Sunday, October 23, 2016

Apples to keep

The Esopus Spitzenberg apple
Ben Wenk and I spend nearly five minutes at this morning's Headhouse Square Farmers Market discussing apples and cider, and one variety in particular that he is selling for the first time this year, the Espopus Spitzenberg.

Ben, who brings his family's Three Springs Fruit Farm output in the Adams County, Pennsylvania, fruit belt, to markets here, in Maryland and the District of Columbus, was quick to note the apple was Thomas Jefferson's favorite.

It's one of mine, too, and not only because of its flavor and storage qualities. As I noted in a post five years ago, when I purchased the variety from North Star Orchards, the apple is named after the Esopus Creek in Ulster County, New York. I took many a dip in this icy-cold, rocky waterway in the northern Catskills during family vacations in the 1950s. The Espopus is a favored trout stream and also feeds into the New York City water supply through the nearby Ashokan Reservoir.

The apple offers great balance between sweet and tart, with a honey-colored, crisp and spicy flesh and a orange-dappled skin. The Espopus Spitzenberg's complex flavor is matched by its pleasant aromatic qualities, making it an excellent "dessert" apple, one that's meant to be eaten as is (though it's a good cooking apple, too). It's not an easy apple to grow, however, and prone to just about any disease that strikes other apples.

Like many late season apples, it 's a "keeper" which, like a fine wine, improves with age; the apple you put in the crisper today will be even deeper in favor come late January and February.

Ben had a full bin of another "keeper" today at Headhouse: the Arkansas Black. perhaps the hardest, crispest apple I've ever tasted. It might lose a bit of that crispness after a few months of storage, but it will still be suitably crunchy. As it stores it will even become darker in color, as well as develop a waxy finish. Unlike the Esopus, however, it's a rather one-dimensional apple in flavor: all sweetness, with little apparent tartness. Still, it's a tasty apple with admirable qualities. Although it's parentage is a mystery, the Arkansas Black is probably descended from the Winesap.

If Ben still has them next week I'll buy a big bag of Esopus Spitzenbergs for my crisper. But the "keeper" I'm waiting for is the Newtown Pippin, another variety that improves immeasurably after a few months in storage. North Star Orchards usually has them in November. As a rule, the later in the season an apple matures, the better it is as a storage apple. The Newtown Pippin will soften just a tad in storage and it's skin may wrinkle a bit, but it's fine eating.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Lamb shoulder: a bargain cut with plenty of flavor

Arm cut, with round bone, most fat along edge
Blade cut, with fat throughout, flat bones
In the more than 10 years since this blog started I've posted at least a dozen items about lamb. Here's another, this time focusing on one of the few remaining bargain cuts: shoulder.

Most of the time I go for shoulder chops, which could be purchased this past weekend at the Reading Terminal Market for $5.49 to $8.99 a pound, about half the price you'd pay for loin or rib (rack) chops.

Martin's Quality Meats & Sausages was the low-price leader, selling lamb from Catelli Brothers, a South Jersey processor and distributor which raises lamb on its own farms in Quebec and buys lamb from producers in the western U.S., Australia and New Zealand. La Divisa Meats sold at the highest price, using meat from Jamison Farm in Latrobe, a boutique producer of Pennsylvania lamb which also supplies top restaurants, including Blue Hill. Giunta's was in the middle, at $6.99, with Colorado lamb distributed by Marcho Farms of Souderton. (Over at the new Whole Foods, shoulder chops from Iceland sell for $7.99. Because it is leaner than most other lamb, it has a milder flavor; for me, that's a negative, but others find that appealing.)

As much as I enjoy a thick loin chop or lamb "lollipops" cut from the rib, the heartiest lamb flavor can be found in the shoulder chops.

The cut is less tender, which is one of the reasons why shoulder is less expensive than loin or rib. Just as in beef steaks, the more tender cuts command a higher price. But what the shoulder lacks in relative tenderness, it more than makes up in flavor. And even though shoulder isn't as tender as the other lamb cuts, it can still be rewarding when simply grilled; it may be a bit chewier than the other cuts, but it's not too tough for the high, dry heat.

