Archive for August, 2009

Preserving Summer: Tomato Jam

Monday, August 31st, 2009

field-ripened tomatoesOur Potomac Vegetable Farms CSA bag was full of ripe summer tomatoes last week, after a slow and soggy start to tomato season here in Virginia. Unfortunately, we were leaving town the day after our pick-up. Of course, that was also the day we got the notice that the boxes of surplus canning tomatoes were available, and I was feeling panicked at the thought of not putting up tomatoes this year and faced with a pile of tomatoes we certainly wouldn’t be able to finish before leaving. I had recently seen a recipe for tomato jam and decided that was the perfect project for the night as it mainly involves simmering on the stove for a couple hours, giving me time to pack. A huge thunderstorm kept the boy awake so I put him to work slicing up the excess cherry tomatoes we also needed to use up. (Using a kid-safe knife, of course.)

prep workI made slight alterations, using turbinado sugar and a touch of honey and a splash of Virginia’s North Gate Petit Verdot that was also in need of using up. (Not that I couldn’t have used a glass or two, but it would’ve made it even less likely that I would get all our luggage packed that night.)

For the recipe, see: Tomato Onion Jam by Jennifer Perillo/Tasty Kitchen. My alterations: 1 1/2 cup raw (turbinado sugar) and 1/4 cup raw honey, omit the brown sugar. Add 2 tablespoons red wine in lieu of lemon juice.

This weekend was the Canvolution kick-off — a nationwide effort to restore the art of preserving food, launched by former Washington Post blogger Kim O’Donnel and a host of other food writers and bloggers. Visit the Canning Across America website for a host of canning resources and advice, particularly this great article on canning with kids.

The highlight of my first mother-son canning experiment was seeing the pride in my son’s eyes as he handed his aunt and grandma their jar of jam, declaring, “I made this myself!”

What have you canned lately?

Final Chance to Enter Foodie Tots <3 Farmers Markets Photo Contest

Saturday, August 29th, 2009

foodietots love farmersmarketsIt’s the final weekend to enter the Foodie Tots <3 Farmers Markets photo contest so grab your kids, your camera (and your rain gear if you’re on the East Coast) and head out to the market this weekend! Snap a shot of your kid(s) and post it to the Foodie Tots <3 Farmers Markets Flickr pool by midnight Monday, August 31, and you’ll have a chance to win a kid-sized reusable market tote filled with foodie goodies. For an extra entry into the drawing, blog about your local farmers market with a link back to this post &/or retweet a link to the “Foodie Tots <3 Farmers Markets” Flickr pool.

As for us, we’ve been on the road and while we’ve visited farms, we’ve not set foot in a farmers market in days. Today the boy squealed at the sight of fresh produce at a Brooklyn storefront so I could hardly say no when he asked for “raspberries, blueberries, red plums, black plums, and green pears!” It was his birthday, after all. Fill us in on what your kids pick out this weekend!

foodie tots love farmers markets pool

Growing Little Locavores in Chicago

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

I’m pleased to introduce Melissa Graham, a Chicago mom who launched a family food organization, Purple Asparagus, and authors the brand new blog, Little Locavores. Read on to learn about her work, an upcoming event in Chicago, and some market fresh recipes to enjoy with your kids.

melissa grahamA few weeks ago, I was noodling around on the web and came across Colleen’s wonderful blog full of great information for parents looking to instill a love of good food in their children. I was so glad to find this resource as it dovetails so well with the work that I do out here in Chicago.

About 4 ½ years ago, with a group of Slow Foodists, I began a family-friendly organization called Purple Asparagus. Our mission is to bring families back to the table by promoting all the things associated with good eating, eating that’s good for our body and for the planet. In kid-words, we celebrate the notion that not all asparagus is green.

We’ve got our hands in a lot of different projects to promote good, healthful eating, including school workshops, family dinners, and cooking classes, but one of the most important pieces of our programming is at the farmers’ markets.

Each year, we travel to markets throughout Chicago and the suburbs organizing hands-on cooking projects for children using market produce. Starting the season with homemade strawberry yogurts and ending with pumpkin tortellini, we show families and children how easy, fun and delicious it is to cook with local and sustainable products.

Through this work and watching my own son’s eating habits develop and flourish as a result of our family trips to the farmers’ market, I’ve learned that the reward for market trips was not simply to get the freshest and best tasting ingredients, but also to forge a deeper connection between the food that we eat and the people who produce it. Visits to the market can be a fun and easy way to connect children with the source of their food, create a sense of community and develop in them a respect for farmers and producers and the food that they sell.

Peach-Basil Salsa
Serves 2 as a snack,
multiply the recipe accordingly

Out here in the Midwest, the peaches are at their peak. This recipe for Peach-Basil Salsa is one that can be completed in just a few minutes, making it a perfect project for our farmers’ market visits. Serve it with tortilla chips or some baked whole grain tortilla spikes or on top of grilled fish or chicken. For adults, I would add about 1 teaspoon of finely chopped Serrano chile.

1 firm ripe peach
½ scallion, finely chopped
2 basil leaves
1 small wedge of lime
kosher or sea salt

Roughly chop the peach and scrape into a small bowl. Purple Asparagus has hand choppers that the kids can safely use for the task. Mix in the scallion. Tear the basil leaves into small pieces. Squeeze the juice from the lime wedge over the peaches and discard the wedge. Add a pinch of salt and a grind of pepper. Mix the ingredients and serve.

