Monday, July 14, 2008

What Did You Do With that Cabbage?

I LOVE my CSA, but there are two vegetables that I always have trouble using. Beets and cabbage. Last week we got a cabbage in our CSA box (or maybe it was two weeks ago -- at least they keep well) and I still have about 1/3 of it left. We don't like regular cole slaw or sauerkraut in our family, so I sent out a request for suggestions to our yahoo group (send an e-mail to to subscribe). I suspect if I lived in Massachusetts, where I grew up, the bulk of responses would be different. And most people would say, "Boiled Dinner." They didn't say that here (which is great, because I don't like it), but a lot of people recommended a sort of polish/ hungarian/ slovakian/ Pittsburgh twist on cabbage -- that is cabbage fried in butter or oil and onions and blended with egg noodles. Here is what Barbara recommended in that vein:

Fry one or two heads of cabbage in a generous amount of butter (onestick? maybe more?). We use our wok. Stir frequently and cook downuntil the cabbage is very soft, brown and sweet. Add noodles, salt,and enjoy! Egg noodles are good, or sometimes my husband'sgrandmother makes her own dumplings, as in this recipe:

Of course, there are cabbage rolls. Here is Kathryn's dad's recipe for these -- called pigs in blankets:

2lb hamburger (cooked)
2 eggs (you can also use applesauce which makes it sweeter)
1 cup rice (cooked)
1 cup saurkraut (not for me, thanks)
8 oz tomato sauce
8 oz diced tomatoes (sometimes I use spiced ones)
1/2 onion ( i use flakes sometimes)

Mix these all together

1 head cabbage

Cut the center out of the cabbage and put into a pot of boiling water so the core hole is in the water -
Boil for 5- 7 minutes depending on how large the cabbage is.
Layer or wrap the meat mixure in the leaves and place in a crock pot or pressure cooker.
If you wrap it, slice the big leaves down a little so they are not so thick.

after you layer the mixture or wrap all the pigs. cook for at 300 for 2 1/2 hours. I usually like to cook it alittle more by at least a 1/2 hour, it helps soften the cabbage even more.

Then there are the variations on cole slaw, i.e. cabbage salad.

Here is Jesse Sharrad (aka Corduroy Orange)'s advice for that:

As far as regular cole slaw goes, i've got some hints for making it a bit more interesting. I tend to use a mix of 1/3 cabbage, 1/3 carrots, and 1/3 turnips. the other veggies add a bit of variety to the flavors. The last batch i made, i crumbled blue cheese into, and definitely enjoyed that. I never use "cole slaw dressing" out of a jar--it just winds up tasting like it came out of a jar. While I often use mayo, I don't always--sometimes, I'll just use a vinaigrette (balsamic is nice). Even when using mayo, I add plenty of citrus--lime or lemon juice adds a pleasant touch. And what really makes the cole slaw worth eating is a big old heap of pulled pork underneath it, inside of a toasted hamburger bun.

I have to say, though, that my favorite cabbage bent is the American version of Asian way. I grew up eating cabbage in stir fry -- with celery, carrots, peas, broccoli, onions (and I'd add garlic though my mother can't) with soy sauce and ginger over rice (sorry, the last 3 ingredients are not local). There's also Asian Slaw, which is basically the same thing, but raw. Here's a recipe for that.

Combine 3 cups shredded cabbage, 1 cup snow peas, 1/2 cup shredded carrots, 3 tablespoons onions

Combine (with wisk, or shake): 1 1/2 tablespoons rice vinegar, 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 teaspoon sesame oil, 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger, 1 teaspoon sugar, 1/8 tsp. pepper

Pour over cabbage mixture and toss to coat.

Hope this has helped you find a way to use and enjoy your cabbage too!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Free Range Chicken

A chicken in every pot, right? Americans love their chicken these days. I admit, I used to be one of them. Then I learned a little more about how chickens are raised these days. CAFOs -- concentrated animal feeding operations -- are how most Americans get their meat -- be it pork, beef, chicken or turkey. You can read a little more about the myriad of ways these are bad for the surrounding generally poor, rural populations from the ammonia emmissions that are a threat to public health to the noxious smell, fecal coloform levels in streams, run-off, dust, etc., etc. Then think about eating these birds who never see the light of day, who are packed 25,000 under one roof, and whose feed is contaminated with arsenic, ammonia and other chemicals. And don't get me started on antibiotics and bio nutrients.

