Friday, December 21, 2012

Winter Solstice 2012-Celebrate the Sun

"The Sun, the hearth of affection and life, pours burning love on the delighted earth."
—Arthur Rimbaud (1854–1891)

Happy Winter Solstice!  It is the shortest day of the year.   A day to celebrate the fact that from now until June, the days will increasingly be getting longer.  We will all be exposed to more and more sunlight.  It feels like we need a little more sunlight in our lives right now.  I will save the rants and reflections for another post in the near future.  It has been an intense Fall to say the least, and right now I simply want to revel in the joy that sunlight brings to us all.  Author and radio commentator Thom Hartmann writes
In a very real sense, we're all made out of sunlight.

Sunlight radiating heat, visible light, and ultraviolet light is the source of almost all life on Earth. Everything you see alive around you is there because a plant somewhere was able to capture sunlight and store it. All animals live from these plants, whether directly (as with herbivores) or indirectly (as with carnivores, which eat the herbivores). This is true of mammals, insects, birds, amphibians, reptiles, and bacteria . . . everything living. Every life-form on the surface of this planet is here because a plant was able to gather sunlight and store it, and something else was able to eat that plant and take that sunlight energy in to power its body.”

In a very poetic moment Happy Cat Farmer Tim wrote:

“Tomatoes are sunlight, held together by skin and seeds”
2012 was an amazing tomato year.  I have been looking through pictures from the past season.   I have a lot of tomato pictures, and after close inspection, I totally agree with Tim, tomatoes ARE sunlight, held together by skin and seeds.  If you click on the picture below you can view an album of tomato pictures from this past season.

I leave you with Mary Oliver’s poem The Sun—I guess I can’t help including a tiny bit of rant and reflection—at least it is in poetry form.  Enjoy the solstice, celebrate the sun.
The Sun
Have you ever seen
in your life
more wonderful

than the way the sun,
every evening,
relaxed and easy,
floats toward the horizon

and into the clouds or the hills,
or the rumpled sea,
and is gone--
and how it slides again

out of the blackness,
every morning,
on the other side of the world,
like a red flower

streaming upward on its heavenly oils,
say, on a morning in early summer,
at its perfect imperial distance--
and have you ever felt for anything
such wild love--
do you think there is anywhere, in any language,
a word billowing enough
for the pleasure

that fills you,
as the sun
reaches out,
as it warms you

as you stand there,
or have you too
turned from this world--

or have you too
gone crazy
for power,
for things?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Healthy Holiday Gift Giving--Inspire the Magic of a Garden

As I have written about before, there is great power in your purchasing power.  Food activist Frances Moore Lappe writes, “Every aspect of our lives is, in a sense, a vote for the kind of world we want to live in.” One option is to give gifts related to gardening.  Gardening can inspire complete health- a mind, body and spirit approach to wellness.   There are two wonderful local companies that provide amazing products related to starting your own garden:

Happy Cat Farm a fantastic heirloom seed source
Green Heron Tools farming and gardening tools for woman
Green Heron tools are currently offering some useful Holiday Gift Collections and you can learn more about the story behind Happy Cat's seeds on this episode of WHYY's great program Friday Arts.

If the recipient of your gifts has neither the time nor the space for a garden, perhaps a CSA share is a good option (yes, this a shameless plug for an Inverbrook Farm CSA share).  We are currently taking members for the 2013 CSA season.  Click here for more information about Inverbrook Farm CSA.  Click on the picture below to view a slideshow sampling of the delicious healthful produce available in a CSA share.  Happy Gift Giving!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Chansonette Flowers & Art and Chadds Ford Greenhouses-a hidden gem for any plant lover

The Brandywine Valley is filled with amazing resources for any type of plant lover.  One such lesser known gem is Chadds Ford Greenhouses and the space they share with Chansonette Flowers & Art.  Chansonette is the floral design enterprise of the extremely talented artist Anne Eder. For many years Chansonette was housed in the borough of Kennett Square.  Anne's stamp on Kennett is still very evident in the enchanting decorations and floral displays she has created for the Library, Talula's Table and more.  It was Anne's close relationship with Talula's that first brought me to the wondrous greenhouse space known as Chadds Ford Greenhouses, as they paired up to hosted a Cheese Tasting and Orchid sale in this magical space.  Chansonette currently occupies a corner of one of the large greenhouses at Chadds Ford Greenhouses. 
Chansonette display within Chadds Ford Greenhouses
Words cannot do justice to this breathtaking horticultural display.  I could spend hours exploring the ever changing menagerie of plants, pottery, greenhouse rooms, props and ephemera.  It is as if you stepped into a story book magic garden or gotten the keys to the staff-only greenhouses at Longwood. The monolithic glass greenhouses are filled with all kinds of diverse floral treasures. Enormous cactus and agave provide a sense of antiquity and permanence; the perfect backdrop to a variety of smaller plant specimens all available for purchase.  While Chansonette's corner highlights succulents, orchards, air plants and some of the stranger displays the plant world has to offer; the rest the greenhouses feature a more traditional array of seasonally appropriate plants.  I encourage you to click through the facebook album from a recent visit to the greenhouses to get a better picture of the true diversity of the plants that are available from this garden center. 
If you still have holiday decorating to do or want to give the gift of plants, I cannot recommend enough a visit to this oasis just off of rt. 1 between Chadds Ford and Painters Crossing.  The vibrant displays of color along with the richly fragrant humid air is a great respite from the winter doldrums-like a trip to the tropics without leaving the area.  The selection of seasonal favorites like cyclamen, Christmas cactus or amaryllis all have the potential for a last minute fairly inexpensive holiday hostess gift. 

