Thursday, November 29, 2007

Winter CSA

Kretschmann farm has a winter CSA! Hooray! Contact them quickly if you want to be a part of it. Here's what they say about it:

"We are planning a “winter” veggie delivery for next week, Dec. 5 and Dec.6. This is different than the summer boxes in that you may opt in or out of the box each month.
We’ll have dropoffs on Wednesday in Highland Park, Bloomfield/Friendship, the East End, Churchill, Squirrel Hill, and Beechwood Nature Ctr/Fox Chapel. Thursday we’ll have boxes to Wexford, Northside, Mt. Lebanon, Sewickley, and at the farm. The pickup day and place will likely be different from your normal one. We will drop off by 2:30 and ask that you pick up by 7:00.

Here’s a list of what we plan to have in the box:
A bag spinach or mesclun salad greens, 5# Fuji apples, 5# potatoes, 2#beets, 3# carrots, 2# turnips, 1 cabbage(green), mixed herbs (rosemary, sage, thyme), 2 large onions, Lg bunch kale, 1 head radicchio, 2 large butternut squash. The cost is $45. If anything changes, we’ll increase other items or figure a reduced price. These are larger amounts of many items than your usual in-season box. Most everything except the greens should store well even without refrigeration for quite a time.
In addition to the mixed veggie box we can have as an addition or as the only item(s) ½ bu Fuji or York apples @$20, ½ bu. red, white, or yellow potatoes @ $20, and bu. butternut squash @$20. We’ve also got goat’s milk cheese available—mild white cheddar, farmers, or sharp yellow cheddar @ $9/lb--and coffee from Building New Hope—regular ground & whole bean @$9./lb. and decaf ground @$11./lb.
We still will plan a delivery for the week of 12/19. You can get a box both times if you would like (though the dropoff spots are sometimes a problem). We’ll contact you later. "

If you are interested, fill out the form on their website and drop an e-mail or a call. Do it soon before they're gone.
(724) 452-7189

Monday, November 19, 2007

Last East Liberty Farmers' Market Today!!!

I got this list just now from Art King at Harvest Valley Farms. If you are hosting Thanksgiving or bringing a dish, make it a better one. A local one! If not, stock up for some farm marketless days ahead. Most of this stuff will keep very well.

Here's what he has:
Spring Mix
Acorn Squash
Butternut Squash
Spaghetti Squash
Buttercup Squash
Blue Pie Pumpkins
New Red Potatoes
Yukon Gold Potatoes
Brussel Sprouts
Pennsylvania simply Swt Onions
Mustard Greens
Diakon Radish
Turnip Greens
Fuji Apples
Yellow Delicious Apples
Stamen Apples
Sweet Potatoes
Green onions
Green Peppers

In other words, combined with a local turkey, everything you need for a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner.

The market is 3:00 - 7:00 today. From Squirrel Hill or Shady Side, get there by taking Highland Avenue north, past Centre and Penn Avenue. Then, at the light at Penn Circle, take a left (it's one way). Park immediately on your left. You can't miss it.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Turkey Day

I will be away this Thanksgiving (at my in-law's in-law's) and will have no control over our meal. If you do have some control, make sure you think twice about that broad-breasted white.

Here's a story I heard on NPR yesterday on my way to the Farmers@Firehouse market. which explains that 99% of our turkeys are ONE breed. A breed that cannot reproduce by itself. A breed that cannot fly and usually cannot even stand up because of its giant breast. If you don't care about the turkey, think about the fact that all of today's millions of turkeys come from about two hundred parents and live on three CAFOs and think of the genetic nightmare that potentially poses. If you want to read a very interesting and amusing story about trying to raise turkeys on a farm, check out Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle chapter "Hungry Month" pages 316-331.

I'm not sure if you can still get heritage, free-range turkeys here in PA (I mean this close to Thanksgiving). Here are some places to check (compiled, of course, by Marlene Parrish):

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Roast Chicken

I don't know about you, but ever since "they" invented the skinless, boneless chicken breast in a convenient 1 1/2 # styrofoam package, that's how I have made chicken. And I had been very happy with cooking chicken in this fashion. I didn't really know any other way. Then Michael Pollan disillusioned me in The Omnivore's Dilemma and I just can't bring myself to buy that kind of chicken anymore. So, I can buy skinless, boneless free-range chicken at the East End Coop for $10.00 a pound, or I can cook an actual chicken. Many of the local farmers sell free-range, pastured whole chickens.

I'll admit I was very intimidated at first. Luckily my sister Andrea was in town when I bought my first whole chicken from the folks at Circle B Farms (who used to be at the Farmers@ Firehouse market before they were kicked out.) I had one of those frozen in the freezer, so I thawed it out (starting yesterday morning -- it takes a long time to thaw, FYI) and we cooked it the way Andrea taught me. Here it is. . .

