Archive for August, 2012

More Twits from a Twit

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

Buy dirty potatoes whenever possible… ‘washed’ potatoes rot more quickly or have been sprayed with fungicide.

Learned from Burgh Bees: only honey and bumble are true bees; honey won’t sting except in defense of their hive.

Dunkin Donuts coffee is really quite terrible.  Faced with the choice, I’d rather get it from a gas station.  I’m just sayin’.

September is Hunger Action Month.  Wear orange 9/6 to show support. for more to do.

If you have a chance to try a pink lemon, do—they’re fantastic!  Taste like a cross between lemon and lime.

General rule: ugly tomatoes have a great personality.

Save your ballpark $ for beer… PNC Park will let you bring in food.

Farmers @ Firehouse 10th Anniversary Party 9/8/2012:

Newspapers had ‘twit’ columns well before twitter: see Garry Brown (Hitting to all Fields, Springfield, MA) or Norman Chad (The Couch Slouch, syndicated).

Say hello to your mom for me.

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.

Cooking with Angstrom

Tuesday, August 21st, 2012

So, Angstrom is turning out to be quite interested in the goings on in the kitchen.  Not that I’d wish him to become a pro (Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be line cooks!), but I do hope he’ll have the skills.  Shouldn’t be too much of a stretch.  He uses his bamboo knife to slice things and is an active sandbox chef (his specialty: apple-spaghetti cake, which he covers with a bucket to “bake for two months.”)

Yesterday, when we came home, I offered to get him set up with a snack so that I could start cooking dinner.  He went to grab his big, yellow stool (”Want your big yellow stool,” he said) and started dragging it in from the dining room so that he could reach the counter.  It toppled over.  He continued to try to drag it, even as he told me, “you need help.”

I tried to set him up on his own patch of counter top, but that didn’t fit his image of the afternoon.  He wanted to join me on the butcher block so that he could watch me cook.  I was a little concerned about this idea, seeing as much of my work was going to consist of chopping vegetables with a 9-inch knife and most of the time that he’s set up there with me, our work consists of measuring and stirring.  But he was insistent, and I’m not one to discourage him from learning, so I relented pretty quickly.

Before we could get started, though, we had to figure out what to make.  “How about omelets?” I suggested.

“Don’t want omelets!” he replied.

“Are you sure?”

“Don’t like eggs!”

I knew that wasn’t entirely true.  I also knew that he has to be in the right mood to enjoy them, so I moved on.  “OK, how about beans?”

“Don’t like beans!”

I knew that was entirely false, so I scooped him up and suggested that maybe he wanted to come to the basement with me to choose what kind of beans we ate.  No sooner had I said the words, “black beans” than he gave his vigorous approval.

We came back upstairs with two cans of beans; I pulled the coffee cake out of the toaster oven and gave it to him on a plate.  As he shoved it in is mouth, I grabbed two onions off of the counter to dice.  One was yellow, one was red.  “What is that?” he asked, pointing to the red onion.  I told him.  He corrected me, “It’s a beet.”  I was eventually able to convince him otherwise.

Once the onions were in the hot pan, I asked Angstrom what else we should cook with the onions.  “Cinnamon,” he told me.  That’s his first answer to any cooking question.

“How about tomatoes?” I asked.

“Don’t want tomatoes!  Want apples!”

Now, that was cooking advice I could use.  “Sure,” I said, “That sounds good.”

“And cinnamon.”

At this point, I had to decide he knew what he was talking about.  Into the pan went some cinnamon.  I also used some black pepper (”Angstrom loves pepper!” he told me) and some ginger.

I peeled the apples each in one strip.  With the first apple, I rolled up the peel into a rose.  “What is that?” Angstrom asked, then answered his own question.  “It’s a flower!  Angstrom loves flowers.”

He also loves apples, and he did me the favor of eating half of an apple as I was preparing them to go in the pan.  He never reached toward the knife, though, always asking for a piece when he wanted some more.  He even said please.

Once the apple went into the pan, I started asking what else should go in.  “Beans,” said Angstrom.

“I meant before the beans.  Do we want any more vegetables?”

“Angstrom wants tomatoes.”

“Wait, no, you’re the one who talked me out of using tomatoes.”

“Angstrom loves tomatoes.”

This was one piece of advice I didn’t heed.  “Actually, Mr.,” I told him (I often call him Mr. Sharrard), “I think you were right the first time.  I like the idea of using apples instead of tomatoes.  How about we add some peppers?”

He was all right with this plan, so I went ahead and chopped up half a bell pepper and added it into the pan.  “Anything else?” I asked the chef.


He was right, it was about time to add the beans.  I drained and rinsed the two cans of beans, and put ‘em in the pan along with a cup of stock.  While dinner simmered, we sat down and read a book.

Dinner for a Friend

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

Hey -

A friend / co-worker just had a baby. What’s a good dish to bring them? The husband doesn’t like green veggies & they have a 2 yr old. Ready….go!


With some spinach in it so that he can set a good example for his two-year-old by eating a full spectrum of colorful foods.


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.


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 for more info or call the co-op at (412) 242-3598 to register.

Peach-Blueberry Crumb Cake

Thursday, August 2nd, 2012

Crumb cake has long been one of my favorite breakfast items.  The recipe my mom makes is fantastic, and I have used it for many years to consistent results.  I’ve toyed around with it some: adding spices to the crumb mix, for instance.  But it wasn’t until this past weekend, when I was staring at mountains of peaches and blueberries whilst pondering breakfast that I tried adding fruit into the mix.

Wow!  So good I ate nearly half of it myself.

My mother sometimes doesn’t like it when I monkey around with her recipes.  This particular edit to her recipe seems so intuitive that I don’t know why I never tried it sooner.

Peach-Blueberry Crumb Cake

♦ 3 cups flour
♦ 1 Tbl baking powder
♦ 1 tsp salt
♦ 1/2 tsp cinnamon
♦ 1/2 tsp ginger
♦ 1/4 tsp nutmeg
♦ pinch cardamom
♦ 1 1/2 cups sugar (split between white and brown)
♦ 1 stick butter
♦ 3 large eggs
♦ 1 cup milk
♦ 2 tsp rum
♦ 2 cups sliced fresh or frozen peaches
♦ 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

1. Preheat oven to 375F. Grease 2 x 9-inch pie plates or 1 x 12″ cast iron skiklet
2. Mix all the dry ingredients together.
3. Use fingers or dough cutter to blend butter into flour mixture, like you would to start a pie crust or biscuits.
4. Measure out 1 1/2 cups of this mix and set to the side. This will become the crumb topping.
5. Beat eggs in a small bowl. Blend in milk and rum.
6. Stir liquid into dry until just combined. There should be lumps.
7. Fold blueberries into batter.
8. Spread half of the batter into the pie plates or skillet. Spread peaches across the batter evenly, then top with the rest of the batter.
9. Spread crumbs across top. They will be thickly spread. This is good.
10. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out dry.

Serve warm. Leftovers are best wihin 24 hours. They get somewhat sticky after that. Leftovers best heated briefly in toaster oven.