Friday, June 10, 2011

Tale of Two Markets

A look at two uniquely different Farmer's Markets, the historic Reading terminal market in Philadelphia which is open year round, famous for its comfort food, and Amish/Mennoite sensibilities in the center of a fast paced city and the quaint Rutgers Gardens Farmer Market, New Brunswick, NJ, dedicated to selling quality seasonal produce and has the feel of a Renaissance Faire at first look but quickly reveals several "must visit" merchants that puts this little Farmer's Market at the top of anyone's list.   

(L) Rutgers, Reading Terminal Market


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Sugar Snap Peas- another sweet spring treat

                                                          Sugar   Snap    Peas

Sugar Snap Pea    c Michael Plunkett 20111

Another spring offering  - the 'eat 'em raw', sugar snap pea. You can't stroll a farmer's market without being offered a 'snap to munch on.  Sugar snaps, an edible-podded pea, has a less fibrous pod, unlike the snow peas, so they are good to munch right out of the quart basket or from a bag in front of a summer blockbuster, much better than $$popcorn$$.

Planted early, even with a little frost, then picked young and sweet. Great on salads or stir fried. Steamed but never boiled. Grabbing one end and eating it raw might just be the best way. Or as the French call them  'mangetout' as in "eat all"   and they are not called "sugar" for nothing.  Now in season in New Jersey and surrounding states.

Sugar snap peas  c Michael Plunkett  20111

Having a high sugar count, a cup of these will contain a little more than 16g carbs and 6g of fiber, so you low low carb-ers take note.  Sugar snaps do have a very satisfying crunchy mouth feel to them which is tough to match. Being high in Vitamin K is a nice plus, so enjoy them.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Well-Raised Meat- a book review

Butcher's Guide to Well-Raised Meat  by Joshua and Jessica Applestone with Alexandra Zissu

In book stores June 7th

There have been several good books about meat published in the last few years, and all by women, Deborah Krasner's “Good Meat” and Marissa Guggiana's “Primal Cuts.” Both books deal with the choice of using sustainable grass -fed meat, and followed on the heels of Jennifer McLagan's milestone book “Fat, an appreciation of a misunderstood Ingredient.”  Thank you ladies for taking the bull by the horns. Together these three books, each in their own way, support a better way to produce meat and begin to try and correct a deeply ingrained vilified and disparaged food source and what it represents in a recipe, and on the plate as part of a truly healthy diet.  A properly raised, humanly slaughtered, correctly butchered animal presented to an cook who will dignify all the labor that brought it to his or her kitchen is what sustainable animal husbandry and farming is about.

 Slaughter?  Butcher? ......Oh my ! 

At work, head butcher, Bryan Mayer.
 This is where Joshua and Jessica Applestone begin their book, "The Butcher's Guide to Well-Raised Meat." When was the last time you saw a butcher? Do you even know a Butcher? Well, probably not.  Once, ever town at had at least one butcher shop where buying meat and catching up local gossip, as the butcher remembers the exact way you like your chops tirmed,  it was a way of life and everyone was treated as part like family. I worked in such a shop when I was in high school.  The supermarket guys in their white lab coats are not butchers, since everything comes pre- packaged and boneless. Slice, remove, display, repeat.  Butchers are a dying breed, so even when Joshua and Jessica wanted to open a butcher shop, in Brooklyn, New York, , that wasn’t the weird part. And if coming from a long line of family butchers and using an old family name, ‘Fleisher’ (yes- it means butcher) and opening a shop against everyone's advice, wasn’t weird enough. Joshua and Jessica are (were) Vegetarians.

Grass fed Flat iron steak

It was important to Jessica that when she ate “Bacon,” that gateway meat vegetarians latch on to, that is was from a humanly, well –raised, truly respected animal.  But sustainable farming of organic, grass fed meat was only found on the internet, NOT local and shipped frozen.  And having to buy a whole steer for a steak was not ideal.  There had to be a better way. A local butcher shop- something the neighborhood hasn’t seen in generations, with butchers revitalizing a noble trade, albeit a lost skill, was the way to she could create change on a large scale, not only to a neighborhood but to a whole industry.
Jessica’s dream of owning a butcher shop came true, Fleisher’s she likes to say is the “Cheers” of butcher shops.

The Butcher’s Guide to Well-Raised Meat is a guide for the consumer as to how to buy, cut and cook beef, pork, lamb and poultry. BGtWRM is a charming memoir, and reference book that is practical, honest and hard hitting.
“…livestock, like McMansions, are the most environmentally friendly things going. They require a lot of water, food and land….but most Americans aren’t going to stop eating meat entirely….modified soy crops isn’t hugely eco, either… ways to reduce that impact is to avoid conventional meat and second is to eat locally and only whole, not processed, foods.”
It is the manifesto of the Nose-to Tail sustainable meat movement, a book written for the public, and not for a group of elitist foodies to debate its pros and cons of raising livestock on grass or corn. As the title reads, it is about WELL-RAISED, not merely grass fed.  This is where and how the industrial, factory farms of the conventional meat industry went wrong, by not being well raised. Factory farming of animals is obsence, they stole the outdoors from the animals, first chickens, then hogs, feedlots for steers confine them to be fattened on corn before trucked away for slaughter. These factories breed sickness which developed the need for antibiotics, which bred superbugs in its defense which effects all of us- animal, worker, consumer. The remedy is quite simply, lets go back a few generations, and allow our livestrock to be raised in open air, grazing and standing on real grass, green from the sun, not inside a feedlot standing in its manure eating a fed that makes it sick.  Why?   well besides profit, maybe the consumer needs to be educated, too.

