Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Its spring, lamb and goat time approaches! (But this is always so at Salem’s Halal Market...)


Does everyone know that animal products are seasonal? Yes, this includes meat, eggs, milk (and, therefore, cheese, butter, etc.). We will get to a big meat talk one day, but, for now, it's the beginning of spring which, for many of us, means spring lamb (and goat if you're lucky). One of the best parts of my job is self-imposed continuing ed, so when Slow Food announced their MeatThink workshop (Topic: halal lamb and goat butchering) and tasting at Salem’s Grill and Halal Market in the Strip, I jumped on the opportunity. (P.S. I could just kick myself for not getting a photo of their newly muraled building front, it is worth the trip to the Strip just to see the gorgeous colors!)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Stuffed Grape Leaves

Stuffed grape leaves, eat 'em up, yum. (Thanks Christian Kahle for the gorgeous photo!)
We can eat stuffed grape leaves by the fistful around here. Not only are they delicious, but they are also healthful, (potentially) nutritious and a totally satisfying snack. Stuffed grape leaves also travel extremely well—this is important when you live with little people who don’t seem to be able to leave the house without grabbing something to go. There are several local spots that make great leaves (including Sito’s down at the Pittsburgh Public Market, Taza21 and Greek Gourmet in Squirrel Hill), but every now and again it is fun to make your own.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Pennsylvania Maple Syrup Festivals (aka Time to Wallow in Sugar :)

The weather is gorgeous for outdoor maple syrup activities! It’s not always possible to go out and get tapping yourself, but the Pittsburgh area offers an abundance of fantastic festivals (at which you can almost always getting some pretty darned good pancakes!). Check out any of these events for a good time and good eats.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Look Ma, no ketchup! Vegetarian baked beans to celebrate the luck ‘o the Irish.

Vegetarian baked beans, better than from a can :)

There are two categories of foods in this world: those that taste best when made from scratch and those that taste best out of a box or a can. Am I serious? Well, sort of, but it doesn’t make me happy. In fact, many of my zaniest and most maddening food odysseys revolve around trying to reinvent scratch and take it back from the world of the packaged. I can now see that this topic, in its entirety, is really a good one to tackle on its own. For now, let me just say that I’ve been on a mission to make some baked beans at home that taste as good as the ones that come in a can. And here we are, just in time for St. Patrick’s Day. (This might not seem so traditional, but baked beans are served on just about every plate north of the English Channel with alarming frequency). As for really great not-from-a-can baked beans? I think I just may have done it here. Oh, and here’s the taste de triomphe—no ketchup or barbeque sauce anywhere near my pot, ye haw!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Where to start with a vegetarian St. Paddy's day...

Roasted rutabaga/turnip/swede (where are you from, anyway?) and caramelized leeks...

The Irish aren't exactly known for their vegetarian fare (oh, wait, there's always potatoes!). That is not fair. In my house we love anything cabbage (browned in butter may just be my favorite, oh, I also like them stuffed, but I digress). With a Scotsman for a husband you can believe me when I say we eat a lot of potatoes. There are tons of recipes out there for colcannon, corned beef, Guinness floats and other tasty Irish treats. But what to cook when you are invited to a vegetarian St. Patrick's Day celebration and dessert, cabbage, boxty and barley are already taken?

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Blood Orange and Maple Custard Tart (Vegan, Gluten Free)

Mmmmmm, blood oranges and maple...mmmmmm..

Many of my clients with dietary restrictions tell me how they miss the foods they used to eat. I take great pleasure in finding satisfying, nourishing and (most important!) delicious ways to help them find the joy in eating again. Late winter citrus and fresh maple syrup are two of my most favorite treats. This recipe is friendly for most food allergies and sensitivities, but it is also wonderful for those of us who don't have any food restrictions (in fact, none of my taste testers have food restrictions).In developing this recipe, my taste testers were tied between the filling with tapioca or corn starch. Tapioca starch produces a gooey texture that clings to every crumb of the shortbread crust. Corn starch is much more firm and less sticky. My recommendation is to use whichever appeals to you the most (or whichever you happen to have on hand!).

Thursday, March 10, 2011

A lovely day of syruping…

Pure maple syrup--as local as can be.

Maple syrup season is here! Maple trees know that spring is around the corner so it’s important to tap at just the right moment. Maples use their sap and energy to fuel springtime growth, new leaves and buds, so, if you want syrup for your table, you’ve got a limited time frame. The best time for tapping is when temperatures drop below freezing at night, but rise into the 40s during the day. Pittsburghers are lucky lucky lucky to have so many maple producers in the area—it really is pretty easy to get local syrup just about all year round. I, on the other hand, am lucky lucky lucky enough to have a friend who taps her own trees and she was kind enough to invite me and the girls out to see how it’s done.This is an excellent and sustainable operation, these homesteaders reuse and recycle—other than a few pieces of piping, all of their equipment was found/donated/recovered and anything that can’t be used again will be recycled. (Um…I’d be happy to help “recycle” that old maple syrup over there…).