Christmas Cactus
If you are in need of a gift for the person who has everything perhaps an air plant ( Tillandsias ) would work.  They are very popular right now. I have to admit that I am addicted to these low maintenance little creatures.  Chansonette has a really nice selection available, including some beautiful Tillandsia "arrangements and ornaments" available on their Etsy Site.  Although online shopping is convenient I also strongly encourage you to treat yourself to a visit to this paradise in our backyard.  Your deserve it.  Happy plant buying. 

Tillandsias on the windowsill

Friday, December 7, 2012

2012 Inverbrook Holiday Sale

We are so pleased to be once again hosting the Inverbrook Farm Holiday Sale.  It really is an honor to present such a diverse group of talented local artisians; offering up the antidote to generic holiday gift giving.  I could spend a full blog post on each one of the participants; explaining their connection to the farm, community, their committment to sustainability, etc...instead I encourage you to click through the links below and explore their unique products and meaningful business models on your own.
There are three participants I would like to highlight, because they will provide a level of engagement beyond just buying products. The first is the Head and the Hand Press, the brain child of writer and urban farm activist Nic Esposito.  Through a recent kickstarter campaign, Nic and one of his partners Kerry Boland, have opened a Philadelphia based workshop space for writers interested in self publishing.  They are currently taking writing submissions for their newest project--the Rust Belt Rising Almanac.  If you are an aspiring writer or just want to talk about the creative community in Philadelphia, come on out to chat with Nic and Kerry.

The next participant I want to highlight is Dustin Eirdosh.  Once a member of our extented farm family through his work at Buck Run Farm, Dustin has returned to the area for the holidays.  In a rambling but romantic story--Dustin, while studying meat policy issues at a German university, fell in love with a German student, followed her to Madagascar and they are now engaged!  Dustin has recently set up the non-profit called Edu-Futures Madagascar-bringing computers and an integrated science, appropriate technology and enterprise curriculum to the school students of Madagascar.  Dustin will be selling spices and crafts from this beautiful and exotic country to raise money for his new non-profit. 

The last vendor I would like to feature is an Inverbrook Farm CSA member, Tobi Quinlin.  This summer Tobi set up a resource rich website Logical Living, intended to make an eco-friendly lifestyle all the more simple depending on your particular habits.  Tobi will be on hand to answer questions about how you can reduce your carbon footprint, promote the website and sell some useful ecologically minded stocking stuffers.

I hope these three short descriptions have peaked your interest and you will make it out to the farm for the sale (it is located in the big stone house at the end of the paved driveway, right before the horse barn).  Come pick up some amazing locally grown and handmade gifts for everyone on your list. Featuring one-of-a-kind stuffed animals, cheerful aprons and bags, locally published books, artisan jewelry, hand-carved folk art, handmade wrapping paper and note cards, moisturizing lip balms, beautifully-curated vintage housewares, and eco-friendly stocking stuffer essentials. And don't forget your favorite foodies... local honey, dried herbs and rubs, and seasonal sweet and savory pies. Stop by the farm this Saturday, 1-6 p.m.!

Ring in the holidays and shop for exceptional locally grown and handmade gifts this season!
* Heirloom Jewlery and Accessories (also featuring the folk carvings of Gordon Swenarton)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

This Week's Share-Sunchokes, Sweet Potatoes and more Radishes

Its been almost a month since I posted on the blog.  The end of September and beginning of October are always filled with fun events, good weather and the need to prepare the garden for the first frost/freeze that will kill off the summer vegetables and officially usher in the final weeks of the CSA. It is a time of year I have come to love. The ability to enjoy being outside while realizing that winter rest is soon to come, gives many farmers an amazing sense of peace (and sometimes a little sadness as the season winds down).   The lessening work load enables one to savor the turning leaves, the relatively mild weather, and the all around beautiful of Chester County fall landscape.  So basically that is my excuse for not sitting in front of the computer more often and offering up recipe ideas and uses for your share vegetables;)  
Last Friday's serious frost/freeze put a very abrupt end to any sensitive vegetables, flowers and herbs; thus making that final transition to the last of the CSA season vegetables.  Your share will now be made up of only the hardier greens and roots or items that store well.  With just two more weeks of the season left, the shorter days and cold frosty mornings will give me plenty of time in the office in front of my computer screen--and I will once again be inundating you with musings and rambles.  Until then I have a few recipe ideas for this week's share.

This week's share includes:
The last of the Peppers
The last of the Green Tomatoes
Sweet Potatoes
The last of the Winter Squash

Women's Health 10 Healthy Sweet Potato recipes

Food and Wine Arugula and Asian Pear recipe

Roasted Radish Recipe

Martha Stewart's Radish Recipe Links

The Kitchn's piece on Sunchokes, includes some recipe links

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Fermentation Festival-Meet the Makers

Not a season, month or really week goes by that I do not feel completely blessed to live near the culinary dream town of Kennett Square.  I love this vibrant little borough so much I posted a love letter to Kennett Square on my blog a couple of years ago-complete with a facebook album of my favorite Kennett moments.  The "mushroom capital of the world" is full of delicious treats thanks to places like the Country Butcher,  the Mushroom cap, La Michoacana ice cream and nationally renowned Talula's Table.  Autumn is particularly rich in food and drink celebrations; a time when busy Kennett Square hosts the Mushroom Festival, the sold-out Brew Fest, and my personal favorite the Fermentation Festival. 
Now in its fourth year the Fermentation Festival-a project of the Kennett Square Farmers Market-will take place this Friday, October 28th from 2-6PM at the Kennett Square Farmers Market (just off of State Street).  From bread to beer, coffee to wine, cheese to local spirits, kimchi to kombucha, sauerkraut and pickles--fermentation enhances our lives and palates in all kinds of delicious and healthful ways.  Come celebrate these magical and effervescent processes at the festival this Friday.

