Cape May Sea Salt Company

Saturday, June 27, 2015

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This is exactly what it sounds like - sea salt produced in Cape May County, straight from the Atlantic Ocean.  A partnership between Windy Acres Farm and chef Lucas Manteca, Cape May Sea Salt Company currently sells three different package sizes both online and at The Red Store and Windy Acres Farm.  We got to see a bit of the production at last week’s Slow Food South Jersey Shore fundraiser. 

 

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The entire process takes place on Windy Acres farm, with meticulous distillation and drying housed in repurposed greenhouses once used for hothouse tomatoes.  The result is large, brittle flakes that crumble beautifully over any summer dish.

 

Posted by Donna on 06/27 at 10:12 AM


    Good Food for a Good Cause

    Sunday, June 14, 2015

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    Today we spent a beautiful afternoon on Windy Acres Farm at a brunch sponsored by Slow Food South Jersey Shore, prepared by The Red Store Restaurant and Little Store Bakery.  The brunch was both a fundraiser for Slow Food’s School Garden program, in which they plan to offer grants to area schools, and the launch of Cape May Salt company.  More on both Windy Acres and Cape May Salt Company in later posts, but the brunch was as inventive and delicious as you’d expect from Lucas Manteca. 

     

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    Between the locally sourced meats and fish, cheeses from Birchrun Hills Farm, wines on offer from Hawk Haven Winery and vegetables grown either on Windy Acres or Fincas Del Mar Farm, it was a fantastic taste of what the area has to offer. 

     

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    And summer hasn’t even officially started.

    Posted by Donna on 06/14 at 06:45 PM


    New Twist on an Old Dish

    Wednesday, June 10, 2015

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    One of the vendors we religiously shop at Headhouse Market is Shore Catch.  Shopping there as much as we do, we inevitably repeat some recipes once we bring the fish and shellfish home.  So, there is a perpetual urge to find new recipes. 

    This one, taken from the indispensable River Cottage Fish, gave me two twists on something I thought I knew inside out: spaghetti and clams.  Growing up Italian-American in South Jersey, it was impossible not to see this at Sunday dinners and Seven Fishes.  Therefore, I was surprised to see a version use actual cream (completely new to me) with clams that were fresh but removed from their shells - I was accustomed to thinking of either fresh clams in their shells or canned clams.  Most importantly, it called for fresh pasta.  In retrospect the fresh pasta makes perfect sense - being, as it is, ideally suited to richer, cream or butter-based sauces, but for someone raised on spaghetti and clams in white sauce, this was a revelation. 

    Discoveries aside, the dinner still needs refinement.  Not having any white wine at hand (i.e., my stock of Galen Glen Gruner Veltliner having long run dry), I resorted to a bit of pasta water.  The resulting sauce was a little too light and simple.  A glass of white wine may have added the depth and viscosity it needed.  However, in a nod to my favorite dish from Bistro La Minette, I would also be tempted to add some fresh tarragon to the sauce as well.  Either way, from now on if it’s clams in white sauce, it’s going to be fresh pasta. 

    Posted by Kevin on 06/10 at 03:14 PM


    Market Highlights: Headhouse Market June 7th

    Sunday, June 07, 2015

    Green Beans

    t’s starting to really feel like summer at Headhouse Market.  The zucchini is here for one, available at Blooming Glen and Savoie Organic Farm in all sorts of lovely shapes and colors.  Other new arrivals included fennel, new potatoes, beets and fava beans.  Queens Farm also had these flat green beans that the attendant told us last week were so good she ate them for breakfast.  She was right - we came back this week for two quarts.

    Posted by Donna on 06/07 at 05:42 PM


    Four-Minute Squid (or Less)

    Wednesday, May 27, 2015

    The River Cottage’s seafood cookbook, titled The River Cottage Fish Book strangely enough, continues to be my favorite on the subject.  Not only does it advocate for sustainable, local seafood, it provides an abundance of information regarding species, recipe substitutions, and some general cooking guidelines that are endlessly useful.  If you are intent on buying seasonally, locally, and sustainably, this flexibility is crucial. 