First take out the stuff inside and do with it what you please (I throw it out). Wash that guy inside and out. Rub the whole thing down with olive oil -- even under the skin that is loose. Sprinkle all over with kosher salt, fresh-ground pepper, poultry seasoning, paprika and whatever else your heart desires.

Then cook in a roasting pan if you have one (I don't) at 500 for 15 minutes on each side to brown it and then 350 for 30-40minutes until done.

That's the real secret about cooking a whole chicken. It is super easy! In fact, my husband can even do it. And he did today (thanks, Todd).

After you eat all you wish, clean all the remaining meat off that guy (and I say that because you can really see how it resembles the animal it was (is?)) and save it for a myriad of uses.

Then comes the really great part. Broth. Put whatever is left of the carcass in a stock pot (that's why they're called that! who knew!), cover it with water, and add the following cut into large chunks: celery (if you can find it :) ), carrots, 1/2 an onion, a couple of cloves of garlic. I also add whatever herbs I have growing -- right now parsley, rosemary, thyme and oregano. Also some whole peppercorns. After I cook it for a really long time covered on very low heat (you know, like until you want to go to bed), I strain it through a sieve into tupperware containers holding between two and four cups -- leaving extra space for expansion -- and freeze it. Then you can use it in all those great winter soups. I take off the fat after it is frozen before I use it. It is easy to scrape off the top in that hardened state.

And Andrea, I apologize for using the registered trademark "tupperware." I didn't know the generic term.

Friday, November 16, 2007


This Saturday will be the last market at the Farmers at the Firehouse market in the strip district. It is at 2216 Penn Avenue, between 22nd and 23rd Streets, I believe. It starts at 9:30. Get there early to get the best stuff.

From the Slow Food website, here is a list of market highlights:

"Fill the winter larder with power proteins:
Patrick Weakland's 100% grass-fed beef.
Dave and Karen Heilman's pork.
Pam Bryan's Puckerbrush Farm lamb, also dyed wool and knitted items.
Zillion squashes, DO try the Red Kuri, a tasty, dense-fleshed Hubbard type, in Thanksgiving pie.
Fingerling potatoes.
Lettuce, spicy greens, braising greens.
Three colors of kale: Red Russian, Winterbor, Lacinato.
Broccoli, cauliflower, radishes, turnips.
Lebanese delights, savory and sweet. Old-world breads, pastries
Guest vendor: Pioneer Farm: Matt Carroll will be selling FRESH pastured turkeys. Sizes range from low teens to low twenties. Price $3 lb. They will need to be frozen, so plan your freezer space accordingly.
Harmony Hill Farm: Patrick Weakland's 100% grass-fed beef from short, stout and efficient Lowline Angus cows. We've heard raves from customers who bought earlier this fall.
Misera’s Organic Farm – Steve’s organically-raised chickens and eggs.
Rose Ridge Farm – Deanna will have a very limited amount of organically-raised beef. "

Back to me again. . .
You can also look here:

The Turkey vender (Matt Carroll) told me last week that he will also have ground turkey this week, though it's not mentioned officially. He said those turkeys just kept on growing. . . Most of the other meat vendors sold their products through the laptop butchershop and you had to have placed your orders already, so make sure you get there early to pick up any extra supplies they may have brought if you did not already order. There is a beef vendor who will be there, though, who was not offered through the laptop butchershop.

In addition to ground turkey, eggs, and maybe some beef, I will be picking up some squashes and pumpkins. This butternut bisque does not require any celery! From Simply in Season

2 TBS Butter
1medium onion chopped
1 Cup Carrots diced
Melt Butter in a large saucepan. Add onion and carrots and saute over medium-low heat for 5 minutes.
3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
Add, cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
2 cups winter squash
1/2 cup plain yogurt (I used heavy cream)
1 cup evaporated milk or additional plain yogurt (here I used the yogurt)
2 TBS maple syrup
Add and blend/ puree until smooth (Skip this step if a chunky soup is preferred). Season to taste with salt, pepper, garlic and onion powder. Garnish with sour cream or plain yogurt.

I sauteed some mushrooms and threw those into a well-blended soup (I used my handy-dandy immersion blender). I garnished with a dollop of pear sauce. It came out superbly excellent. Fantastic for a night preceding a snowy day.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Seeking Celery

Finally. The weather is matching the food that is available and I was so excited to make and eat some soup using delicious Western Pennsylvania produce. I noticed, though, that all of the recipes that looked good to me included celery as an ingredient. I had been wondering when I would see celery at the Farmer's Market or in our CSA and now that the CSA is over and we have only one market left, I am still wondering about that celery.

I do recall in Rick Sebak's presentation about markets that there is a celery only farm that sells at the Lancaster's Central Market called Hodecker's Celery Farm. But that is a bit far to go and I don't see their celery available here. It turns out celery is a very finicky vegetable to grow requiring lots and lots of moisture.

