Archive for the 'Pittsburgh' Category

Some Stuff I’ve Done Lately

Monday, October 17th, 2016

So, I recently paid the annual bill that keeps this page on the ‘net, and I noticed that it’s been a while since I actually did anything in this space except check my own recipes.  I do, after all, have my favorites that I go back to on an occasional basis to get some advice from myself.

But, just because I haven’t been putting stuff up here, doesn’t mean I haven’t been working on some cool stuff.  I’m linking below to some of the cool materials that I’ve been putting together for Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank over the past couple of years.  These are resources that we publish mainly for our clients, but they are available online for anyone to use at pittsburghfoodbank.org/resources/nutrition/

Rolling Oats

This was a really fun project to work on, and really useful, too.  Most people know that it is important to eat more whole grains, but the advice we see can sometimes be confusing.  Case in point, Reese’s Puffs cereal, which proclaims across the front of its box that whole grain is the first ingredient (yes, but how many of the next several are some form of sugar?)

Oats are about the most economical source of whole grain nutrition around, and are always on Food Bank inventory.  This 16-page magazine gives several ways to make oats a more frequent part of your diet, whether by turning them into a savory pilaf, a fruit crisp, a granola bar, bread dough, or a no-roll pie crust.  Click on the picture above to download the whole magazine.

Special thanks to Kevin Watson of Savoy Restaurant for providing a great interview to make this volume complete!

Spuds Illustrated

Potatoes are one of my favorite flavor vehicles.  They’re such a versatile canvas to paint upon!  This 12-page magazine gives tips to make them more interesting at the table by combining them with other vegetables, and using each type of potato according to its own strengths.  Get tips including how to store, how to cut, best ever home fries, and the best vegan mashed potatoes you’ll ever taste.  Click on the photo above to download the whole issue.

CAN Newsletter

Every month, the CAN Newsletter goes out to everyone who gets food from one of the food pantries in the Food Bank’s network.  Each issue focuses on ideas and recipes related to an ingredient or theme.  Click the photo above to get this month’s issue, with 2 great winter squash recipes and some jack o’ lantern carving tips, or visit pittsburghfoodbank.org/resources/nutrition/ to see back issues and the Food Bank’s full lineup of photo-illustrated recipe resources.

If you need help with food, visit www.pittsburghfoodbank.org/gethelp to get connected with a food pantry, soup kitchen, SNAP benefits, and more.

If you’re in a position to help the food bank, visit www.pittsburghfoodbank.org/givehelp to volunteer, donate, or advocate for public policy that helps everyone have enough to eat.

Promise to Hike Next Year?

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

Giant Eagle has “locked in” lots of prices until January 3.

Is it just me, or does that seem like a promise to raise prices on January 4?

Amazing Corn and Mushrooms

Saturday, August 25th, 2012

Thank you to everyone who stopped by the Slow Foods tent at Farmers@Firehouse today!  I had a great time cooking.  Two of the dishes I made were featured in the Farm Stand Project recipe booklet; this dish was not.  One of the samplers asked me what I call it.  “I call it onions, garlic, mushrooms, and corn,” I said, “but you’re welcome to help me give it a better name.”

“I think you should just call it Amazing,” she said.

So, without further ado…

Amazing Corn and Mushrooms

♦ 1 onion, diced
♦ about 8 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
♦ 4 oz. crimini mushrooms, sliced
♦ about 3 oz. chicken of the woods, diced (or substitute other wild mushroom; or crimini)
♦ 4 ears’ worth of corn, sliced from cobs
♦ canola oil for sauteeing (about 3-4 Tbl)
♦ salt, pepper, and ginger
♦ fresh oregano and rosemary to taste, minced

  1. Heat a pan over medium-high heat.  Add the oil, let it get hot.  Add pepper, ginger, and onions.  Stir onions to coat with oil and spices, then add a pinch of salt.
  2. Cook onions, stirring occasionally, for 5-7 minutes or until they start to brown.
  3. Add garlic, cook for 1-2 minutes, or until it softens and starts to brown slightly.
  4. Add mushrooms.  Turn heat down slightly to medium-low to medium.  Cook mushrooms, stirring occasionally, for about 7-10 minutes or until they look like they’re about done.  Don’t hurry them, but don’t burn them either.  When it comes down to it, getting the most out of your fungus is more art than science; but here is my current best advice for cooking mushrooms.
  5. When the mushrooms hit their stride, add the corn.  Turn the heat up a bit.  Cook it for 2-3 minutes, stir in fresh herbs, and serve.

Farmers @ Firehouse Saturday, Phipps Sunday

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

Come down to the Farmers@ Firehouse farmers’ market this Saturday, 8/25, from 9 am-noon to taste some of my cooking.  I’ll be manning the Slow Foods demo tent in support of Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank’s produce initiatives, which include the Farm Stand Project, volunteer-based Gleaning and Urban Agriculture initiatives, and distribution of produce through the Produce to People program.

