guessed.)

So this year, if you’re hosting an Easter or Passover dinner, or any other big gathering, may I suggest ordering a naturally raised brisket or heritage breed ham? Or why not swing by the Farmstand for legs of heritage breed lamb from Jamison Farm, and other naturally raised/heritage breed cuts and roasts from Sweet StemStrykerCountry TimePhilly Cow Share, and N.S. Troutman & Sons.

For more information about heritage breeds, click here or here or here.

And if you need some planning help, check out these menu ideas for Easter and Passover gatherings:

Posted March 12th, 2015

Fresh & New
Peggy Paul Casella, Resident Wordsmith (and Farmstand Associate)
 

St. Patty’s Day is less than a week away, and whether you’re dusting off your shamrock headband for the annual bar crawl or planning to stay as far from the hoopla as possible, I think we can all agree that a bowl of corned beef and cabbage sounds pretty good right about now. Traditional Irish cuisine is what comfort food dreams are made of. From lamb stew and braised brisket to shepherd’s pie and Cornish pasties, these dishes can warm our bodies and satisfy our hunger with only a few simple ingredients and flavorings.

The most famous mainstay of Irish cooking–and Irish history, for that matter–is the potato, but other hearty vegetables like cabbage, carrots, and onions share equal billing, typically paired with fish, lamb, pork, and beef. For dessert, cheeses, breads, and puddings are old classics, served, of course, with whiskey or beer.

Hungry yet? This week the Farmstand is brimming with all the beef, lamb, pork, potatoes, carrots, and onions your Irish (or not so Irish) heart desires! Check out the recipe roundup below for lots of traditional recipes to get you in the spirit of the holiday!

Dinner:

Dessert:

 

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Posted March 5th, 2015

Peggy Paul Casella, Resident Wordsmith (and Farmstand Associate)

 

Thanks to new deliveries of steaks and beef roasts from N.S. Troutman & Son’s and Philly Cow Share, our meat freezer is stocked and ready for the slow-cooked roasts, stews, and braises we all crave this time of year. Whether you’re a traditional pot roast aficionado or a culinary MacGyver, you’ll be blown away by the robust flavor of these humanely raised, grass-fed chuck roasts, rump roasts, rib eyes, and NY strip steaks. Plus, in anticipation of spring–and the big lamb delivery we’re expecting next week from Jamison Farm–we’re selling our remaining stock of Jamison bone-in legs of lamb at a 30% discount, while supplies last. (See below for a round-up of beef and lamb recipes!)

(photo from Food.com)

We also received Lion’s Mane and  White Trumpetmushrooms from Primordia Farm this week, and we’ve got loads of kale, tender lettuce, and micro greens to brighten these last winter meals. The new growing season will be here before you know it, and we can’t wait to see what our farmers have in store!

(photo from Epicurious)

Chuck Roast
Rump Roast
Bone-In Rib Eye Steak
NY Strip Steak
Bone-In Leg of Lamb

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