Shoulder chops come in two different cuts: arm and blade. Arm chops, as you might expect, are cut from the part of the shoulder closest to the arm, hence the round bone you'll find in this style. The blade cut comes from closer to the neck and features -- guess what -- the shoulder blade bone.

In recipes they are fairly interchangeable. Although some think the arm chop is more suitable to braising than the blade, both can be broiled, grilled or pan-fried. The arm chop will have less fat overall as well as less marbling. The blade looks like a smaller version of the beef chuck blade steak and has more marbling. No matter the cooking method, shoulder needs to be cooked to at least medium, and also holds up to longer cooking -- though if you go beyond medium well you do risk shoe leather.

If you're braising them you can go with a thick cut, but when grilling, thinner is better; I like them cut no more than three-quarters of an inch.

When I stopped by Nick Macri's La Divisa Meats he only had large pieces of shoulder, not chops, but he was more than happy to cut to order.

Before grilling I bathed them in a yogurt marinade. Although the marinade has some ability to tenderize, it won't turn the chop into a tenderloin. Instead, I use the marinade for flavor.

For the two chops (which weighed in at a total of 14 ounces, just under a pound) I mixed about four ounces of full-fat plain yogurt (not Greek) with a couple tablespoons of olive oil, four cloves of minced and mashed garlic (adding a little kosher salt while scraping the cutting board with the back of your chefs knife turns minced garlic into a mash), the zest and juice of a small lemon, and whatever spices or herbs strike my fancy. This time it was cumin and cardamom -- two tablespoons each, ground. I placed the chops in a single layer in a non-reactive baking pan, salted and peppered them, then spread the marinade on both sides of the chops. I covered and refrigerated them for six hours, though you could certainly leave them overnight or cut the time down to four hours.

I didn't bother wiping off the marinade when it was time to hit the grill, I just placed them on the hot oiled grate over a medium fire and cooked about four-to-five minutes a side for medium.

I cooked up a mess of mustard greens with garlic as my side dish. A cold lager or your favorite red completes the meal.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The new Whole Foods: Glitz with your biodyamic organic probiotic grub

Coffee bar along Hamilton Street facade
The crowds were thick this weekend at the new Whole Foods just north of the Parkway. Which is why I waited until 7 a.m. Monday to visit.

I wound up spending the better part of 90 minutes sipping coffee and wandering its aisles, asking questions of the cheesemongers, fishmongers and meatmongers at this pantheon to conspicuous consumption of comestibles.

First, though, I need a caffein jolt, so after arriving I ordered a coffee and "Krough-Amann" from the coffee bar's small collection of pastry and bagels. This offspring of the cronut came in two varieties: one with ham, swiss cheese and topped with confectioners sugar and, the one I selected, filled with a little bit of feta cheese and a single stripe from a sun-dried tomato. Too greasy. I'd rather have a grilled cheese sandwich with bacon.

The coffee bar turns into a real bar at 11 a.m., with wine, beer and cocktails. The coffee itself is a Starbucks clone. Since I'm not a Starbucks fan I wasn't impressed, but that's a matter of taste; you might like it.

The store's designers are no doubt betting that a goodly number of the many Fairmount residents who walk by each morning on their way to Center City offices will stop by for coffee and more. Its entrances are aligned with the street to draw them in.

Some initial reactions to what I saw during my early morning stroll through the aisles:

Pre-made meal kits in one of the refrigerator cases, right next to pre-made whipped cream in clamshell containers. No aerosol Reddi-Wip here.

Over in the bakery department a good selection of loafs. What I particularly liked was the self-service bread slicer.  (They must have not run this by their corporate lawyers.)

The cheese selection is good but missing items it should have, like a really sharp cheddar, what I fondly call "rat cheese", the type of cheddar that crystallizes, crumbles and tastes intensely salty with a hint of sweetness. When I asked the cheesemonger how long the cheddars had been aged, he didn't know. He thoughtfully tried to find out, but their reference data sheets hadn't been organized yet.

