Archive for August, 2009

Make Like A Banana & Get Outta Here

Saturday, August 29th, 2009

I think banana splits taste better if served in the appropriate dish.  Otherwise, there’s just not a bowl large enough to accommodate a split banana.  Though if you chop the split banana in half the short way and insert quarter bananas sticking up around the edges at appropriate intervals from an ordinary bowl, that’s an acceptable approximation.

Just don’t slice the banana into medallions over top of your ice cream and try calling that a banana split.  Sure, it’s a banana sundae, and you can even get away with calling it a banana royale.  But what did you split?  Nothing.  If you haven’t split the banana, it ain’t a banana split, so make like a banana and get outta here.

‘Vegetable’ Oil

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

hey - I picked up a free bag of chips on my way through the Pitt move-in madness.  I was bored while I ate them, so was reading the back of the package.  The 2nd ingredient was vegetable oil (after potatoes, which was nice), and then in parentheses, it said “(contains one or more of the following: corn, peanut, cottonseed, soybean, and/or sunflower oil)”.  None of those struck me as a vegetable.  I count a grain, 2 legumes, a fiber and, what - a flower?  Does the “vegetable” in “vegetable oil” have anything to do with the source of the oil, or is it taking advantage of the perception that corn is a vegetable?



All toads are frogs, but not all frogs are toads. I count a grain, 2 legumes, a fiber, a flower—and 5 vegetables.

Whereas some botanical categories are neatly defined (fruit, legume, conifer, etc.), vegetable is a looser term meaning edible vegetation; and, as such, there are many different botanical classifications that all figure into the vegetable category.

Take broccoli, for instance: a vegetable, but also a brassica–along with turnips, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, mustard greens, and more.  Or tomatoes: a vegetable, but also a fruit.  Or corn: a grain but also a vegetable.

Hope this helps!

Fabulous Fungi

Sunday, August 23rd, 2009

Mushrooms are magical.  When they’re good, they’re delectable but when they’re bad they can kill you.  The knowledge of how, where, and what to forage is a specialized art known to few but from which all of cuisine benefits.  That’s why the Allegheny Mountain Mushroom stall is quite possibly my favorite at Farmers at the Firehouse.  The variety of what you can get there is exotic and exciting, and usually includes types I’ve never heard of.

The slippery jack has octagonal pores and a speckled top.  The Butter Bolete has a red cap and a yellow underbelly.  As opposed to the Gilled Bolete which, well, has gills; or the White Bolete, which is quite spongy.  Who knew?


Firehouse Tomorrow

Friday, August 21st, 2009

Great news—according to current forecasts, the weather should be just partly cloudy tomorrow from 9:30-1:00, when I’ll be demonstrating knife skills and cooking techniques at the Farmers at the Firehouse farmers’ market in the Strip District (2216 Penn Avenue, at the eastern end of the market district); the rain is expected to hold off until later in the afternoon.

So, come meet the folks who grow you food, get your ingredients directly from the source, and try a taste of whatever I concoct!

Hope to see you there

Bacon, Bacon, Bacon, Shrimp, Cupcakes, and Bacon

Thursday, August 20th, 2009

What’s better than bacon?  Five hours dedicated to the consumption thereof as presented in novel twists.

I’ve been proffered a press pass to attend the Blue Ribbon Bacon Tour, which is to be held at Harris Grill (home of regular Tuesday bacon nights) on Saturday, September 26 from 11 am - 4 pm.  The menu (which is subject to change) currently includes: Bacon Pierogi, Bacon Wrapped Shrimp, Bacon Brittle, Bacon Wings, Bacon Sushi, Chicken Fried Bacon, and a Bacon Cupcake.

More information, including a link to order tickets, is available on the Mr. Bacon Pants website.

Special offer: if I spot you using a cloth napkin at the Blue Ribbon Bacon Tour, I may give you a prize!

Food Fact

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

Popcorn is a whole grain.

I know—it’s totally intuitive once you think about it: the whole kernel is popped, so what else could it be but a whole grain?

That having been said, the fact one is getting recommended nutritional value with it will never justify according to any even semi-logical nutritional analysis the singlehanded consumption of half a stick of butter.

Making Blackberry Jelly

Monday, August 17th, 2009

Guest Post by Clara Lee Sharrard; Photos by Jim Sharrard

Blackberries are ripe!  Thanks to a very wet spring and summer, we have a bumper crop of blackberries this year.  Thus far we’ve had them with ice cream and made into sorbet.  I have been picking about 2 quarts per day from my “bramble” that is growing between our driveway and our neighbor’s fence.  Picking them is a lot of work since the thorns are plentiful and very sharp.  The berries do a great job of hiding under leaves.  Every time I think I have picked all of the ripe berries in one spot, I move slightly or disturb a leaf and discover another bunch ripe for the picking.