In addition to the delicious ferments, how-to's and regularly available fresh and local produce, an exciting new "course" in fermentation will also occur this Friday from 4:30 to 8PM in conjunction with the Festival.  "Meet The Makers" is a collaboration between the Kennett Square Farmers' Market, Historic Kennett Square's Brewfest and Talula's Table focusing on the delights of fermented products.  Samplings of local cheeses, brews, wines, spirits, and ciders will be offered from 4:30 to 8:00 pm in the Brick Alleyway off East State Street, alongside La Verona Restaurant.  Local cheesemakers and craft beverage artisans will talk about their creations.  Participants will also have the opportunity to socialize, relax and enjoy live music by local favorites Scott Birney and Steve Hobson of the Sin City Band. 
Inform your palates about all the wonderful products that are brewing up right in our very own backyard. $10 tickets for the "Meet The Makers" are available at the gate on Friday or prepuce online at

 "Meet the Makers" Event Details 

Where: Brick alleyway adjacent to La Verona restaurant (directly across from the Farmers' Market, next to the "Flash")

When: Friday, September 28th, 4:30-8:00pm

What: Taste and chat with the artisans while sampling local food and drink craft: cheese, brews, wines, spirits & cider.

Featuring Tastings by:


Al fresco flights of local cheese paired with seasonal accoutremants by Talula's Table  
Hope to see you Friday enjoying the magic of fermentation.


Sunday, September 9, 2012

Notes From Nikki-Runner Beans in Smoky Tomato Sauce over Creamy Polenta and Mock Apple Pie

Scarlet Runner Beans in Smoky Tomato Sauce over Creamy Polenta
I don't know about you, but I am blown away by the bounty of tomatoes in our Inverbrook share this year! My countertop has been stacked with these beautiful garden fruits for weeks and weeks now. And, of course, these aren't your run-of-the-mill, store-bought tomatoes. Each one is gorgeous and unique, and, more importantly, full of complex flavor and character. Even the paste tomatoes! Claire, you are a farming genius!

The following dish was inspired by two alluring ingredients, those handsome tomatoes, and a bag of delightfully giant scarlet runner beans I had stashed in my cabinet. Scarlet runners are a tad smoky by nature, so I decided to go with that and add a bit o' bacon to the tomato reduction. This is optional, of course. You could always smoke things up by using some smoked sea salt instead, or just enjoy the subtle smokiness that is inherent in the beans themselves. I added a bunch of torn kale leaves to the sauce, only because my body was craving greens. This is also optional.

As is true with all the recipes I write, there is a lot of wiggle room in here. Play around with it and make it your own. Taste and adjust, taste and adjust. You can also cut this recipe in half easily. As it stands now it will serve 6-8 very generously.


10-12 medium-large tomatoes, roughly cored and chopped (I used mostly heirloom and slicing tomatoes, but a combo of whatever you have on hand is fine)

1 large yellow onion, chopped

3 large cloves of garlic, smashed and minced

4-6 oz bacon, finely chopped (substitute with a glug of extra virgin olive oil if omitting)

Three sprigs of fresh rosemary

Three sprigs of fresh oregano

1 bunch of kale, stemmed and torn into bite-sized pieces

Dash or two of red chili flakes (optional)

Sea salt

fresh ground pepper

Generous handful or two of fresh basil leaves

Approximately 4 C dried scarlet runner beans

6 C water

2 C polenta (corn grits)

3-4 T butter

A generous splash of milk

2 generous handfuls shredded Parmigiano Reggiano, plus more for topping

1. Cover the beans with water in a large pot and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down just a little so the beans are really cooking, but not vigorously boiling (somewhere between a simmer and a seriously rolling boil). Cover with a lid and let cook until tender. (Mine took an hour because I didn't pre-soak. If you pre-soak for at least an hour, you should be able to cut at least 20 minutes off that time.)

2. While the beans are cooking, in a large, deep skillet, saute the bacon, onions, and garlic over medium heat until the onions begin to caramelize and the bacon starts to crisp up a bit.

3. Stir in the tomatoes and turn up the heat, bringing the mixture to a simmer.

4. Add in the rosemary and oregano sprigs (leave them whole as you will later fish out the stems).

5. Season with sea salt, pepper, and red chili flakes.

6. Allow the mixture to lightly simmer uncovered while the beans continue to cook. The sauce will thicken as it simmers.

7. Once the beans are finished cooking, drain them in a colander and set them aside briefly while you fish the oregano and rosemary stems out of the sauce and stir in the kale.

8. Once all the kale is wilted, turn off the heat and add the basil and beans to the sauce. Mix it all together, cover, and set aside. It will stay nice and hot while you quickly make the polenta.

9. Bring 6 C of water to boil in a medium sauce pan. Add a few pinches of salt, and stir in the polenta.

10. Turn the heat down so the mixture is simmering, and stir occasionally for about five minutes. The mixture should quickly become the consistency of oatmeal. The longer you cook it, the thicker it will get.

11. Turn off the heat and stir in the butter, parm, milk, and some sea salt and pepper. Taste and adjust.

12. Serve the beans atop a large spoonful or two of polenta, and top with shredded parm and some more fresh ground pepper and/or red chili flakes.