Meat on the hook at Whole Foods
Meats have always been a Whole Foods strong point. At the old store there was a small case where you could see some beef aging; here they've got a big walk-in box filled with a couple of sides of sheep, pig and veal, as well as primal cuts of beef aging. At least one on-line commentator I read complained about having to view meat on the hook. Really? Where do you think your hamburger comes from?

Although Whole Foods hasn't shaken it's reputation as Whole Paycheck (most items are pricier than you'd pay elsewhere for similar quality) you can find the occasional bargain. One example: I regularly buy U.S. wild-caught frozen shrimp, shell on but cut and deveined at Wegmans in Cherry Hill for about $30 a two-pound bag. Here they were $20 for the same weight, although the shell wasn't cut along the back nor were the veins removed. Still, a very good price for a high-quality product.

The fresh seafood section at the new Whole Foods keeps up their quality standard and the prices, while a bit high, are within range, more expensive but better quality than the Reading Terminal Market, but less broad a selection. They will, however, cook whatever you like in-store, something I first encountered in midwestern supermarkets like Schucks in St. Louis.

I liked the idea of the self-serve fresh pasta case and will get around to trying them some day soon.

The produce at WF has never impressed me, the quality better and the prices cheaper at the Reading Terminal. In one news report on the new store, the writer noted that if they don't have a produce item, they'll order it for you, citing dragonfruit and prickly pears as examples; no need to order these at Iovine Brothers at the terminal, which stocks them regularly.

Next time I'll have to come for lunch to try out the four stalls from Dizengoff (hummus), CHeU Noodle Bar, Severino Cucina Rustica, and the vegan Wiz Kid from Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby. The pita at Dizengoff is mixed and baked on site.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

"No, we don't have quiches. We do have knishes."

As I waited for my belly lox this morning at the counter of Schlesinger's Deli, Locust Street, Philadelphia, that's what the server told a potential customer on the phone: "No, we don't have quiches. We do have knishes."

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Veal returns (for one day only) at DiNic's

For 20 years, veal scaloppine sandwiches were on the menu at DiNic's in the Reading Terminal Market. But when the increasing wholesale cost of veal reached a level that required a too-pricey price on the sandwich, owner Tom Nicolosi switched out pork for veal.

In an application like scaloppine, the taste difference between pork and veal is minimal, especially when served with plenty of peppers and onions. But the very fact that the menu board read "pork" instead of "veal" caused sales to plummet. Eventually, the stall removed scaloppine in any form from the menu.

But this week for one day only, Thursday, DiNic's will bring back veal scaloppine with real veal, though cut from the shoulder not the leg to keep the price point within bounds, according to Joe Nicolosi, who took over the stall a few years back from his now mostly-retired dad.

At the same time, Joe has dropped his experiment of preparing cracklings as an occasional adornment to his sandwiches. Simply a case of not worth the extra effort from the business point of view, though the handful of customers who looked forwarded to the cracklings are no doubt disappointed.

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Headhouse Returns for 10th Season

Barry Savoie of his eponymous organic farm helps customer on opening day at Headhouse
Radishes at Blooming Glen Farm
The Food Trust's Yael Lehmann snipped the ribbon to open the 10th season of the organization's farmers' market under the shambles at Headhouse Square.

A healthy contingent of 24 vendors -- including six that were actually selling fresh produce you could actually bring home and eat -- showed up under the constant rain. Additional vendors are expected next week. Crowds were sparse (at least during the market's first half-hour when I visited) but eager to take advantage of the offerings.

Asparagus, one of the quintessential vegetables of spring, could be found at two stalls, A.T. Buzby and Three Springs. Buzby also offered hoop house tomatos, while Ben Wenk of Three Springs mostly featured storage apples and prepared items, including ketchup as well as canned fruit, jams and preserves.

Blooming Glen was back with two kinds of ravishing radishes (traditional red globe and French breakfast), along with arugala, leaf spinach, green garlic and a few other items. Queen Farm had its usual assortment of oyster mushrooms and at least six varieties of greens.