Can’t make it to the market on Saturday?  Visit Phipps Conservatory’s Tomato & Garlic Festival on Sunday from 11 am-5pm.  Admission is free with the donation of a bag of fresh produce for Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.  I will not be there, but there will be some other fantastic chefs providing demos throughout the day.

I ordinarily try to be oblique on this page about where I work, because this is an outlet for my personal cooking efforts and opinions on food.  But, I am Nutritionist for Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank and see every day the tremendous need for healthy foods in our communities and the tremendous impact that Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank has in closing the gap in access to nutritionally sound meals.

Our efforts consist of more than just sending food to where it is needed.  We also provide recipes and information about how the ingredients we have available can be used to build healthy meals; and demonstrations of the cooking skills that go into preparing fresh fruits and vegetables.

People who need food assistance are our friends and neighbors.  People who struggle to get by, especially in our current recession/ depression.  Poor nutrition is tied into poor overall health: when your body doesn’t have the building blocks it needs to fight disease or build new cells, your health suffers.  Beyond high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, obesity (which, counter-intuitively, is a form of malnutrition)—poor skin, hair, eyes, teeth; general fatigue; and illness all flow from lack of access to nutritionally adequate food.

Helping people to get more fresh food is a key component of the solution.  Even just incorporating fresh produce into a processed meal can make a big difference in nutritional quality, as this informational sheet demonstrates.  By providing practical advice and suggestions such as these, Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank helps provide solutions.

Please consider showing your support for fresh food for all by visiting one or both of these weekend events.

Pierogies

Tuesday, August 7th, 2012

Pierogies are a prime example of classical Pittsburghian cuisine.  Pierogies are little pasta pockets, generally containing mashed potatoes plus something else.

Flavors that have a place in the local canon are: potato and cheese; potato and onion; and potato and sauerkraut.  A ‘modern classic’ is potato and jalapeno.  These 4 flavors are represented in the “Great Pittsburgh Pierogi Race N’At” during every Pirates home game by the mascot characters Cheese Chester, Oliver Onion, Sauerkraut Saul, and Jalapeno Hannah.  Basically, pierogies are a part of being a Pittsburgher.

Everybody’s grandmother makes them around here, whether at home or as a fundraiser for their church (going price at one local congregation: ~$8/dozen).  I think it’s the long tradition behind these fried potato raviolis that made me hesitant to try my hand at making them before now.  But, with a college reunion approaching for which attendees are supposed to bring a food that represents their current region of residence, I decided that the time had come to make my version of this local delicacy, and I’ve got to say, I was quite pleased with the results.

I made 2 versions–potato and cheddar, and my own twist on the theme: sweet potato with sauteed mushrooms, kale, and prosciutto.  The pictures are from the potato and cheddar pierogies, but the technique is the same no matter what type of filling you use.

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PASA Cheesemaking Class at EEFC

Friday, August 3rd, 2012

Pennsylvania Association of Sustainable Agriculture will be hosting a cheesemaking class at East End Food Co-Op on Thursday, August 23 from 6:30-8:30 PM.   I’m sort of bummed that I have conflicting plans for that evening and can’t be there.  But, that’s no reason why you shouldn’t go.

“This is a beginner’s class: focus is on dairy products easily replicated at home with no expensive or specialized equipment. Take home cheese-ready milk, recipes and ideas for making your home-made cheese part of every day meals, plus tips and resources for finding equipment and ingredients.”

Suggested donation is $10.  Visit http://pasafarming.org/events/pasa-events/western-region-master-class-cheesemaking-at-home for more info or call the co-op at (412) 242-3598 to register.

Brewing Beer at Copper Kettle

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

Copper Kettle Brewery in Greenfield offers those of us who don’t have the equipment or experience to home brew a chance to brew our own beer with professional assistance—and someone to clean up after us (which is definitely a plus!).

The kettles are all lined up along one wall.  They are steam-jacketed, which means that they heat evenly and quickly.

They have a pretty decent selection of recipes available, each with its own card and
description of what the end result should taste like.  I chose Scottish Amber, which is
just a little bit hoppy and a little bit caramelly, which makes it a great choice for a
party: it has widespread appeal.

Based on the recipe card, you gather the ingredients that you need.  The hops are measured into differently colored bowls, and the instructions tell you when to add which bowl—so it’s really easy.  I thought it was great to be able to smell and taste the hops while I was brewing, because later when I tasted the beer, I recognized the flavor.  They use dehydrated hop pellets, as opposed to fresh hops, because they are easier to get; cost less; and are less perishable.