 Mock Apple Pie

A friend of mine recently told me that I could make an "apple" pie using zucchini (no apple) and that it would taste just like an apple pie, possibly better. Truth be told, I was only mildly intrigued (more humoring, really). He was pretty convincing in his argument though (he's also a lawyer ;-)), so I thought I'd give it a try one night when I was wondering what to do with the stash of patty pan squash I had accumulated in my crisper from our Inverbrook share. Honestly, I was pretty surprised at how good it turned out. I thought it would be mushy and watery, it wasn't at all. I thought it would lack complexity of flavor, it didn't. I brought it to a Labor Day Weekend potluck, and folks raved about it. You've really gotta give it a try! Yet another outlet for the ever proliferous summer squash. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!
Approximately 6 C roughly peeled, seeded (scoop out the seeds and the softer meat that surrounds them), chopped or sliced summer squash (I used patty pan, but any variety will do), par boiled and drained really well

1/2-3/4 C sugar (I used 1/2 C. Many recipes call for 1 whole C, but I don't like things super sweet.)

1/4 C brown sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1/4 tsp cardamom (allspice works too, although I like cardamom for it's brightness)

1 1/2 tsp cream of tartar

4 T all-purpose flour

pinch of salt

Generous squeeze of lemon

2 prepared piecrust doughs (one for the bottom and one for the top, store bought is fine), rolled out and ready to go

1. Preheat the oven to 350.
2. Toss the drained squash, sugars, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, cream of tartar, flour, salt, and lemon together until well combined. The mixture will be a bit watery/juicy. That's okay. The cream of tartar and flour will take care of that as it cooks. Chemistry. ;-)
3. Line a fairly deep, 9" pie pan with one of the pie crusts doughs.
4. Fill the pan with the summer squash filling.
5. Top the pie with the other pie crust dough, fluting the edges with the bottom crust so they stick together.
6. Make 3-4 slits in the top crust.
7. Place the pie pan on a baking sheet (just in case it leaks), and cook in the oven until the top is brown and the filling is nice and bubbly (about 30-40 minutes).
8. If the edges of the pie start to get too brown, cover them with foil (I had to do this).
9. Allow the pie to cool, and then dig in.

Monday, September 3, 2012

This Week's Share-Green Beans

Happy Labor Day, Happy September. The new month ushers in a new crop of delicious green beans. Durning the hot dry summer it was hard to grow really good crisp and tender beans, however the recent rains have changed all that. You will have a choice between provider (pictured above), the very beany flat roma beans, and the crips tiny haricot vert or fillet beans. 

Along with beans this week's share includes more paste tomatoes, summer squash, cucumbers, peppers and Sun Jewel Asian (a.k.a yellow Korean) Melon.  This small yellow and white melon can be treated more like a cucumber than a melon.  See the links below for more information. Enjoy this week's share. 

Sun Jewel Asian Melon

Swordfish with Korean Melon, Cucumber, and Heirloom Tomato Relish

Eating Well Green Bean Recipes

Monday, August 20, 2012

Notes From Nikki-Tomato Soup and Haricot Vert in Heirloom Tomato Reduction

Roasted Tomato Soup with Farmhouse Cheddar Toasts
I put all those tomatoes from this week's share to good use in this delightfully tomato-centric dish that features oven-roasted tomatoes, fresh rosemary, local honey, and farmhouse cheddar cheese toasts. So good! This recipe can easily be halved. Our family of six had just a small amount leftover though, and it saves quite well. You can even freeze it. We used two whole loaves of La Brea organic wheat bread and 2 little blocks (4-6 oz each) of imported English farmhouse cheddar for the toasts. You could easily have enough toasts using half that amount (as indicated in the recipe), but I knew my family would want extra. :-) I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!
12-18 tomatoes (depending on size), lightly cored (just the tippy top) and halved (I used a variety of heirlooms, paste, and slicing... see photo below)

4 sprigs of rosemary, stemmed

2-3 T local honey

3-4 T extra virgin olive oil

1-2 T balsamic vinegar

2-3 T butter

1 large yellow onion, chopped

3-4 garlic cloves, smashed and minced

4-6 C stock (I used homemade chicken, vegetable would work too.. go for something mild though that won't take away from the roasted tomato flavor)

Sea salt

Fresh ground pepper

Generous splash or two of half and half or cream

1-2 whole loaves fresh bread, sliced fairly thin, slices halved

6-12 oz farmhouse cheddar, thinly sliced or shaved

1. Preheat the oven to 400.
2. Place the tomatoes, cut side up, in 2 baking dishes and drizzle with the olive oil, balsamic, and honey. Sprinkle the rosemary leaves over top (save a bit for garnish).
3. Roast the tomatoes until they start to brown on top and are about to fall apart (20-30 minutes).
4. While the tomatoes are roasting, spread the bread slices out onto baking sheets and top with the sliced/shaved cheddar. Set aside.
5. Saute the onion and garlic in the butter over medium heat in a large soup pot until the onions are soft and just starting to caramelize. If they finish before the tomatoes are done roasting, kill the heat.
6. Once the tomatoes are done, add them along with their accumulated juices to the pot with the onions and garlic. Turn the heat down in the oven to 375 and put the bread and cheese in, toasting until crispy and golden (5-7 minutes, tops).
7. Add the stock to the pot (start with 4 C and add more later if you want a thinner soup), and toss in some sea salt and pepper. Give the lot a good stir.
8. If you haven't turned off the heat already, do so now, and use an immersion blender to puree the mixture until smooth.
9. Add in the half and half.
10. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
11. Serve topped with a floating toast, a few rosemary leaves, and a bit of fresh ground pepper.