One farmer told me that he tried it, but thought it did better in swampy places like Florida. Mildred's Daughters Urban Farm does grow it, but they only sell their produce to their CSA and their celery is done now anyway. Bluebird Organic Farm (at the East Liberty Farmer's Market) sells it, but honestly, it was too floppy for me to be interested. I mean, I don't mind if it's a different color, but celery has to be cruncy. Right? So, I bought some organic celery at the East End Co-Op and made this delicious soup with lots of other Western PA products.

Potato, Leek, and Chicken Chowder
2 TBS butter
1 Cup Leeks

Melt butter in large saucepan. Add leeks, Saute until tender.

3 Cups peeled potatoes
2.5 Cups chicken broth
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/2 Cup celery with leaves, chopped
3/4 Cup carrots, diced
1/4 tsp. dried Marjoram
1/4 tsp. paprika

Add, cover and cook until vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes. Puree somewhat with an immersion blender (or remove some to a blender to puree).

1.5 Cups chopped, cooked chicken

Add to soup.

1 3/4 Cup milk
1/4 C Heavy Cream
3 Tablespoons flour
Mix together until smooth. Add to soup and cook until thickened, stirring constantly. Garnish with chopped parsley.

Deeee-licious. This recipe comes from Simply in Season with a few variations.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Farm Bill Redux

Forgive me for reproducing in its entirety an article by Michael Pollen (my hero) who is summarizing the Farm Bill right now. I thought if I just posted the link, you might skip reading it. Call your senators! Tell them to support the changes proposed by Senator Richard Lugar, Republican of Indiana, and Senator Frank Lautenberg, Democrat of New Jersey. Thanks, Steve, for calling this to my attention.

Arlen Spector: 202-224-4254
Bob Casey: 202-224-6324

Published on Sunday, November 4, 2007 by The New York Times

Weed It and Reap
by Michael Pollan

For Americans who have been looking to Congress to reform the food system, these past few weeks have been, well, the best of times and the worst of times. A new politics has sprouted up around the farm bill, traditionally a parochial piece of legislation thrashed out in private between the various agricultural interests (wheat growers versus corn growers; meatpackers versus ranchers) without a whole lot of input or attention from mere eaters.

Not this year. The eaters have spoken, much to the consternation of farm-state legislators who have fought hard - and at least so far with success - to preserve the status quo.

Americans have begun to ask why the farm bill is subsidizing high-fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oils at a time when rates of diabetes and obesity among children are soaring, or why the farm bill is underwriting factory farming (with subsidized grain) when feedlot wastes are polluting the countryside and, all too often, the meat supply. For the first time, the public health community has raised its voice in support of overturning farm policies that subsidize precisely the wrong kind of calories (added fat and added sugar), helping to make Twinkies cheaper than carrots and Coca-Cola competitive with water. Also for the first time, the international development community has weighed in on the debate, arguing that subsidized American exports are hobbling cotton farmers in Nigeria and corn farmers in Mexico.
On Capitol Hill, hearings on the farm bill have been packed, and newspapers like The San Francisco Chronicle are covering the legislation as closely as The Des Moines Register, bringing an unprecedented level of attention to what has long been one of the most obscure and least sexy pieces of legislation in Congress. Sensing the winds of reform at his back, Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa, chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, told a reporter in July: “This is not just a farm bill. It’s a food bill, and Americans who eat want a stake in it.”
Right now, that stake is looking more like a toothpick. Americans who eat have little to celebrate in the bill that Mr. Harkin is expected to bring to the floor this week. Like the House bill passed in July, the Senate product is very much a farm bill in the tradition- al let-them-eat-high-fructose-corn-syrup mold.
For starters, the Old Guard on both agriculture committees has managed to preserve the entire hoary contraption of direct payments, countercyclical payments and loan deficiency payments that subsidize the five big commodity crops - corn, wheat, rice, soybeans and cotton - to the tune of $42 billion over five years.

The Old Guard has also managed to add a $5 billion “permanent disaster” program (excuse me, but isn’t a permanent disaster a contradiction in terms?) to help farmers in the High Plains struggling to grow crops in a drought-prone region that, as the chronic need for disaster aid suggests, might not be the best place to grow crops.

When you consider that farm income is at record levels (thanks to the ethanol boom, itself fueled by another set of federal subsidies); that the World Trade Organization has ruled that several of these subsidies are illegal; that the federal government is broke and the president is threatening a veto, bringing forth a $288 billion farm bill that guarantees billions in payments to commodity farmers seems impressively defiant.