    My latest favorite is a quick squid recipe.  As he does elsewhere, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall states that this is more a suggestion than a recipe, but I would call it a technique.  The bodies of the cleaned squid, which we purchase from Shore Catch at the Headhouse Market, are butterflied (basically cut open so that they lay flat), scored on each side in a diamond pattern, and then tossed with something for flavor.  The original recipe calls for olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic, and finely chopped garlic, but this is infinitely adaptable.  To cook, set to maximum heat under your cast-iron pan, griddle, or grill and cook one minute or so per side, turning them twice.  Two cautions here, though: one, make sure the pan or grill is thoroughly preheated; two, if you go beyond four minutes, you will have overcooked them.  They will curl up, which is good, and they will also char, which is even better. 

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    Posted by Kevin on 05/27 at 06:01 PM


    Baby Carrots That Didn’t Come in a Bag

    Sunday, May 24, 2015

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    At the Rittenhouse Square Farmers’ Market yesterday, we bought perfect baby carrots.  We cut off their tops and ate them raw with a simple vegetable dip.  While we’re all waiting for things to grow, it’s nice to remember that we can eat some if it along the way.

    Posted by Donna on 05/24 at 06:51 AM


      A Mother’s Day Picnic

      Tuesday, May 12, 2015

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      For the third year running, we’ve brought our Moms (and Dad) to a local winery for Mother’s Day, packing a lunch bought a few hours earlier at the Headhouse Farmers’ Market.  This year was Bellview Winery, located just a few minutes from my own grandmother’s farm.  On our table was a Market Day Canele tart with mushrooms and fiddlehead ferns, Fat Cat cheese from Birchrun Hills, flatbreads and baguettes from Wildflour Bakery and fennel onion marmalade from Green Aisle Grocery.  The tastings were moved outside, and we all ate and drank with a lovely view of the vines growing nearby.  We brought home a bottle of Blaufrankisch, an unusual variety for the area, and two happy Moms.

      Posted by Donna on 05/12 at 06:36 PM


        Market Highlights: Headhouse Market May 3rd

        Tuesday, May 05, 2015

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        The first Headhouse Farmers’ Market of the season was Sunday, and most regular vendors were already in attendance.  No Tom Culton this year, as he was reportedly not invited back, but plenty of others with a surprising variety of produce for so early in the year.  Blooming Glen had a green that was new to me - kale raab, the tops of overwintered kale plants. 

         

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        Longview Flower Farm had a selection of herbs as well as bouquets of gorgeous deep purple tulips and lilac.  Weavers Way brought fiddlehead ferns and ramps, freshly foraged.  Several farmers brought seedlings, such as tomatoes and peppers from Savoie Organic Farm and Asian squash varieties from Queens Farm.  Most promised more seedlings next week, so there’s plenty of time to plant that garden.

        And asparagus?  We got ours from a quickly dwindling basket at Three Springs Fruit Farm, but it looked like A.T. Buzby Farm had them as well. 

        Posted by Donna on 05/05 at 05:17 PM


          A Bike Share Grows In Philly

          Wednesday, April 29, 2015

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          Don’t worry, this one will get around to local food.  On Sunday we took our first ride on Indego, Philadelphia’s brand new bike sharing program.  We signed up online, picked up our bikes at the station a block from our house, and headed out.  Since it was our first ride, and neither of us are by any means veteran city riders, we went straight to the Delaware River Trail that leads past the new Washington Avenue Green and continues south.  We rode down to check out the construction of Pier 68, a new park featuring fishing and a sloping lawn for picnicking, due to open later this summer. 

          The bikes were smartly designed, solidly built, easy to check out and return and absurdly fun to ride. 