If you still want to eat chicken, you may want to support one of our local growers of PASTURED chickens instead. These are chickens that are raised eating grass and bugs and other things real, natural chickens eat. And they taste a little different, too. During the summer months you can purchase fresh or frozen chickens for about $2.90 a pound from Steve Misera at the Strip District Farmers at the Firehouse Market market the 4th Saturday of each month. Spend a bit more a pound to have them cut into parts. West Liberty Farms is another fine producer of grass-raised chickens. They were at the Strip Districts' Farmer's Market last week for a slightly higher charge. Joe Rush, mentioned in an earlier blog, sells pastured chickens also. He delivers these (among other things) all over Pittsburgh every other week.

I recently bought 4 fresh chickens from Steve Misera. The neat thing about buying them fresh, is you can part them in a way that is convenient for you and then freeze them so that they are ready when you need them instead of having to roast a whole chicken every time. My good friend Angela was kind enought to show me how to dissect the chickens.

I will do my best to describe our method. Here's what we used: a very sharp "chef's" knife -- I think it is 7" long, a sharp pairing knife, and something I didn't have, but which is crucial to the process -- kitchen scissors, or, in Angela's case, carpet shears. We also had several plastic cutting boards and glass casseroles to put in the parts as they were parted. Ziploc bags were at the ready, too.

Create a trash pile and a stock pile (oh, that phrase really makes sense in this case!) that you will use to make stock/ broth. First, cut off the neck and the excess skin. Neck to stock, skin to trash. Then, cut out the back bone by using scissors or a chef's knife to cut both sides of it. Then, turn the chicken over and hold it up by it's leg (the thigh part). Let the weight of it separate the thigh from the body and find the joint and cut that. Do the same for the other leg. The wings hold on a little stronger, but the same can be done for them. Then you can split the breast right down the middle. After that, you can skin and de-bone the breasts and store them away. Or leave them with skin and bone. Whatever you prefer. I would not recommend deboning the thighs and wings. Way too much of a pain.

So, I saved the wings separately and used a recipe from the Pittsburgh Post Gazette's food section. I tried the Asian Mahogany Wings. The recipe was quite easy to make and the sauce was very, very tasty. I wish the skin had gotten more crispy - perhaps I basted too much. I would definitely make them again, though, and you should, too. But not with CAFO chickens.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Make Hay While the Broccoli Shines

One of the things about living in Pennsylvania as opposed to some place like Florida or California is that for several months of the year, nothing much edible grows. So, if you want to eat local in January, February, March or April (and even May), you need to preserve the Summer and Fall harvest.

There are different ways to store different fruits and vegetables. One good way for a number of things is to freeze them. And a good way to get these things is to buy in bulk from a helpful, local farmer.

So, I asked Farmer Art King of Harvest Valley Farms about some things my family likes which I am hoping to preserve for the winter that seem to be in season right now: peas, broccoli and green beans. He told me that he can sell at retail all the peas he can harvest because they are so time consuming to pick. Hmm. Bummer. But he did offer to sell me a great big crate of broccoli.

After making an arrangement in advance, I picked up this crate at the East Liberty Farmer's Market for $15.00. It actually was more full -- by the time I took the picture, I had already sliced up several broccoli heads. I used the book The Busy Person's Guide to Preserving Food by Janet Chadwick which I find very helpful.

1. That same day after I bought the broccoli (i.e. ASAP), I chopped up the broccoli into smaller pieces and let them

2. soak in a sink full of salted water for thirty minutes.

3. While the broccoli was soaking, I filled a big canner with water and heated it up to a boil.

4. After thirty minutes and the water was boiling, I placed one pound of the broccoli in the boiling water, returned it to a boil and cooked it for 5 minutes.

5. I then removed the broccoli to a sink filled with ice water to stop the cooking process and let it hang out there for 5 minutes.

6. Next, I put the broccoli onto some towels to dry.

7. After the broccoli was dry, I placed it on wax paper-covered trays or cookie sheets and put those into the freezer.

8. After about 24 hours, I removed the broccoli from the cookie sheets and placed it into labeled and dated plastic ziploc bags.

Now we have broccoli for the rest of the year!

Friday, July 4, 2008


Last fall, I wrote a post about how actual food growing from a tree in my neighborhood was too good to be true and could never happen. Well, guess what? Actual food does grow in my neighborhood on a tree. It happens to be in my neighbor's yard, but that seems like a start. They invited us over to pick mulberries, which are ripening all around us right now. I've never had them before, but Chris assured me that they are edible. I'm not sure what variety they are -- they look like Morus Nigra, "Black Mulberry."