How could this have happened? For starters, farm bill critics did a far better job demonizing subsidies, and depicting commodity farmers as welfare queens, than they did proposing alternative - and politically appealing - forms of farm support. And then the farm lobby did what it has always done: bought off its critics with “programs.” For that reason “Americans who eat” can expect some nutritious crumbs from the farm bill, just enough to ensure that reform-minded legislators will hold their noses and support it.

It’s an old story: the “hunger lobby” gets its food stamps so long as the farm lobby can have its subsidies. Similar, if less lavish, terms are now being offered to the public health and environmental “interests” to get them on board. That’s why there’s more money in this farm bill for nutrition programs and, for the first time, about $2 billion to support “specialty crops” - farm-bill-speak for the kind of food people actually eat. (Since California grows most of the nation’s specialty crops, this was the price for the state delegation’s support. Cheap indeed!)

There’s also money for the environment: an additional $4 billion in the Senate bill to protect wetlands and grasslands and reward farmers for environmental stewardship, and billions in the House bill for environmental cleanup. There’s an important provision in both bills that will make it easier for schools to buy food from local farmers. And there’s money to promote farmers’ markets and otherwise support the local food movement.

But as important as these programs are, they are just programs - mere fleas on the elephant in the room. The name of that elephant is the commodity title, the all-important subsidy section of the bill. It dictates the rules of the entire food system. As long as the commodity title remains untouched, the way we eat will remain unchanged.

The explanation for this is straightforward. We would not need all these nutrition programs if the commodity title didn’t do such a good job making junk food and fast food so ubiquitous and cheap. Food stamps are crucial, surely, but they will be spent on processed rather than real food as long as the commodity title makes calories of fat and sugar the best deal in the supermarket. We would not need all these conservation programs if the commodity title, by paying farmers by the bushel, didn’t encourage them to maximize production with agrochemicals and plant their farms with just one crop fence row to fence row.

And the government would not need to pay feedlots to clean up the water or upgrade their manure pits if subsidized grain didn’t make rearing animals on feedlots more economical than keeping them on farms. Why does the farm bill pay feedlots to install waste treatment systems rather than simply pay ranchers to keep their animals on grass, where the soil would be only too happy to treat their waste at no cost?

However many worthwhile programs get tacked onto the farm bill to buy off its critics, they won’t bring meaningful reform to the American food system until the subsidies are addressed - until the underlying rules of the food game are rewritten. This is a conversation that the Old Guard on the agriculture committees simply does not want to have, at least not with us.

But its defiance on the subsidy question may actually be a sign of weakness, for one detects a note of defensiveness creeping into the rhetoric. “I know people on the outside can sit and complain about this,” Representative Collin Peterson of Minnesota, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, told The San Francisco Chronicle last summer. “But frankly most of those people have no clue what they’re talking about. Most people in the city have no concept of what’s going on here.”

It seems more likely that, this time around, people in the city and all across the country know exactly what’s going on - they just don’t like it.
Mr. Peterson’s farm bill passed the House by the smallest margin in years, and might have been picked apart on the floor if Representative Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, hadn’t leapt to its defense.
(She claimed to be helping freshmen Democrats from rural districts.)

But Senate rules are different, and Mr. Harkin’s bill will be challenged on the floor and very possibly improved. One sensible amendment that Senator Byron Dorgan, Democrat of North Dakota, and Senator Chuck Grassley, Republican of Iowa, are expected to introduce would put a $250,000 cap on the payments any one farmer can receive in a year. This would free roughly $1 billion for other purposes (like food stamps and conservation) and slow the consolidation of farms in the Midwest.

A more radical alternative proposed by Senator Richard Lugar, Republican of Indiana, and Senator Frank Lautenberg, Democrat of New Jersey, would scrap the current subsidy system and replace it with a form of free government revenue insurance for all American farmers and ranchers, including the ones who grow actual food. Commodity farmers would receive a payment only when their income dropped more than 15 percent as the result of bad weather or price collapse. The $20 billion saved under this plan, called the Fresh Act, would go to conservation and nutrition programs, as well as to deficit reduction.

What finally emerges from Congress depends on exactly who is paying closest attention next week on the Senate floor and then later in the conference committee. We know the American Farm Bureau will be on the case, defending the commodity title on behalf of those who benefit from it most: the biggest commodity farmers, the corporations who sell them chemicals and equipment and, most of all, the buyers of cheap agricultural commodities - companies like Archer Daniels Midland, Cargill, Coca-Cola and McDonald’s.

In the past that alliance could have passed a farm bill like this one without breaking a sweat. But the politics of food have changed, and probably for good. If the eaters and all the other “people on the outside” make themselves heard, we just might end up with something that looks less like a farm bill and more like the food bill a poorly fed America so badly needs.

Michael Pollan, a contributing writer at The Times Magazine and a professor of journalism at the University of California at Berkeley, is the author of “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” and the forthcoming “In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto.”
Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company