Weaver's Way, the northwest Philadelphia food coop which operates two small-scale farms, was big on greens, too. Like Queen Farm they also offered colorful lilac flowers. Savoie Organic Farm had some cabbage, but otherwise only offered seedlings of tomato and vegetable plants for sale, as did Happy Cat Farm.

One new merchant this year: High Street, offering bread products from it esteemed bakery. Wild Flour Bakery was back in its usual spot. (Ric's baked goods are expected back next week.)

Sue Miller of Birch Run Hills Farm with her cheeses (and veal and pork products) returned, as did Hillacres Pride, offering cheese and other dairy products as well as meats. And Shellbark Hollow returned with its capric dairy offerings.

Other vendors at  the season's first market: Bennett Compost, Good Spoon (soups), Griggstown Farm (poultry, pies), Green Aisle Grocery (jarred foods), John + Kira Chocolates, LaDivisa (charuterie), Longview Floweres, Market Day Canele (sweet and savory baked goods), Paradox Vineyard (wine), Philly Fair Trade Coffee Roasters, Shore Catch (fish), and Spring Hill Farm (maple syrup).

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Signs of Spring

Photo © Robert Libkind 2016
I thought asparagus was at least a few more weeks away, but it appeared at two stalls at the Reading Terminal Market today, along with two other sure signs of spring: morels and ramps.

Over at Iovine Brothers Produce, pencil-thin asparagus from Mexico stood side-by-side with heftier (but by no means excessively large or woody) stalks from Sun Valley Orchards in Swedesboro, N.J. Tough choice: 2,300 miles from Mexico or 30 miles from Swedesboro? The Fair Food Farmstand also had asparagus today from a producer on the other side of the Delaware.

Expect to see lots more asparagus in the next few weeks. I hope they hold out for the opening of Headhouse Square and other farmers' markets in early May.

Iovine's morels no doubt came from a greater distance that the Swedesboro asparagus. I didn't ask, but my guess is the Pacific Northwest. Still, the plastic and tray wrapped fungi hadn't dried out, and there was only one soft spot showing signs of deterioration. Hardly locally foraged like I used to get from the late Sam Consylman or found at the Dane County Farms Market in Wisconsin, but they'll work.

I passed by the ramps at Iovine's (too expensive) but quickly grabbed a $4.95 bag of them at Fair Food: excellent quality and at about half the price.

I didn't get a chance to visit the Rittenhouse Square Farmers' Market today, but its weekly newsletter said to expect local fiddleheads and watercress in addition to ramps.

I'll be using the asparagus, morels and ramps to replicate a dish first enjoyed nearly 20 years ago at L'Etoile, the shining star of the restaurant renaissance in Madison, Wisconsin. There, asparagus, mushrooms and shallots were scattered about a plate centered by a ring of savory custard and adorned with a light butter sauce. I'll go the same route tonight, wih both morels and oyster mushrooms in the mix and ramps replacing the shallots. A crusty baguette and a glass or two of chilled Alsatian Riesling will complete the meal.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Remembering Michael Holahan

Mike and Julie with William, James and Isabella
Mike Holahan's death last week, at age 57, leaves a void for his family – his partner in life and business Julie, daughter Isabella and sons William and James – as well as shoppers and fellow merchants at the Reading Terminal Market, and the Philadelphia food community.

I won't repeat the facts of Michael's life, including how he started the Pennsylvania General Store and his leadership of the Reading Terminal Market Merchant Association. You can read them in his Philadelphia Inquirer obituary and at the funeral home's website.

Instead, I'll simply recount two parts of his life (with some video help): one I only learned about after his death, the other one I lived with him.

What I didn't know was how committed Michael was to his church and religion. But I should have, for it was an extension of his love for his family. I learned of this when, seeking directions to attend his funeral, I visited the website of Michael's church, Gloria Dei, and found among the list of sermon videos one Michael delivered on March 13, just three days before he died. It shows the side Michael I knew -- funny, friendly, thoughtful and lightly showing his knowledge of food production -- and the side of Michael that I didn't know, committed to making a better world through his faith. This 20-minute video captures the man:

Another Michael is the one I first met more than 25 years ago, a man passionate about food and the people who bring it to our tables. This was when he started the Saturday Morning Breakfast Club, a gathering of foodies on that day which attracted anywhere from a half-dozen to three dozen participants.