He said they taste just like water at times like this, after it rains, but after the sun has been on them for a while and dries them out, they taste more sweet and berry-like. They are ready to be picked when they fall right into your hand as you pick them. I think a good picking strategy might be to put a clean tarp beneath the tree and shake it. Lots of them were up way too high for us to reach, but plenty grew on the branches that trailed all the way to the ground.

They are best when eaten right away -- they don't really keep in the refrigerator. But, they can be used to make jam or jelly, or in a berry "crisp" or pie.

The really good news is, Chris and Pam say that there are some mulberry trees growing in Frick Park. They said continue along the path past Blue Slide Park and they are along the left. I've never noticed them before, but hope to get over there tomorrow to check it out.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Berries, Berries and More Berries

If you are lucky enough to have brambles in your yard, you are probably aware that raspberry and black raspberry season is upon us. It seems to me like growing raspberries is the way to go. They grow very easily (too easily? they might takeover if you're not careful, I've heard), they are super, super expensive to buy (over $5.00 a pint is the average I've been quoted) and are so delicious in a variety of uses. That's my plan for next year, anyway.

For this year, I decided to try to pick some raspberries. I called around -- Kaelin's, Soergel's, Triple B's all had raspberries in their farm stores. Simmons' had some from another farm. Soergel's were not open for U-Pick yet, but check back later. Trax was $5.00 a pint. Triple B was $5.99, I believe. Kaelin's and Soergel's were somewhere in the middle. Reilly's Summer Seat Farm was open for pick it yourself at $4.00 a pint. I decided to go there and brave the thorns. I was the only one there and there were tons and tons of black raspberries. I filled up my peck container, but had to move everything into pint boxes in order to pay for them. I heard, after all that work, that Harvest Valley Farms is selling black raspberries for $4.00 a pint.

Reilly's also had lots and lots of blueberries just starting to be ready. It was a little difficult to pick them, though, because each bush is under a net. Last year I picked at Soergel's and Trax (who said theirs will be ready on Tuesday) and it was easier because the net was built onto a structure covering the entire blueberry area.

Blueberries are much easier to pick -- no thorns. Also, unlike strawberries, they grow at about kid arm-reach level. I recommend you take your whole family. I will be doing so sometime in the next couple of weeks.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Strawberry Ice Cream

Some wonderful strawberries are still available from farmers all around the city. We had some fantastic ones from Harvest Valley Farms and from the Oakland Farmer's Market (from the Dillner Family Farm). I (with a little help from my family) ate all of those strawberries just as they were.
I had a bunch of strawberries in my freezer dieing to be put to good use though, so I figured out a way to make ice cream with no eggs.

For those of you following the exciting saga at home, I had tried (and succeeded) earlier this year to make peach ice cream. Just about every recipe I found called for using eggs. So, I did. Although the ice cream set nicely and several people actually ate it -- it wasn't terrible, I decided I would try to make ice cream without eggs the next time to see if I liked it better.

Funnily enough, I found the instuctions for my ice cream maker wedged into the pages of another cookbook with a nice folded page of a magazine inside. That page contained a recipe for peach ice cream. With no eggs! I had it all along of course. So, I subsituted strawberries and came out with a delicious product.

No Egg Strawberry Ice Cream

2 pounds strawberries (mine were frozen, so I let them somewhat thaw, but not all the way)
3/4 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Place strawberries in a bowl and roughly mash by hand using a potato masher. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup of the sugar, salt and lemon juice and let sit for 30 minutes.
2. While strawberries macerate, put cream and remaining sugar in saucepan with vanilla. Heat over medium-low heat, stirring frequently to keep from scorching, until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and cool.
3. Pour cream over strawberries and mix thoroughly. Taste to see if it needs more sugar. (This will depend on the strawberries). Refrigerate until chilled.
4. Pour the mixture into an ice cream machine and freeze according to the manufacturer's instructions until set but not quite hard. Pack the ice cream into a bowl or mold and place in the freezer until hardened.
Yield: About 1 1/2 pints, 3 to 4 servings.

It came out to be absolutely delicious. Even my daughter who never eats food remotely connected with the natural world ate a few bowls of it.

More frozen strawberries became strawberry jam. Raspberries are coming up next!