          And the local food?  I don’t know if it was because I had just read Marie Viljoen describe them on her blog 66 Square Feet or our new vantage point from the bikes, but I spotted several patches of japanese knotweed growing along the trail.  According to Viljoen, local forager David Siller and others, the invasive knotweed has a sour, lemony taste similar to rhubarb.  We might just have to return and fill those handy baskets.

          Posted by Donna on 04/29 at 04:52 PM


          First Spring Planting

          Sunday, April 26, 2015

          It felt like it would never come, but a few weeks ago we were finally able to plant the first of our spring crops.  For the last few years, before we put a single seed or seedling in the ground, we prepare each plot by digging a trench, loosening the soil with a claw, sprinkling in compost, and filling up the trench with the soil from the next. 

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          The whole process doesn’t take long, given our tiny plots, and leaves the soil so beautifully aerated that we have to be careful not to step too heavily on them.

           

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          After the particularly hard winters, in our garden planted atop an old elementary school parking lot, we always dig up lots of debris.  This was the biggest yet.

           

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          Our strawberry patch came with the plot five years ago, so it was time for new plants.  We gave these plenty of room for runners, and planted lemongrass in between.

           

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          Fava beans, by far the most satisfying spring plant for its early germination, are popping up all over the garden.

           

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          Our wintered over spinach was ready for picking, and our garlic is growing nicely.

          We finished the planting with carrots, lettuce, beets and tatsoi.  By next week it should be safe to plant the tomatoes, just in time for the opening of Headhouse Farmers’ Market on Sunday.

          Posted by Donna on 04/26 at 06:42 PM


          Philly Farm and Food Fest 2015

          Monday, April 13, 2015

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          The fourth annual Philly Farm and Food Fest was held yesterday at the Philadelphia Convention Center.  With well over one hundred exhibitors, seventeen scheduled classes and forums and a local libations lounge, the Fest is almost too big to see everything in a few hours.  We’ve been coming since the first year it was open to the public, and we’ve yet to leave without learning about some new local food we didn’t know about.  Some highlights and new discoveries:

           

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          Mother Earth Organic Mushrooms of Landenberg PA, in addition to a variety of fresh mushrooms, also offers dried mushrooms and free compost you can shovel and load yourself.

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          Kensington has its very own flower farm - Jig-Bee offers a Flower CSA, with beautiful bouquets delivered to various pickup locations.

           

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          Quarry Hill Farm in Harleysville, PA has just opened Mainland Inn, using organically grown and sustainably sourced ingredients from their farm and local purveyors from around the region.

          I have to say that I’ve been gleefully amazed at the huge popularity and growth of the Fest, but I guess I should have expected it.  You can come for the dozens of delicious samples.  You can come to do your grocery or garden shopping.  You can come to learn a new skill.  You can come to drink.  Who wouldn’t be happy?  Seriously, come next year.

           

           

           

          Posted by Donna on 04/13 at 03:28 PM


          Announcements as We Wait for Things to Grow

          Sunday, April 05, 2015

          As we go about prepping our garden plot, starting seeds, and taking a much-needed vacation, I wanted to post just a couple of announcements in case you missed them.

          One, the Philly Farm and Food Fest will be next Sunday, April 12th. from 11-4 at the Convention Center.  Tickets are $20, $10 extra for admission to the Local Libations Lounge, and $45 for VIP tickets for entrance to the Preview Hour at 10 AM and other goodies.  It’s a perfect taste of what’s to come.

          Two, even though it is officially Spring, we are still weeks and months from the opening of most farmers’ markets around the city.  In the meantime, Farm to City’s Winter Harvest Buying Club is still our primary source of food from November to May.  With a long and varied list of products and numerous convenient pick-up locations, it is the easiest way to keep stocked in the cold months.  There are still two weeks left in the 2014-15 season, so open your account and get ordering.

           

          In the meantime, keep thinking green and warm.  Happy Easter.

