Tuesday, October 14, 2014

It's Apple Season

A couple weekends ago, we enjoyed a perfect fall afternoon of apple picking, hayrides, great food, and friends at Quarry Hill Orchards in Berlin Heights, Ohio.

With plenty of sun-filled autumn days ahead, be sure to plan a visit to Quarry Hill or your favorite local orchard soon and stock up.

I'm always on the lookout for new apple recipes to make delicious use of our abundant supply of local apples.  Here are a few simple ones you might enjoy.

Grilled Apple, Cheese and Honey Sandwiches

2 slices of your favorite bread
3-4 slices of cheese, I prefer brie or sharp cheddar
1/2 apple, cored and thinly sliced
1 tsp honey
smoked turkey or ham (optional)

Top bread with cheddar and apple slices. Drizzle with honey. Add smoked turkey or ham if you prefer. Brush each slice of bread with olive oil and grill until bread is golden brown and cheese is melted.

Apples in Cider

1 lb apples
brown sugar to taste

1 tbsp butter
apple cider
ice cream

Preheat oven to 350F. 
Peel, core and slice apples and put in to a buttered baking dish. Sprinkle with brown sugar to taste and dot with butter. Add enough cider to cover one third the height of the apples. Cover dish with aluminum foil or parchment and bake 20-30 minutes. Remove foil/parchment, baste apples with the cider and bake 5-10 minutes longer until apples are tender and golden brown. Serve with a scoop of vanilla or, my personal favorite, salty caramel ice cream.

Apple Slaw

1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp honey
2 cups cored, shredded red cabbage
2 apples, cored and diced
1/2 red onion
salt and pepper to taste

Whisk olive oil, mustard, lemon juice and honey together in a large salad bowl. Add cabbage, apples, and onion and toss together. Add salt and pepper to taste. Allow to chill for an hour, toss again and serve. 

Quarry Hill Orchards
8403 Mason Road
Berlin Heights, Ohio 44814
Open daily 9am-6pm through October and 9am-5pm November - December

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Cardamom-Scented Banana Bread

On this first official day of fall, the weather could not be more fitting. Bright sun, crisp air, and the leaves are just on the cusp of turning.

Maybe it's the weather or perhaps it's all the British books I've been reading, but my cravings for iced tea seem to have waned overnight. What I want now, especially in the late afternoon, is a little pot of hot tea -- Earl Grey in particular. This cardamom-scented banana bread makes a perfect companion.

I discovered this recipe in a charming little book simply entitled Cakes by Pam Corbin. It's Number 8 in the adorable River Cottage Handbook series which covers a variety of homey topics like Bread, Hedgerow, Smoking and Curing, and Preserves among others. As I've worked my way through the Cakes handbook over the past year or so, I have yet to discover a recipe I don't love. This easy-to-prepare banana bread (or cake, if you prefer) has now become a staple. It keeps well for at least a few days (if it lasts that long) and freezes fine too.

My suggestion is to double this batch and make two so you'll have one to serve when a friend or neighbor stops by for tea.

Cardamom-Scented Banana Bread

2 cups (250g) self-rising flour
Pinch of sea salt
1 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
7 tbsp (100g) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup (100g) light brown sugar
2/3 cup (100g) raisins (or you try substituting with dried pears, apples, dates or walnuts)
2 ripe bananas
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tbsp Demerara sugar

Preheat oven to 350F.

Prepare a loaf tin by lining with a sheet of parchment paper.

Sift flour, salt, and cardamom into a large mixing bowl. Add butter and rub in, with your fingertips (or using a pastry cutter) until the mixture resembles medium bread crumbs. Add the brown sugar and raisins and mix lightly until well distributed. Make a well in the center.

In another bowl, mash the bananas to a soft and slightly lumpy puree. Add the egg and blend together, then pour into the well in the dry ingredients. Mix together with a wooden spoon and then beat until the mixture is thoroughly combined and has a soft dropping consistency.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin, leveling it out with the back of the spoon. Sprinkle the demerara sugar over the top. Bake for about 45 minutes until well risen and a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Tomatoes All Year Long

Simmering pots, tomato-scented steam, open windows, and Indian summer sunlight. That's the scene in our kitchen this time of year as the season's tomato harvest winds down.

I prefer to freeze rather than can tomato sauce. But whichever method you choose, it's worth every ounce of effort when January rolls around and you get to enjoy that beautiful, fruity, robust tomato goodness with your favorite pasta or winter stew. If you make enough sauce (and ration accordingly), you may find your stockpile takes you right on through to next year's tomato season.

For the past twenty years or so, I've followed this simple Italian recipe for Pommarola. Every year, I'm tempted to try another method but usually fall back on this tried and true method. This year, the tomatoes were so beautiful, I decided to skip the addition of onion, carrot and parsley in favor of pure tomato flavor. I cooked it down until it was almost paste-like and the taste was unreal -- an explosion of tomato flavor.