Roasted Haricot Verts in a Velvety Heirloom Tomato Reduction
As fancy as the title sounds, this recipe is really quite simple. It's basically roasted green beans in tomato sauce. I labeled it a reduction as opposed to a sauce because I allowed it to simmer a bit longer than usual so that it thickened up nicely and clung to the beans. The butter in the sauce helps to make it all velvety and smooth. You can use olive oil instead, but I don't recommend it. If you want to make it truly posh, you'll need to blanch and peel the tomatoes first (or fish the skins out of the finished sauce, an arduous task at best :-}). I did not do this. I happen to like tomato skins, and tend to make all of my dishes more "rustic" by leaving the skins on just about everything (sans bananas and oranges ;-)).
The girls in our family topped our servings with local Highland Farm's sheep feta (available in the Inverbrook Distribution Shed fridge), but the boys topped theirs with shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano. Either way, it's quite delicious, if I do say so myself.

1 lb haricot verts, stemmed

Glug of extra virgin olive oil

2 T + 1 T butter

1 large-ish yellow onion, thinly sliced (shallots would be lovely here too)

5-6 cloves of garlic, smashed and minced

Generous splash of white wine (I used Pinot Grigio)

3-4 C cored and chopped heirloom tomatoes

Sea salt

Fresh ground pepper

Pinch or two of red pepper flakes (optional)

Handful of lemon basil leaves, torn (you can also use regular basil and add a splash of lemon juice and a bit of zest)

Feta or Parm for topping

1. Preheat the oven to 400.
2. Drizzle the olive oil over a roasting pan and spread the green beans evenly over top. Season with a bit of sea salt and pepper.
3. Shake the pan so that the oil coats it somewhat evenly, and roast the beans until firm tender.
4. While the beans are roasting, saute the onions and garlic in 2 T of butter over medium heat until the onions start to caramelize.
5. Add in a generous splash of white wine and simmer for a few minutes until it is significantly reduced.
6. Add the tomatoes, along with some sea salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes, and simmer uncovered until the tomatoes break down and the sauce thickens to your liking.
7. Add in the other T of butter and stir until smooth and velvety.
8. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
9. Turn off the heat and stir in the lemon basil and the roasted beans.
10. Serve topped with crumbled feta or shaved or shredded parmesan.
Serves 6

Monday, August 13, 2012

This Week's Share--Tomatoes, Tomatoes and Tomatoes....

This week's share is just full of tomatoes--salad, paste, cherry, slicing and lots of colorful heirlooms.  It has been a while since we have had a really good tomato year, so I hope you all can enjoy the bounty.  Along with tomatoes, this week's share will also include sweet peppers, summer squash, eggplant and a few other items.  Next week the potatoes will return and the share will be slightly more diverse.  In the meantime we can celebrate that quintessential summer garden vegetable(fruit)--the amazing tomato.

Below are a bunch of links related to fully enjoying your tomato filled share:

-Tomatoes the Resilient Fruit from Food52

-Food52 8 Summery Tomato recipes

-Fine Cooking's Heirloom Tomato Guide

-Martha Stewart Tomato Recipes

Ratatouille Recipe/Video from Epicurious

Ratatouille's (from the movie) Ratatouille

Enjoy your tomatoes!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Notes From Nikki-Spanish Roasted Potatoes in Heirloom Tomato Sauce

Spanish Roasted Potatoes in Heirloom Tomato Sauce

The following dish is both sweet and smokey, bright and earthy; the sweetness coming from the Vidalia onion and heirloom tomatoes, the smokiness from the bacon and/or smoked paprika, the fresh herbs brightening the medley, and the potatoes and saffron bringing it all right back down to earth. A serious party in your mouth. Don't skimp on the paprika and saffron, and feel free to add more red pepper flakes for added heat... you could also substitute the flakes with a fresh chopped jalapeno or two. I served this with grilled lemon/rosemary chicken, and roasted local corn on the cob, a winning combo for sure. The recipe can easily be halved. Enjoy!


18 small-medium new potatoes, cut into bite-sized quarters or eighths (or sixteenths)
Glug of extra virgin olive oil
1 large Vidalia onion, chopped (any sweet yellow onion variety with do)
3-4 cloves of garlic, smashed and minced
1/4-1/2 lb of bacon, finely chopped (optional, but be sure to use smoked paprika and/or smoked sea salt if you decide to omit it)
6 large heirloom tomatoes, cored and chopped
A few sprigs of thyme, oregano, and/or rosemary, left whole (I used all three)
A generous pinch or two of saffron, crushed
Plenty of smoked paprika (you can use unsmoked sweet or hot paprika if you are using bacon)
Red pepper flakes to taste (you can also use hot paprika, and/or a fresh, chopped jalapeno pepper)
Sea salt
Fresh ground pepper (optional)
Sour cream for topping
Fresh parsley for garnishing

1. Preheat the oven to 400.
2. Drizzle olive oil over a roasting pan and spread the potatoes in a single layer over top. Season with sea salt, pepper (if using), and plenty of paprika. Give the pan a good shake to distribute the oil more evenly under the potatoes so they don't stick.
3. Put the potatoes in the oven and roast until tender and golden.
4. While the potatoes are roasting, cook the bacon over medium heat until the fat is rendered. Add in the onion, garlic, a generous dash or two (or three) of paprika, the saffron, a bit of sea salt, and the red pepper flakes (or jalapeno). Saute until the bacon crisps up a bit and the onions begin to caramelize.
5. Add in the tomatoes and the herbs.
6. Simmer uncovered until the tomatoes completely break down and the sauce thickens.
7. Once the potatoes are finished roasting, add them to the thickened tomato sauce, and taste and adjust the seasoning.
8. Fish out the herb stems and serve topped with a dollop of sour cream and a sprig of parsley.