          Posted by Kevin on 04/05 at 09:12 AM


          Teach a Man to Bake

          Monday, March 23, 2015

          I’ve already written about my wonderful experience with Pete Merzbacher of Philly Muffin and the Fair Food Farmstand’s Food School.  I won’t repeat (much) of what I said there other than this one point: baking, real baking, with local flour is all about the feel of the dough - measurements be damned. 

          This was a point that Samuel Fromartz first clued me into in his book, but Pete was able to communicate that with actual dough in front of him, dough that I could touch.  The tactile advantage of Pete’s lesson, in turn, gave me the confidence to pursue this on my own.  It has allowed me to improve my baking overall and even apply this to wildly divergent recipes. 

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          Such was the case with this soda bread.  Although forewarned in the recipe (found here), I ended up using far more flour than was originally called for.  In the past, I would have baked the wet, gloppy mess I had rather than push on with the additional flour until I achieved a better texture.  This could easily have been a flat, dense brick.  Thanks to Pete, it was anything but. 

           

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          Posted by Kevin on 03/23 at 05:50 PM


            It’s Not Snowing at the Flower Show

            Thursday, March 05, 2015

            For those of you who, like me, depend on the PHS Flower Show to remind them that someday soon spring will come, today might be the perfect day to visit.  The show was wonderfully uncrowded, and we walked around with cups of PHS Horticulture Cider, brewed locally by Wyndridge Farm, and popcorn.  Did I mention there were no crowds?  A couple other local highlights:

            The W.B. Saul High School of Agricultural Sciences, who run the Henry Got Crops CSA with Weaver’s Way, had an Alice in Wonderland theme to this year’s display that featured a funky fountain.

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            And our very own elevated park has a name - Rail Park.  Construction on the first phase begins this year.

             

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            Posted by Donna on 03/05 at 04:26 PM


            Loafing in School

            Sunday, March 01, 2015

            Two hours; two beers; two pounds of freshly milled flour; one sourdough starter; more cheese, pizza and focaccia than I could eat; and a lot of knowledge.  It only cost me $35, but I think I ate, drank, and learned a lot more than the price I paid.

            On Wednesday, I attended the Fair Food Farmstand’s “Food School” class dedicated to sourdough bread baking with Philly Muffin’s Pete Merzbacher. Although I have been baking sourdough bread for some time, I still came away from this having learned some very important things that have already improved my break baking:
            - The tight, even “crumb” of a typical sandwich loaf or the airy, irregular crumb of a ciabatta are functions of gluten development.  The more developed the gluten is, the more uniform the crumb. 
            - My greatest weakness in bread baking, loaves that spread out rather than spring up, is most likely a result of the dough being too wet.
            - Because a home oven loses so much heat when the door is opened, preheat your oven higher than the temperature at which you are going to bake.  Then, reset the temperature once you have actually put the bread in the oven.

            Pete is not a believer in using spray bottles or pans of water to “steam” dough in home ovens.  Pete is a believer in baking in a cast iron pot (a la Jim Lahey’s no-knead method).  The pot serves two important functions. One, related to the previous point, it will maintain a consistent heat for your bread.  Two, by trapping steam released from the dough as it bakes, it will function in very much the same way as a professional baking oven that injects steam.  In fact, Pete said that while he can easily tell a loaf baked in a home oven using a pan of water as compared to a professional oven, he would be hard-pressed to do so when comparing a loaf baked in a cast iron pot as compared to a professional oven.

             

            Throughout the class, the good people of the Fair Food Farmstand plied us with PBC beer and tons of local cheese with pizzas and focaccia at the end.  Pete was personable and patient with a class of students with extremely varied levels of experience.  Most importantly, he tolerated my incessant questioning about my own issues and about using local grains.  The sourdough starter came from his own bakery, as did the whole-grain flour he had milled himself that day. 

            If you have any interest bread baking, I can’t recommend a class with Pete highly enough.  The same goes for anything hosted by the Fair Food Farmstand.  I feel very lucky to have had such good and generous people share their knowledge - and, of course, food.

            Posted by Kevin on 03/01 at 05:51 PM


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