You tend to your workstation on occasion; and sip a beer from Hough’s while you do, if you wish.  The attendant is able to explain why you are doing what you are doing and when you are doing it.  When the brewing process is finished, they drain the contents of the kettle to the basement, cool it to the proper temperature, add the yeast, and tend to it for a couple of weeks for you.  They’ll pressurize it in advance of your bottling appointment; your only responsibility is to design a label for your bottle (if you wish to).  This one commemorates our 9th Mardi Gras party (the event for which I brewed and bottled the beer).

Copper Kettle is at 567 Greenfield Avenue, 15207.  Their phone number is (412) 906-9400.

Planning Next Thursday’s Dinner

Friday, November 18th, 2011

Turkey, gobble… the sound the bird makes seems to describe how we eat each Thanksgiving.  And yet, I have found myself disappointed of late with turkeys as a whole.

It’s not because of their source, necessarily–it’s been several years since I bought a supermarket bird.  And last year, I went all out and procured a heritage breed bird from Maggie Henry.  It was good, but it wasn’t the flavor experience I’d been hoping for (especially when viewed in terms of a cost:benefit analysis!)

So, this year, i’ve opted to return to the roots of the holiday, before Tom was a guest de rigeur at the table, when the foreign occupiers were beholden to the natives for saving their inexperienced selves from the harsh elements of a pre-industrial existence, and as the story goes, all came together to share a harvest feast.

The selection of meats at that table was varied, I hear tell, and while wild turkey was likely a course, other meats appeared too.  So, this year, I’m roasting a goose.

This will be just the second time I’ve done it, but the first time yielded a meal featuring all the flavor I wished turkey had, so I’m glad that I wrote myself such careful instructions for how I went about the process.  If you have the chance to choose this bird instead of the norm for your table, I recommend trying Jo-Mar meats in the Strip District if you’re a Pittsburgher—it’s been a couple of weeks since I purchased what had been their last goose, so they have likely restocked in the interim.  They sell the birds frozen, so buy this weekend to give it a chance to thaw slowly in your refrigerator!

As a result of getting this goose, I’m more excited about this meal than I have been for the past several 4th Thursdays in November!  I look forward to a rich, luscious gravy; goose fat for several cooking projects to follow; cherry pie from frozen sour cherries; brussels sprouts roasted with a maple syrup glaze; pan roasted turnips & sweet potatoes; and a corn bread stuffing my sister has been talking up for weeks.

Please share favorites from your menu—I’ve still got a few days before the meal that I could adopt some of your menu items for my house to enjoy!

2011 Beef Draft

Saturday, May 14th, 2011

We had our annual beef draft today, in which members of our beef share cooperative chose their ideal portions of local, pasture-raised, grass-fed beef in a sports-style draft.  This format allows everyone a chance to get cuts of beef that match their cooking style.  I was too busy to take any pictures, but my father was there and took plenty of shots–so if you’re interested in photos, I’ve included a link at the end of this post.

2011 beef draft by the numbers:

  • 2: steers’ worth of beef distributed
  • 1526: combined hanging weight of the steers
  • 895: weight of beef distributed
  • 59: percent yield from hanging weight
  • 30: families participating
  • 53: total shares distributed
  • 12: lowest weight per share
  • 20: highest weight per share
  • 17: average weight per share
  • 487: cost in cents per pound of beef

IMG_3858.jpg

Link to photographs from the event

Pilfered Poli Planter Pot Poor Pedigree

Thursday, December 9th, 2010

Do you remember Poli Restaurant?  It was a Squirrel Hill fixture for decades.  I ate there once; my shrimp was gritty.  The establishment is now defunct.

Several months after the restaurant closed, I noticed that the parking lot featured planters made from large pieces of jet black cookware.  Several months after that, under the cover of darkness, I visited the chained-off parking lot—screwdrivers in hand—to liberate the pots for a gastronomic cause.

Alas!  The stockpots had been drilled with drainage holes.  They would serve no new master.

The brazier was on its side.  It held no plants.  It might serve me well.  Screwdrivers would be worthless, though, as it was held in place by mortar, or perhaps it was concrete.  I was forced by circumstance to leave it in place.

Several months more passed, and each time I passed the site, I would muse on strategies by which I might liberate the piece.  “I would love to have a piece of cast iron like that,” I would say.  “I can’t even imagine how much something like that would cost!  And it’s being wasted like a Stradivarius in a closet.”

Then one day the brazier was gone.  Some other food-minded fool had acted.  I had only talked. All that remained was a bit of mortar and some nails to mark where the brazier once stood.

Several months have since passed.  I walked past the parking lot today, in daylight, for a closer look.  A trademark was stamped in the sides of the stockpots.  I leaned in for a closer look, wondering whose cast iron had been defiled for drainage.

Aluminum!  It was all aluminum!  It had never been iron at all!  Ahh, nothing ventured and nothing lost.  Had I pried that brazier out and brought it home, I’d never have used it and would have lamented forever my act of vandalism for a piece of scrap.