Serves 6-8 as a side dish

Friday, August 3, 2012

Preserving the Summer Bounty-Food In Jars

The month of August (depending on the weather) often marks an incredibly bountiful time in our gardens and orchards.  The ancient Celts celebrated the this time of year with Lammas or Lughnasadh, also known as the "Feast of the First Fruits."  Here at the farm, the start of August marks the beginning of the delicious North Star Orchard Fruit CSA.  North Star is a staple at the West Chester Farmers Market and I highly recommend their delicious peaches, plums, apples and Asian pears (perhaps some FIG readers are already members and are now enjoy the first bag of delicious fruit).

As the tomatoes and peaches start piling up on our kitchen counters, I know many start contemplating ways to preserve these tastes of summer for the months ahead.  Food preservation can be a daunting task, especially when it comes to canning.  I used to shy away from canning especially when freezing was an option.  The glass, the hot water baths, and the potential for botulism all scared me.  That all changed when I discovered the informative and delicious Philly based food blog Food In Jars. Food in Jars is dedicated to the art of "putting up" food in jars, not all of it necessarily canned.  Blog creator Marisa McClellan often features granola, herb flavored salts, drink mixes, as well as frozen fruits,vegetables, stocks, etc...This concept of storing in glass has become doubling appealing as the dangers of plastic have started to emerge.   Check out this very timely post dedicated to preserving small tomatoes--as you can see the preservation techniques are quite varied--freezing, drying, roasting, canning and pickling.

In May of this year Marisa released her first book Food in Jars Preserving in Small Batches Year-Round. In June my sister ran into Marisa doing a demo and book signing at the Whole Foods in Philadelphia.  She brought the book back to the farm and immediately felt compelled to can something--beets where the produce of choice at that point.  Below are a series of photos from my sisters beet canning process (all photos by Hillary Murray).
The recipe of choice-Gingery Pickled Beets

Hot water bath, heating jars and lids

The ingredients of the Gingery Pickled Beet Recipe

The finished product
Marisa truly makes the art of food preservation easy.  All of her recipes are high-acid, thus eliminating the worry of botulism.  The great photos and step by step instructions takes the mystery out of canning. The recipe I am looking forward to trying is "Boozy Canned Peaches."  Marisa writes:  Canned peaches generally get a bad rap.  The ones you buy at the grocery store typically manage to be both flavorless and slightly metallic.  And often, home-canned peaches can look a little like a creature that has spent is life underwater.  The thing, is however homely, a ripe peach canned in a slightly sweet syrup is just wonderful, particularly in March or April, when stone fruit is sill months away.  Add a slug of bourbon to each jar and prepare to be transported.
So get yourself 6 pound of yellow peaches, 1 lemon, a little sugar, a bottle of bourbon and a copy of Food in Jars.  Happy canning. 

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

This Week's Share--More Tomatoes

This week's share ushers in the start of tomato season--slicing, heirloom, salad and cherry tomatoes will all be available this week.  Along with the tomatoes, expect summer squash, potatoes, cucumbers, eggplant and herbs.  Below are two links from 101 Cookbooks, enjoy your tomatoes.

-Cherry Tomatoes and Couscous

-Heirloom Tomato Salad

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Notes From Nikki-Summer Vegetable Frittata and more

Photo by Kiah Graham
Zucchini, Tomato, Roasted Corn, and Roasted Sweet Pepper Salad
Nothing says summer like this salad. Loaded with flavor and texture, and oh so refreshing. My family gobbled it right up. Works well alongside grilled meats, or all on it's on as a light lunch or dinner. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

1 super large zucchini, shredded into long thin strips (something like spaghetti) with a mandolin or vegetable peeler, and parboiled for just a few minutes (3-5) to soften and silken ever so slightly

2-3 pints cherry tomatoes, halved

3-4 ears of corn, roasted in a 400 degree oven until just starting to brown in spots (about 8-10 minutes, max), cooled and kernels removed

3 medium-large sweet peppers, roasted in a 400 degree oven until the skins are brown and bubbling in spots (15-20 minutes), cooled, seeded, and sliced

Generous handful of fresh basil leaves, torn

4 T extra virgin olive oil
2 T balsamic vinegar
1 T real maple syrup
Sea salt
Fresh ground pepper

Shredded Parmigianno Reggianno cheese for topping

1. Toss together the zucchini, tomatoes, corn, peppers, and basil.
2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, maple syrup, and a bit of sea salt and pepper. Taste and adjust to your liking.
3. Toss the dressing with the salad mixture. Season with a bit of salt and pepper. Taste and adjust again.
4. Serve topped with a sprinkling of parmesan cheese.
Serves 6

New Potatoes and French Beans with Shallots and Irish Bacon
Photo by Kiah Graham
One of my favorite food combinations is green beans and potatoes. Throw in some shallots and bacon and you have something reminiscent of divination, in my book. I chose uncured Irish bacon (not as fatty, and the flavor is superb), but you can use whatever bacon suits your fancy. The delightful little purple haricot verts from our Inverbrook share are perfect here (although they don't keep their pretty color once they're cooked), but any green bean will do. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

1 1/2-2 lbs. new potatoes, boiled until tender and the skins start to loosen and fall away
1/2 lb. haricot verts, stemmed and snapped in half
3-4 med-large shallots, thinly sliced or chopped
1/2 lb. uncured Irish bacon, finely chopped
3-4 garlic cloves, smashed and minced
Sea salt
Fresh ground pepper
Sour cream for topping (optional)
Chopped chives for garnish (parsley would work too)