"Only in modern times do we expect to eat meat three times a day and consider a 20 ounce steak to be an individual portion."   Spoken like a former vegetarian, huh?   And he is correct.

Read BGtWRM, I like that it is a proper size book, similiar in size of a text book, not a over size, heavy, glossy table top book which won't be opened more than twice (and as a photographer, believe me- I want to do those big books).  Lots of information even a vegetarian would respect like why veal even exists and how it doesn't have to be the way we hear it is.
Naturally it includes some fine recipes and secret rubs for you to use. The book covers just about everything you need to know about sustainable meats and a much needed chapter on how to read labels. What the labels claim is not even close except under the law.

And the best way to cook bacon..... in a oven-  go figure, my cast iron skillet is in tears.

As Joshua and Jessica say: 

 " We never forget that animals die for our business and your dinner."

Don't you!

I give it a 10.

I would like to thank Crown publishing a divison of Random House for supplying me with an advance copy of the book. Next stop- Fleisher's.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Strawberry Fields shouldn't be forever


Strawberries- A June thing in Jersey

Strawberries were once a highly anticipated fruit, but now the season is 11 months long, and it is not all for the better. These big agriculture strawberries are not grown for flavor but to withstand a journey across the United States from the West coast and to look pretty in the supermarket until bought.  Because of this, strawberries are ranked third in the famed 'dirty dozen' fruits and vegetables for pesticides, fungicides and other chemicals which help them withstand its time on a truck.  Even a locally grown and pick strawberry will have its share of pesticides, so wash them well - but not until you are ready to eat them.
Strawberries are another spring gift, it is hard to image something so sweet can be enjoy this early in the year. Don't miss out. 

Strawberries are irrefutably, without question the Fruit of Love. Heart shaped in form, sweet to the taste and lusciously red in color to the eye. Can they be anymore the silent voice of love;they aren't oysters but way nicer to share and dip in chocolate.  Floating in a glass of champagne, and delivered with a kiss, strawberries will never need a date on a calendar with a Hallmark card and a pretty box of chocolates to reveal one's feelings ( Well, chocolates? Sure lets do it).  June, with all its strawberries, is the month for Lovers - not a single day in February. 

Just picked Jersey Strawberry in some Valley Sheppard Sheep Yogurt
The good news is that the local season has arrived in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. You will not be able to avoid the numerous "strawberry festivals" at least until the blueberry festivals take their place next month.  Best eaten from the stem; mixed in a yogurt; wrapped in a crepe or mashed into a sauce over ice cream.   Great with creamy cheeses like my beloved goat Chevre or a nice Brie.
 The local strawberry is still a very much an anticipated season for many of us familiar with the taste.

Strawberries Fields forever?  Okay, but once a year if you want the best. 

side note------>  As a diabetic, I eat strawberries in the evening when my mitochondria is stoked.  

Chilled Strawberry Champagne Soup

About one quart of fresh strawberries – washed and hulled
1/3 of a cup of sugar (I hate sugar but it is still the only sweetener to cook with)
2 ounces of orange juice
about 2 ounces of dry champagne for each bowl (brute if you prefer) don’t open until ready to serve- then serve the remaining bottle in glasses to quest(s)

options for toppings:

A fine creamy rich ice cream, say chocolate- a small dollop in the center of if melted- “script” the surface with a nice swirl.  But don’t let the chocolate over power.

(not the soup)

A Greek style yogurt with orange zest. 

In a blender, puree the strawberries, sugar and orange juice. Add a single ice cube if your blender can handle it ( OJ ice cubes would be very cool but that’s planning ahead)
Transfer into a large bowl and let chill for a few hours in the refrigerator or about 20 mins in the freezer- DO NOT FREEZE.
Pour into a bowl with about 2 oz of the champagne you just popped.
Add the topping if any.  

Above all else- enjoy your quests.


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Mollet - the perfect soft yolked egg

gooey, succulent rich orange healthy yolks

Everyone claims to have the secret to cooking the perfect egg.  Working years to perfect their eggy-weggs into nirvana perfection. Let me set the record straight- this took only 6 minutes before I recognized NIRVANA- So if you may, let me introduce to you the creamy rich orange yolk of the 6 minute Mollet. 
Hard boil eggs have soild yolks and soild whites, boil them too long and you have rubbery whites. Soft boiled eggs have runny yolks and runny whites. Mollets, have soild whites and thick rich creamy deep orange yolks from pastured eggs, of course, from hens that roam and fed under the sky, eat bugs and cluck happily in the sunlight.  

 Three eggs warmed to room temperature – a warm bowl of water for a few mins will take the chill of them.  (keeps them from cracking in the water- and if they do- no big deal the inside is still near perfect.)
Do you see the "Duck"?

 Salt a pot of water then boil it to a nice roll.
Set eggs in water with a wooden spoon or tong.
Reduce heat to medium without losing much of the boil
Time eggs for 6 minutes. Pull early not late for the drain.
Drain water and rattle the eggs in the pot to gently crack the shells,
add cold water, drain  add cold water and a handful of ice.

The crack in the shells will allow the cold water to seep between the shell and the membrane to facilitate easy peeling of the egg. Old eggs (supermarket) peel easy. Farm fresh eggs do not. The slight crack makes all the difference in the world

Let chill for 2 to 3 minutes, then peel and serve, so they are still warm.  Add salt, a friend and you are set. Where’s that avocado?