With all this beautiful fall weather, there's still time to glean a few more baskets of tomatoes for sauce. If you don't grow tomatoes, or you've exhausted your own patch, you may still find a local farmer willing to make a good deal on bulk quantities. The tomatoes need not be perfect. So, buy up the blemished and the slightly bruised and throw them in a pot. You'll be glad you did.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Shop, Sip & Savor at Evie Lou This Friday!

Join us this Friday for an evening of shopping, cheese and wine!

Our friends at Evie Lou are hosting a pop-up featuring FarmShare's seasonal selections of Northeast Ohio cheeses paired with wine by Private Reserve Fine Wines. 

It's the perfect opportunity to toast fall and check out what's new at Evie Lou. Bring a friend, sip some wine, and take home some delicious cheese.

Hope to see you there!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Just Being Neighborly

An extra few extra ears of sweet corn, a second basket of tomatoes, two pounds of green beans instead of one, and an assortment of adorable, baby zucchini. These were among the extra items I added to my already-overflowing market basket at this morning's weekly trip to my local farmers'  market.

I had bumped into an elderly neighbor of mine earlier this week and our conversation, as usual, turned to food -- fresh produce in particular. As she lamented the sub-standard, supermarket sweet corn and tomatoes she's had to endure all summer, I remembered that she doesn't drive doesn't enjoy the luxury of just hopping over to the market like so many of us can. I see this woman two or three days a week, but I had completely forgotten. So, instead of offering my usual "try the farmers market" response, I asked if could pick up a few things for her when I went on my normal Saturday morning market rounds. 

We local food advocates are constantly encouraging everyone we meet to support a local farmer or their community farmers market. But it's all too easy to forget that there are many among us who simply can't eat this way. We're quick to assume that this is due to financial or time constraints. But sometimes, maybe more often than not, it's simply logistics.

So, what if we all just acted a bit more neighborly and remembered to ask folks if there's something we could fetch for them while we're at the market? Since this week is National Farmers' Market Week, it's the perfect time to make this a new habit. It doesn't require any extra time or burden, just a moment of reflection about who might need a little help or really enjoy some of this beautiful harvest that's upon us now.

My neighbor's face lit up when I delivered this little basket of sunshine to her this afternoon. But it made my day even brighter.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

In Deep Blue

"I'm in deep blue over here!"

These were the words uttered by my friend Paula as we picked our way along the tall rows of blueberries at Wintergreen Tree Farm earlier this week.

Deep blue indeed! In just an hour and a half we managed to harvest over 20 pounds of blueberries between us. Plump, gorgeous, full-flavored berries of several different varieties ranging from slightly sour (the ones I prefer for baking) to sweeter varieties best suited to eating right out of the picking bucket. I've happily been deep in blue most of the week, nibbling on berries, freezing some for later use, and putting up a few jars of my favorite blueberry compote.

I also whipped up another batch of my mom's wonderful Blueberry Scones. Of course, they're excellent for breakfast but these scones also do double duty as wonderful little shortcakes. Just slice in half, top with Blueberry Lavender Compote and a dollop of ice cream or freshly whipped cream. A perfect, summer dessert from your breakfast leftovers.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Summer Fruit Crisp Tartlets

Fruit crisps are the simplest way I know of to make delicious use of fruit and berries any time of year. They work wonderfully with frozen fruit during the colder months. But right now when we're at peak harvest time for so many luscious berries and fruits, it's the ideal time to enjoy a fruit crisp.

I've adapted my go-to fruit crisp recipe to make tartlet-sized hand pies which pack perfectly for all those summertime activities we're enjoying right now... picnics, boat rides, concerts at Blossom, Cain Park, the Transformer Station and Wade Oval Wednesday.

Have fun with creative combinations of seasonal fruit, berries, and flavorings. In early summer, rhubarb is my favorite filling. For Fourth of July, I filled these tartlets with blueberries and took them sailing where they were enjoyed with fireworks along Lake Erie. And come fall, try using apples and raspberries and a little ginger.

Summer Fruit Crisp Tartlets 

Makes 10-12 tartlets

Crust & Topping:

1 cup flour
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup oatmeal (or your favorite granola)
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, melted

Mix flour, brown sugar, oatmeal/granola, and salt. Stir in melted butter and mix well.

Fruit Filling:

Approximately 2 cups fruit (rhubarb, plums, blueberries, apples, etc.), cut into 1/2" pieces
1/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp flour

Preheat oven to 350F.

Line a muffin pan with cupcake liners.

Using two thirds of the crust/topping mixture, form a bottom crust for each tartlet by pressing approximately 2 tbsp of crust dough firmly into the lined muffin tins.

Fill each tartlet with approximately 2 tbsp of fruit filling.

Crumble remaining crust/topping mixture over the top.

Bake at 20-30 minutes until tarts are bubbly and golden brown.