1. Cook the bacon over medium heat in a large skillet until the fat is rendered. Add in the shallots and garlic and cook until the shallots are very soft and just starting to brown.
2. Toss in the beans and saute until firm tender.
3. Add the boiled potatoes to the mix, smashing and breaking them up with the back of a large spoon. You don't want mashed potatoes, just large chunks of potatoes mixed with the more smashed bits.
4. Season with sea salt and pepper, and taste and adjust.
5. Serve topped with a dollop of sour cream, a sprinkling of chopped chives, and some more fresh ground pepper.
Serves 4-6

Potato, Tomato, Sweet Pepper, Eggplant, and Summer Squash Frittata
Photo by Kiah Graham
I don't like to brag, but I'm somewhat famous for my frittatas in these parts. ;-) It might be because they tend to be my go to dish. They're so easy to whip together, and everyone seems to like them. Just about every ingredient in this one came from Inverbrook. The eggs, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, basil, and summer squash. This recipe can easily be doubled. I made two last night, and we saved the leftovers in the fridge. It served as a perfect lunch today. Feel free to play around with the ingredients, and use whatever you have on hand. You really can't mess this up. It's very forgiving. Enjoy!
1 dozen eggs, whisked together
1/2 lb of sweet Italian sausage, casing removed (optional, but it adds some pretty amazing flavor)
Glug of extra virgin olive oil (especially if you're not using the sausage)
1 small onion, chopped
1/2-3/4 lb boiled, new potatoes, sliced
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
2 long, skinny sweet red peppers, seeded and chopped
1 long, skinny eggplant, thinly sliced
1 small-medim zyphyr squash, thinly sliced
Sea salt
Fresh ground pepper
A handful of chopped basil leaves
2 generous handfuls of shredded Parmigiana Reggianno

1. Preheat the broiler.
2. Cook the sausage over medium heat in a non-stick skillet or well-seasoned cast-iron pan, breaking it up into smallish pieces with a large spoon.
3. Once the sausage is cooked through, add the onion and saute until the onion has softened (add olive oil if there isn't enough fat in the pan or if you're not using sausage).
4. Toss in the eggplant, and saute until it starts to soften.
5. Add the squash to the mix, and continue sauteing until the squash is firm tender and the eggplant is soft.
6. Add in the potato slices, mixing the lot well, and season with sea salt and pepper to taste.
7. Pour the eggs over the mixture and shake the pan so that the ingredients even out well and are well-coated with egg.
8. Spread the tomatoes over the top in a single layer, and sprinkle with the basil leaves. Pat both down gently with your hand so that they sink into the eggs a bit.
9. Once the bottom is cooked, sprinkle the cheese over the top, and place in the oven under the broiler (not too close).
10. Keep a close eye on things, cooking until the top is cooked through, and the cheese is golden brown and bubbly (about 5-7 minutes).
11. Allow to cool a bit, and then slice it into eighths, like a pizza.
Serves 4-6

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Notes from Nikki-Inverbrook Summer Casserole

I was just sitting down at my computer to search recipes for baby eggplant and peppers when much to my delight Nikki had come up with the perfect recipe for this week's share.  As she mentioned the summer produce is just starting to trickle in--soon you all will be getting larger quantities of peppers and bigger eggplant--in the meantime this casserole is the just the solution to using up this week's share. Enjoy.
Photo by Kiah Graham

Inverbrook Summer Casserole
The following recipe was one of those last-minute/what-can-I-throw-together-tonight meals. I had a mish-mosh of fresh farm ingredients (2 small eggplants, 2 small sweet peppers, a few small patty pan squash, a couple of pounds of Dr Elkins Angus Burger, etc), but not enough of any one thing to showcase. Then it hit me, I've got to make a casserole, of course! :-) And since just about all of the ingredients came from Inverbrook, I had to dub it Inverbrook Summer Casserole. I made enough to serve 8-10 people, but the recipe could easily be cut in half. It also saves well, if you find leftovers appealing. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

2 lbs grass fed ground beef (Dr. Elkins is the tastiest and it's local. :-))
4-6 C + steamed rice (I used basmati because I had it on hand. Feel free to use whatever is appealing.)
Glug of olive oil
2 small, long, skinny eggplant, chopped
3-4 smallish pattypan squash, chopped
2 small green bell peppers, chopped
2 long, skinny sweet red peppers, chopped
4-6 small-medium tomatoes, chopped
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3-4 large cloves of garlic, smashed and minced
Generous handful or two of lemon basil leaves, torn or chopped (Any type of basil will do, I just love lemon basil for it's ability to brighten a dish.)
Sea salt
Fresh ground pepper
1-2 C shredded parmigiano reggiano, plus more for passing at the table (There can never be enough cheese, in my opinion. ;-))

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
2. Brown the ground beef in a skillet over medium heat along with some sea salt and fresh ground pepper until cooked through. Set aside.
3. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat and add the onions and garlic. Saute until the onions soften.
4. Add the eggplant to the mix and saute until the eggplant just starts to soften.
5. Add the squash to the pan and continue sauteing until the squash is still firm, but starting to get tender.
6. Add the tomatoes and peppers to the mix and simmer until the tomatoes break down.
7. Season the lot with sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste.
8. Kill the heat and stir in the basil.
8. Mix the vegetables together with the rice and the ground beef. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Use more rice for a dryer casserole, less if you don't mind it juicy. You want enough so that it will hold together at least marginally though, or it will feel more like a stew.
9. Spread the mixture into a large casserole pan and top with the parmesan cheese. Don't be shy. ;-)
10. Bake uncovered until bubbling and golden brown on top (about 20-25 minutes or so).
11. Allow to cool and set for a bit before serving.