Our topics were wide ranging, and frequently featured guest speakers, both merchants and outside experts.

One of the more memorable sessions was for Valentine's Day. Mike had arranged for the pastry chef from Deux Cheminées to discuss how to make chocolate truffles. Unfortunately the pastry chef had emergency dental surgery, so the restaurant's proprietor, Fritz Blank took his place, bringing along a friend who was attending the Philadelphia national convention of the Association of American Scientists, who Fritz knew through his former career as a microbiologist. The friend was Harold McGee, the author of On Food and Cooking. McGee brought along samples of cocoa beans both fresh and in various stages of processing and explained the science of making chocolate. So as not to disappoint the many ladies who attending in hopes of making truffles, Fritz gave them the recipe.

The Saturday Morning Breakfast Club also served as an introduction to the people of the market, including its managers (Marci Rogovin when the club started, then Paul Steinke when he came on board), and merchants. Ann Karlen stopped by to talk about the Fair Food Farmstand before it opened. Luminaries from the Philadelphia food community also visited to share their stories and expertise, including Jack Asher of Asher's Chocolates (Mike sold a food invention of his, Keystone Crunch, to Asher). Indeed, the regional history of chocolate manufacture was one of Mike's passions: you can read an earlier entry on this blog about a talk he gave on the subject here.

I don't have any video of our sessions at the Saturday Morning Breakfast Club, but when Mike was president of the Reading Terminal Market Merchants Association they briefly put together series called "Cooking IQ". Here's one where Mike interviews Tom Nicolosi of DiNic's on how he cooks his meat, and shows the inquisitive foodie that was Michael:

Thursday, March 03, 2016

Sam Consylman, forager extraordinaire, 1941-2016

Sam Consyman after pulling onions in his Lancaster garden. Photo by Robert Libkind.
Sam Consylman, a retired auto radiator repairman whose passion was foraging, organic gardening of both common and unusual produce and teaching younger generations about growing and gathering food, died Feb. 26. Sam, who won a round against colon cancer nearly 20 years ago, was 74.

I met Sam when Earl Livengood operated his produce stall at center court in the Reading Terminal Market. Sam was a friend of Earl and helped out at various farmers' markets. But Sam also supplied Earl with choice morsels he found in forests and lowlands: wild berries, greens and, most delectable of all, morels.

At his Lancaster home Sam had a small scale gentleman's farm, with everything from root vegetables to fruit trees.

Sam Consylman at Fairmount Farmers Market.
Photo by Robert Libkind
Among the many things Sam taught me was the living definition of "dead ripe".

During a visit to his patch of green Sam led me to his small orchard and found a peach lying on the ground which, he told me, wasn't there a few hours go. Some ants had already found it, but Sam brushed them off, surgically removed the spot they had been working on, and handed it to me. It was incredibly juicy with a subtle but absolutely peachy flavor: the perfect peach. And dead ripe, having just fallen, naturally, off the tree.

Sam also loved rediscovering foods from other cultures and our past. I rarely saw him so excited as when he told me about his first crop of yacon, a South American tuber

He was gathered a native American food well-known in Appalachia: poke.

Each fall Sam would dig up pokeweed from his favorite Lancaster County foraging ground and store them buried in sand on two six-foot shelves in his basement, stacking them tightly to preserve moisure, and watering them daily to "mimic the same way they'd get moisure in the wild". By January they start to send out edible roots, which you can use like you would asparagus. The leaves, berries, taproot and older shoots are poisonous.

Although the garden took up much of his retirement time, Sam was hardly averse to meat. In addition to being an avid freshwater fisherman he regularly took to the field with his gun. He had agreements with some central Pennsylvania farmers to patrol their lands of pesky varmints, and the result was a regular supply of ground hog for his wife, Mary, to fry-up. He brought the chicken-fried rodent to Philadelphia to share with some of his farmers market customers. Quite tasty.