Whole Wheat Tortilla Spikes
Makes approximately 36 tortilla spikes

6 whole wheat-flour tortillas
Cooking spray

Slice the whole wheat tortillas into ½-inch slices. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray and place the tortilla spikes on top. Spray the spikes lightly with cooking spray. Bake for 20 minutes or until lightly browned and crispy.

Join Purple Asparagus Sunday in Chicago: For those of you who happen to live in Chicago or will be in Chicago this Sunday, August 30, Purple Asparagus is having its annual fundraiser, Corks & Crayons, at one of our local restaurants, Uncommon Ground. Just a few weeks ago, Uncommon Ground was recognized as the first certified organic rooftop farm in the country. In addition to great food and beverages, the event features music, gardening demonstrations and a mini-farmers market, which will be manned by our pint-size guests.

Preserving Summer: Peach Gelato

Friday, August 21st, 2009

redhaven peaches at market

It’s peach season and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that they hold out long enough for me to can some for winter. In the meantime, here’s the peach gelato that made me swoon, if I do say so myself.

Ever wonder what the difference is between ice cream and gelato? Sherbet and sorbet? As far as I can tell, from my extensive google research, the difference between ice cream, gelato, sherbet and sorbet is something like this:

  • ice cream, French = milk, cream, eggs
  • ice cream, Philadelphia/American = milk, cream, no eggs
  • gelato = milk, maybe eggs, no cream
  • sorbet = just fruit, no dairy or eggs
  • sherbet = milk, no cream and no eggs

Still confused? Short version: if you taste the cream first, it’s ice cream. If you taste the fruit first, it’s gelato. That’s the official FoodieTots definition at any rate. Now I set out to make Philadelphia-style peach ice cream, but the bottle I had labeled cream was in fact buttermilk; instead I used my cream-top whole milk, so while it has a little cream it is mostly milk. It has the texture and strongly fruit-forward taste of gelato, so that’s what I’m calling it.

peach gelato

Recipe: Peach Gelato


  • 4-5 peaches (1 1/2 pounds), peeled
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 vanilla bean (or 1 teaspoon vanilla)
  • 1 cup cream-top whole milk
  • juice of 1 lemon wedge

Instructions: I use the boil/ice bath method to peel peaches. It seems like a hassle but trust me, it’s a lot easier and time saving in the long run then trying to scrape peels off with a paring knife.  Score the bottom of each peach with a small “x” cut, then drop them into boiling water for 20 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon and place them into a colander set in ice water for several seconds, then set on cutting board and leave several minutes to cool. The skins will pretty much slip right off at that point.

Dice the peaches and place in a medium stock pot over medium high heat, add honey and seeds of the vanilla bean. Cook until peaches begin to fall apart, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool for several minutes. Add milk and blend in small batches in a blender, or use an immersion blender in the pot. I recommend the regular blender to make sure there are no chunks — in a home freezer, the chunks of fruit get too icy and aren’t as flavorful as in commercial ice creams. Stir in the lemon juice and pour into a glass bowl or pitcher. Chill thoroughly in the refrigerator (I leave it overnight) and then process according to your ice cream maker’s instructions. (I use the Kitchen Aid ice cream attachment and mix it for 10-12 minutes, until it thickens and reaches a very soft icy consistency, then freeze for 3-4 hours.) Enjoy!

Shared with Fight Back Fridays at the Food Renegade, because once you’ve had homemade ice cream — or gelato — you’ll never go back to that commercial chemical goop from the supermarket.

One Local Summer, A Family Affair

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

one local summer 2009This past week we’ve enjoyed a visit from family — my two siblings, sister-in-law, niece, father and father-in-law, a family reunion with five of my dad’s six siblings to celebrate my uncle’s retirement from the Navy, and my son’s third birthday party. Of course, food is always the focal point of our (semi-)Italian family’s gatherings, and while we may not have had an entirely local meal, we had local ingredients in every meal.

foodie cousins at del ray farmers market

The night my family arrived we ate at my aunt & uncle’s, enjoying the fruits of their garden while the cousins admired their chicken tree and beehives. First thing Saturday morning, the boy and I cooked up black & blueberry muffins, made with Pequea Valley yogurt, for breakfast before taking the fam to the market. The boy led his cousin straight to Vera’s for fresh-squeezed orange juice before introducing her to Tom the Cheese Guy (aka Mr. Tom) and sharing his slice of cheese.

At the family pool party we had a salad grown in my aunt & uncle’s garden, corn on the cob we brought from Three Way Farm, and a peach cobbler that my brother and sister-in-law prepared with Toigo peaches. The same brother and sister-in-law brought some home-grown cherry tomatoes from their Alabama garden, which we snacked on like candy over the weekend. Cherry tomatoes and Tom’s horseradish cheddar made a spicy version of the typical tomato-basil-mozzarella salad to enliven a take-out meal after the birthday party. And my son’s birthday cake, with its Swiss meringue buttercream, made good use of our local cage-free eggs.

To top it all off, my brother and sister-in-law brought a basket full of jams and salsas, put up themselves, a set of organic yogurt starters and the Local Flavors cookbook as my birthday present. Can you imagine anything more appropriate? (Thanks J & H!)

One Local Summer is an annual challenge in which people around the world join together for 13 weeks of seasonal eating, supporting local farmers and exploring their local foodsheds. Visit FarmtoPhilly on Tuesdays for the weekly round-up; here’s what my neighbors in the Southern region cooked up this week.