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Spinach sauce (Saag)--vegan or chicken or veg, oh my!

Chicken saag, try to stop yourself from eating it right out of the pan while
standing in the kitchen! (Oh, go on ahead, its THAT good...)

This fabulous and versatile vegan spinach sauce is a main dish on its own, but you don’t have to stop there. You can pour it over a grain or starch (think rice, cous cous, quinoa, refried leftover mashed potatoes…). If you’re looking to add some protein to your diet, simmer it with lamb, chicken, tofu, seitan, chickpeas or potatoes. You can even puree it with additional vegetable broth or coconut milk for a wonderfully spiced spinach soup (hot or cold). There are many variations on this Indian recipe, of course, but I like this one because it layers the spices, creating a depth that tickles the palate.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Egg Soup (for the infirm, for the hungry)

Egg Soup, good for the soul, good for the body, good for those of us who are hungry but can't chew right now...

I wasn’t going to bore everyone with my periodontal woes until I was making my dinner and realized that several of my worlds were colliding. Some of you may know that it has been all about eggs around here for a while. What some of you may not know is that I specialize in cooking for and with folks with special dietary needs. Right now, both of those things are me, and since I know I’m not the only one out there, I thought I’d go ahead and share.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Food is BACK in Pittsburgh--FANTASTIC March Food Events!!

It's been a long winter and I’m still working on Slow Cooked’s egg label eggstravaganza. Spring is obviously around the corner--I’ve been getting some really great announcements for food events around town. Pittsburgh's food scene is waking up, we may not have greens yet, but the food anticipation is palpable! (By the way, in the spirit of full disclosure, all event descriptions were taken directly from the sponsor site...)
·         Sunday, March 6th , 2 pm – 6 pm. The 2011 Empty Bowls Dinner is a meager meal of soup and bread, a fundraiser for Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank and Just Harvest, and a Pittsburgh favorite family activity, to be held Rodef Shalom Congregation (4905 Fifth Ave in Oakland). Find out more! 
·         Mondays March 7th, 14th, & 21st,7pm – 9pm, Grow Pittsburgh and City Growers Presents: A Garden Primer, East Liberty Presbyterian Church. Don't know the first thing about vegetable gardening? Never even picked up a spade? Fear not - A Garden Primer will cover all the basics, including which tools beginner gardeners will need, what and where to plant, and when to harvest. In addition, those taking part in the course will be given step-by-step instruction on everything from starting a compost bin to properly transplanting seedlings. Whether working with a spacious backyard or an apartment balcony, participants will receive specialized advice and guidance to get their vegetable gardens going whatever the space. Find out more!
·         Thursday, March 10, 10:00-4:00pm. Second Annual Local Food Showcase. Chatham University and Penn State Extension of Allegheny County announce the second annual “Local Food Showcase: a Grower / Buyer Event” at Chatham’s Athletic & Fitness Center at the Shadyside Campus. The Local Food Showcase brings together western Pennsylvania farmers, value-added producers, food industry purchasers, and food lovers with farm-to-table cooking demonstrations with local chefs, tastings of regionally-produced foods, educational workshops, and a chance to meet the hard-working people who grow food throughout the region. Find out more!
·         Thursday, March 10th ,“Let Us Eat!” A Grow Pittsburgh dinner series at Abay Ethiopian Cuisine. Let Us Eat!” is a new initiative happening at a different restaurant on the second Thursday of each month. 10% of sales from each night will go directly to supporting Grow Pittsburgh. Find out more!
·         Saturday, March 19th, 4:30-7:00 p.m. Interested in learning about and doing more with and for our local farmers? Join the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA) and attend their members potluck dinner. Find out more!
·         Friday & Saturday, March 25-26. Farm to Table Pittsburgh: The conference provides consumers with a day of networking and educational opportunities. Hands-on cooking demonstrations, gardening and information about nutrition and health are available.  The conference provides consumers with ideas and information about where their food comes from and where to find businesses and organizations who can provide them with healthy food and healthy lifestyle choices. Find out more!
·         Sunday, March 27, 1-3 pm. Slow Food Pittsburgh: MeatTHINK: Lamb and Goat. MeatTHINK marches on. How local meat reaches our plates: The topic is lamb and goat, see demo expert butchering (Halal and Kosher), purchase meat. Stay for a late lunch at Salem's Market and Grill in the Strip. Explore our relationship to the meat we eat. See butchering, learn cuts. Beef, pork, lamb, chicken. Know why local/pastured and humane killing mean something. Hear from old school and "new wave" butchers, chefs, farmers, meat purveyors. (By the way, Slow Cooked Pittsburgh catered SF’s MeatTHINK chicken event last summer—look for pictures on Slow Cooked’s Facebook page!) Find out more!
Do you know of any others? Please share!