He shared his passions with young people. In addition to being a supporter of the Manor FFA (formerly known as the Future Farmers of America) in Millersville, Sam was also dedicated to at-risk youth, leading a series of Smart Angling fishing workshops for the Lancaster County Youth Intervention Center under the auspices of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.

A memorial gathering will be held at the New Danville Fire Company, 43 Marticville Road, Lancaster, on Friday, March 11 from 2 to 8 p.m. Contributions in his memory may be made to the Manor FFA, c/o Penn Manor High School, 100 E. Cottage Ave., Millersville PA 17551.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

All Lamb, All The Time

New sign boasts Border Springs in nation's only all-lamb butcher
No more lamb tacos for lunch or lamb hash for breakfast at the Reading Terminal Market.

Border Springs Farm has eliminated sandwiches and platters to eat within the market from its offerings. That makes it, in the nomenclature of the market's lease structure, a "purveyor" rather than a "blended purveyor/food court" merchant.

Owner Craig Rogers may be able to convert the change into a little break on his rent when his lease comes up for renewal, since the market gives a discount to "purveyors" when compared to its "food basket", "mercantile" or "food court" businesses, each with its own rent structure.

A few customers complained when they couldn't get their fix of lamb taco, according to Nick Macri, the former Southwark chef who manages the RTM operation. On Twitter, @foobooz remarked: " was a good spot for an excellent sandwich without the wait." Sure, but maybe that's why they don't offer sandwiches anymore. Not enough people bought them.

Since the overwhelming majority of customers come for the butcher operation, Macri isn't concerned. And he's happy to offer a broader line of prepared foods to take home as well as fresh lamb.

Lamb hash off the menu at Border Springs
What the change does accomplish is open up space for more room to create prepared foods, like the new lines of meatballs, vacuum packs of formed and sliced gyro meat, and lamb liver terrine in Border Spring's refrigerated display cases.

Selling uncooked meat has always been the biggest part of Border Springs' business since it opened at the market in May 2013. Rogers, whose lamb farm is located in southwestern Virginia near the Blue Ridge Mountains, had already established a wholesale business in Philadelphia, hauling his lamb north to local restaurants, including Zahav. By opening the stall at the market Rogers not only created a base of operations for his wholesale business, but an outlet for lesser cuts —like necks and breasts — that he couldn't otherwise sell.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

'Great' Designation for RTM

Of the 30 "Great Places in America" for 2014 selected by the American Planners Association (APA), only one has a roof over it: Philadelphia's Reading Terminal Market.

Except for the RTM, all the other "places" are public parks, streets, neighborhoods, scenic vistas and other outdoor entities.

Even the incoming president of the planner's group was unaware of the RTM's uniqueness as the only interior space among this year's "great places".

At this morning's celebratory news conference at the market's center court, Carol Rhea, president-elect of the APA, had to check with a staff aide when I asked her to confirm the RTM was the only interior space on this year's list.

Rhea praised the "authenticity" of the market. "You won't see a Spataro's at the airport," she told me after the event.

Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Alan Greenberger and Brent Cossrow, vice chair of the Reading Terminal Market Corporation also spoke at the ceremony led by Paul Steinke, market general manager.

The APA designated 10 public spaces, 10 streets and 10 neighborhoods for its 2014 awards. Sharing the public space honors with the Reading Terminal are: Bayliss Park In Council Bluffs, Iowa; Cliff Walk In Newport, Rhode Island; Delaware Park In Buffalo, New York; Great Plains Trails Network In Lincoln, Nebraska; Lake Mirror Park In Lakeland, Florida; Lithia Park In Ashland, Oregon; Point State Park In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Rainier Vista In Seattle, Washington; and The Lawn At The University Of Virginia In Charlottesville, Virginia.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Not Quite Goodbye

I've got a new gig as lead writer of the Jewish Exponent's new food blog and occasional contributor to the Philadelphia weekly newspaper's print and digital editions.