Picking berries is much different in the city that it was in the country where I grew up.  The thorns are the same, but at least I don’t have to worry about my sandal-clad toes sharing space with a snake hiding under the bushes!

I have decided to use a large portion of this year’s berries for jelly.  Homemade jelly takes a while to make but it is well worth the final effort.  You need a ratio of about three-fourths well ripened to one-fourth slightly under ripe berries.  The reason for this is that the less ripened fruit contains more pectin, which is essential for the jelly to be firm.

It takes about 4-5 quarts of berries to yield 4 cups of juice, which will make about 4 jars of jelly (6 ounces each).  If you happen to find a mother lode of berries and are wondering what to do with them, I definitely recommend trying the jelly.  We have so many berries that many of the folks on my gift list will probably be receiving blackberry jelly this Christmas.  I just hope they will appreciate the amount of work that went into producing such a heavenly product.


Corduroy Orange in the News

Friday, August 14th, 2009

Check out this article from the Post-Gazette on local food blogs, including Corduroy Orange!

As it mentions, I will be cooking at Farmers at The Firehouse in the Strip District on Saturday, August 22.  Exactly what I’ll be making is up in the air—it depends on what the farmers at the market have for me to work with.  I’ll try to do a few different things to show a variety of what can be accomplished with fresh, in season produce and a butane burner.  Plus, if you want some ideas for using any of the stuff you’re buying from the farm stands, I’ll give you some tips and pointers.

Hoe to see you there (with a basket full of food!)

Watch out For Blight!

Friday, August 14th, 2009

I got a very sad email the other day from Don Kretschmann, the farmer who runs the CSA I belong to:

“Late blight is here and is devestating the tomatoes just as we are making the first major picking of our largest field.  the slightly smaller second field is now also showing signs of phytophthora infestans.  We’ve experienced late blight before, but never this early in the season.  It’s very discouraging to look forward toa  nearly tomato-less season.  But we are not alone.  the wet 2009 season has provided nearly perfect conditions for the fungus….”

What exactly is this fungus?  If  I’d been paying closer attention to the Post-Gazette on July 11, I would have seen this column by Sandy Feather and I would already have known that “the fungus Phytopthora infestans, late blight[,] is highly contagious and can wipe out tomato and potato crops in short order. It is the disease responsible for the potato famine in Ireland in the mid-1800s.”

Scary stuff, especially since “During moist weather, the spores can survive and be transported up to 50 miles on air currents to infect other plantings of tomatoes and potatoes. During favorable weather conditions, unprotected foliage can be infected in three to six hours; symptoms can appear within a week. Those symptoms can expand rapidly during cool, wet weather and cause entire plantings to die within two weeks of infection.”

Unfortunately, the only foolproof way to fight it, according to Ms. Feather, is fungicide application, a procedure that I will not institute in my garden. I suppose I should take Ms. Feather’s advice and both trim and bury any infected portions I discover on my plants; though I wonder how burying the leaves will necessarily be any safer than sending them to the landfill: I’m just as likely to dig up that spot in my yard at some point in the future to garden there.

I suppose it’s too late to hope for hot and dry weather this year.  I guess I’ll just play defense and hope to get a few more tomatoes from my yard, even if I won’t be making any huge batches of soup.

I have an email in to Ms. Feather and anotehr in to Don Kretschmann asking if either can suggest some more sustainable measures than fungicide applications to control the disease; in the meantime, if anyone else has some tips to help us get the most out of our gardens, please let us know!

Farmers’ Market Resource Guides

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

Do you know where I can find a COMPLETE list of local farmers’ markets? Citiparks only has the citiparks markets. . . For example, I know there’s one in Oakland on Fridays and one at Phipps on Wednesdays that aren’t listed. I’m wondering if there’s another one today (besides South Side).


A couple of options that might help you:

PASA’s Buy Fresh/ Buy Local program publishes a comprehensive bookmark that they distribute at Phipps on Wednesdays, Market Square on Thursdays, and elsewhere/when that lists the markets alphabetically.  Glancing at it now, I can tell you that on Tuesdays, one can find farmers’ markets in: Bethel Park, Blairsville, Canonsburg, Farrell, Greensburg, Indiana, Latrobe, Meadville, Moon Park, Mt. Washington, Natrona Heights, the South Side, and White Oak.

A guide on the Buy Fresh / Buy Local website will narrow down options by radius for you, but would then require you to click on each option to get its days and times.  This interactive map on the Post-Gazette website will be of more use to someone looking for a market on a specific day.  Each market is flagged with a different color “pin” to indicate which day of the week it operates on.

I hope this helps!  Now, go out and support your local farmers and enjoy the tastiest and freshest meats, eggs, and produce available.  If you need any ideas on how to prepare something, just let me know!