Monday, July 16, 2012

This Week's Share and Notes from Nikki

This week's share starts the transition to the summer vegetables--eggplant, peppers, and hopefully tomatoes within the next two weeks.  New this week is the inclusion of baby eggplants, okra, and a few green beans into the share.  

The green beans are definitely not at their best.  I have learned over the years that beans do not like it too hot and they also need plenty of water.  Plus their insect enemy,the aptly named the bean beetle--which looks like a copper lady bug--has been quite prolific this year,  destroying a couple of plantings already.  Hopefully this weekends glorious rain will usher in a slightly wetter weather pattern and the late season plantings of beans will be much better.  In the meantime we can enjoy a little taste of summer. 

This Week's Share:
Zephyr Squash
Patty Pan
Baby and Asian Eggplant
Bush Beans(green and purple)
Sweet Peppers
Hot Peppers

Last week Nikki sent me three fantastic recipes and I am just now getting them up.  Hopefully you still have some beets laying around the kitchen so you can take advantage of her beet soup recipe.  The squash and potatoes in this week's share are prefect for the second two recipes.    Enjoy these delicious suggestions.

Roasted Beet Soup
I must admit, there is nothing prettier and tastier to me than a roasted beet. As soon as I pick up a bunch of them from the Inverbrook Distribution Shed, I head home to trim and roast them so that I have them at the ready for salads, soups, or just plain snacking on. The following recipe is super simple and easy to whip together in no time flat, especially if your beets are already roasted and hanging out in the fridge waiting to be used. Perfect summer lunch or dinner fare. You could easily half this recipe. As is, it serves 6-8.


16 small-medium beets, tops removed, trimmed, and roasted in a 400 degree oven until fork tender, skins slipped off, halved or quartered, depending on size
4-6 C chicken or vegetable stock

juice of 1 large orange

several sprigs of thyme

1 small onion, chopped

2-3 cloves of garlic, smashed and minced

glug of olive oil or generous pat of butter

sea salt

fresh ground pepper

Sour cream, creme fraiche, plain whole milk yogurt, or crumbled feta

chopped chives for garnish

1. Saute the onion and garlic in the olive oil or butter over medium heat until the onions are soft.
2. Add in the beets, along with a bit of sea salt and pepper.
3. Add in the stock and thyme and bring to a simmer.
4. Cover and simmer until the thyme sprigs become completely limp and the leaves start to fall off.
5. Turn off the heat, fish out the thyme stems, and add in the juice of the orange.
6. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth.
7. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
8. Serve topped with a dollop of sour cream, creme fraiche, yogurt, or crumbled feta cheese, and a sprinkling of chopped chives.

Summer Squash Pancakes

It wouldn't be summer without summer squash pancakes (or bread, muffins, cookies, etc). Summer squash is one of those vegetables that never has a bad year. Always prolific and abundant, despite the weather. This pancake recipe is easy to whip together. It can be halved or doubled. Feel free to throw in any number of additions. Believe it or not, my boys topped their griddle cakes with maple syrup. They loved it. I stuck with the savory theme and doused mine with plenty of lemon and sour cream. It's hard to mess this recipe up. Add more flour if the batter seems too wet, add more eggs or summer squash if it seems too dry. You get the point. ;-) Enjoy! Ingredients

2 large summer squash, grated and placed in a colander to drain, and ultimately squeezed to remove excess moisture
handful of chopped chives
4 large eggs
1 C white whole wheat flour (whole wheat pastry flour or all-purpose will work too)
2 tsp baking powder
lemon zest to taste
sea salt
fresh ground pepper
butter or olive oil (or both) for the griddle
sour cream, creme fraiche, plain yogurt, or crumbled feta for topping
lemon wedges for serving

1. Preheat the oven to 300.
2. Set a griddle pan (or large skillet) over medium heat.
3. While the pan is warming up, mix together the summer squash, eggs, chives, flour, salt, lemon zest, and pepper until well-combined.
4. Spread butter or olive oil over the griddle and plop pancake-sized amounts of batter onto it, flattening out a bit with the back of a large spoon.
5. Cook until golden brown on one side, and then flip to brown the other side. Use your spatula to flatten the pancake a bit once you flip it.
6. As the cakes finish, place them in the oven on
a cookie sheet so they stay warm.
7. Serve topped with sour cream, creme fraiche, plain yogurt, or crumbled feta, and plenty of fresh lemon juice.

Makes 10-12 medium-sized pancakes

Boiled Potatoes

Okay, I can guess what you're thinking... boiled potatoes? Is she serious? I actually am.

When it comes to farm fresh food, I'm a firm believer in less is more. Simple is better. The potatoes that Claire grows, I'm sure you would agree, are absolute perfection all on their own. Perfectly sized, tantalizingly flavored, beautifully colored... why would we want to mess with them? Truth be told, I was also inspired by a book I recently read titled Blood, Bones & Butter, The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef by Gabrielle Hamilton, owner of the acclaimed NYC restaurant, Prune. It's a memoir that I highly recommend. Read the book and you'll understand why I would even bother to write such a ridiculously simple recipe.

Here's a quote from the book to entice you: "I want a small, warm, salted boiled potato. One with pale yellow flesh that is perfectly waxy. I want the skin to snap when I bite into this potato of my dreams. And I want to be really, truly, stomach-grumbling hungry when I eat it."


new whole potatoes, waxy and delicious, washed well


sea salt

fresh ground pepper

parsley for garnish

1. Set a large pot of water to boil.

2. Add the potatoes to the boiling water and cook until they reach your desired texture (I like mine firm tender with a bit of snap, but also starting to fall apart).

3. Drain the potatoes in a colander and then return to the pot so they stay warm.

4. Serve topped with plenty of butter, sea salt, pepper, and parsley for garnish.