That means my postings here on Robert's Market Report will be less frequent than in the past, which for this blog dates back to June 2006.

Although my posts here at Robert's Market Report will be considerably less frequent, I'll do my best to keep you informed on major doings at local farmers' markets and the Reading Terminal Market through my Twitter feed: @robertsmarket.

When the subject demands more than Twitter's 140-character limit, I'll Tweet a link to a longer post here.

In the meantime, take a look my first effort for the Jewish Exponent. Although it's scheduled for publication in next week's print edition, it's available on-line now: a preview of Michael Solomonov's latest restaurant, Abe Fisher:

Corned Pork Belly at a Jewish Restaurant?

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Thin Crowds for Peak Produce

Beets from North Star
When is the summer produce peak? Right now. Mid-August is when tomatos and corn are at their best, peaches are bountiful and beautiful, summer squash vines droop under the weight of fruit, and farmers harvest peppers by the truckload. Plus, we've still got some blueberries, blackberries are in full flavor, and late summer apples are ready for picking.

The irony is that on a mid-August Sunday, fewer people are in town to take advantage of the bonanza at farmers market like the one today at Headhouse Square. Certainly the market wasn't empty, but the crowds are thinner than in June or even early July. Everyone's at the shore or the Poconos or standing on line waiting to get into the Louvre.

But that's okay. That means there's more for you and me to gather on our weekly trip to the farmers' market.

Making its seasonal debut today at Headhouse was North Star Orchards, which specializes in apples and pears, but had plenty of vegetables, too, including gargantuan red and orange beets. Plus three varieties of apples.

Here are some more photos of finds at today's Headhouse Farmers' Market:

Ripe bell peppers from A.T. Buzby
Also from Buzby, Sicilia and common eggplants
Melon man from Tom Culton
Cherry tomatoes from Savoie Farm
Tomatillos from Blooming Glen Farm

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Summer Bounty

If tomatoes are abundant, it must be summer. Here's a basket of beauties from Blooming Glen at Sunday's Headhouse Square Farmers' Market.

Saturn Peaches

 Saturn peaches, a.k.a. donut peaches, area in season along with the standard varieties. These were being sold Sunday for $5/quart by Three Springs Fruit Farm at the Headhouse Farmers' Market.

Peppers Galore

Sweet frying peppers from Blooming Glen
Jalapenos from Blooming Glen
Peppers in all their tasty and colorful variety are flooding farmers markets. Whether sweet bells or frying, long hots, cubanelles, poblanos or jalapenos, there's a lot of ways to use them in the kitchen.
Sweet frying peppers from Savoie Farms
Poblanos are the go-to pepper for chile relleños, even if you bake the cheese-stuffed peppers rather than batter and deep-fry, a messy (though worthwhile) proposition.

For scallop or any other ceviche, dice a jalapeño or two as a garnish. I served it yesterday accopanied by slices of avocado and dusted with cilantro.

Sweet bell peppers of any color take well to roasting or grilling. And they're great in gazpacho.

Got a steak on the grill? Fry up some sweet frying peppers with garlic and/or onion to go on top.
Bell Peppers from Tom Culton

More Than Cupcakes at Flying Monkey

When Elizabeth Halen took over Flying Monkey Bakery at the Reading Terminal Market nearly four years ago, the stall was most known for its cupcakes.

Cupcakes remain a fad, if a bit fading, and Flying Monkey still sells a bunch of them. But the Center Court patisserie offers a whole lot more.

In addition to whoopie pies in various flavors, bar cookies and brownies, I'm an easy mark for the crumb cakes Elizabeth makes, particularly the fruit-accented versions, like the blackberry one pictured here. With its sour cream tang, this cake is an "adult" dessert.

Much more sweet and decadent, though, is Elizabeth's riff on the classic German buttercake, a.k.a. butterkuchen. Though there's certainly plenty of sugar it's considerably less off-putting than the St. Louis version, which is lovingly referred to by denizens of that city as "gooey" buttercake. The Philadelphia version, and Elizabeth's, is another "adiult" dessert.