Field Trip: Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture

stone barns center

I love living in Brooklyn, but I crave open, outdoor spaces (I mean I did grow up in Western Pennsylvania and my family lives on 13 acres of woods), so I was so so SO excited when Matt’s parents said they wanted to take us up to Stone Barns in Westchester. I learned about the Center when I worked at Inhabitat, and since then, it’s been on my Must-Do list.

stone barns center

Stone Barns is a sustainable 80-acre farm in Tarrytown, NY. It was originally part of the Rockefeller estate, and the stone barns (it’s an aptly named place) were originally used as a dairy farm by John D. Rockefeller. It fell into disuse in the ’50s and the Rockefellers used it to store their car collection, but in the ’70s, David Rockefeller’s wife Peggy began cattle breeding on the farm. Continue reading

Tofu Banh Mi, With CSA Veggies!

Tofu Bahn Mi, tofu, bahn mi, mark bittman, crown heights csa

First, I’m not even going to bother saying this is a recipe post, because we literally followed this Slate recipe verbatim. Second, have you ever had banh mi? It’s basically a Vietnamese hoagie (or sub, if you prefer that term, but I don’t. I’m from Pittsburgh.) Anyway, there is this place. It’s in Little Italy. It’s called Saigon Vietnamese Sandwich Deli. It used to be called Saigon No. 1. They’ve expanded a bit and apparently changed their name since we first went there three years ago. Not that we were the first people to go there or anything because we most definitely weren’t. But clearly business has boomed since our presence was had. But back to the point: their sandwiches. Banh mi is a traditional Vietnamese sandwich on a baguette that has warm, sweet pork and rich pate, served with slices of cool cucumber, crisp pickled carrots, and a spicy chili sauce. It’s an amazing combination of sweet, savory, fatty, spicy, cool, and crunchy. Totally amazing.

BUT. This post is obviously not that. This post is about our imitation of that amazing sandwich. Matt found this recipe on Slate for a tofu banh mi. We’ve both had tofu before, but we’ve never cooked it before. But since we’re always looking for more vegetarian recipes to make, and we got all of the veggies necessary for this in our CSA baskets, I was all about making this. Also, the tofu cooking method is from Mark Bittman, and he’s basically our recipe god.

Local highlights: Carrot, cilantro, and kirby cucumber from Sang Lee Farms via the Crown Heights Farm Share

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I Made This: Garlic Scape Pesto

Garlic Scape Pesto, garlic scapes, jessica dailey

I know what you’re thinking. “Garlic scapes? Jess, you did not get garlic scapes in your first CSA.” I know, I know. If you haven’t noticed, I’m quite slow at posting (this pesto is long gone by now), and we’re already on our third CSA delivery. Just bear with me. I promise CSA veggie recipes will be on the way.

But right now, let’s talk about this pesto. Have you ever had garlic scapes? Have you ever seen them? You may have thought, “what the heck are these crazy curly things?” Well. I will tell you.

Garlic Scape Pesto, garlic scapes, jessica dailey

Local highlight: Garlic Scapes from Phillips Farms in Hunterdon County, NJ

Scapes are the fresh green shoots that grow out of hardneck garlic, and they are cut off because, if left on, they’d just take away from the formation of a nice plump garlic bulb. And that’s the last thing that anyone wants. Me, especially. Garlic scapes are garlicky, vegetal, and slightly herby, so they can be used in so many ways. The best way (at least in my book) to use them is to make a pesto, but my parents love them just sauteed or grilled.

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Bright & Refreshing Thyme Collins

thyme collins, jessica dailey

One of Matt’s hobbies, much to my delight, is to make cocktails. He loves experimenting with new bitters and liqueurs, and I love drinking whatever fancy concoction he whips up. Over Memorial Day weekend, we visited his parents in West Chester, Pennsylvania, and their garden inspired him to brighten up one of our favorite drinks with some fresh herbs. Gin is our liquor of choice in warm weather, and a lemony, fizzy Tom Collins is our preferred method of consuming said liquor. To fancify things, Matt muddle a few sprigs of fresh (like plucked-from-the-plant-five-minutes-ago-fresh) thyme in the bottom of each glass before adding the drinks, and I garnished each with a bit of thyme flowers (I didn’t even know thyme had flowers!). Thus was born the Thyme Collins.

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I Made This: Penne with Broccoli Rabe & Venison Italian Sausage

penne with broccoli rabe and venison italian sausage

My dad, much like most dads in Western Pennsylvania, is a hunter. All my life, the Monday after Thanksgiving has been recognized as something of a holiday, as it’s the first day of deer season. Every year, my dad packs his gear and heads for the woods. For him and my family, getting a deer, or two, is not just for sport — venison has always been a regular source of protein for us. So much so that my mom never needs to buy ground meat. When I was little, my dad would send his deer to a local processor, but now he does the whole thing himself, from skinning to grinding. He shoots the deer on my family’s 13 acres, and makes ground meat, jerky (the BEST jerky, I might add), breakfast sausages, hot italian sausage, snack sticks, chops, and steaks in our house. How much more local can you possibly get? And it’s most likely organic, unless someone is spraying down our woods with pesticides.

When Matt and I lived in Pittsburgh, we’d get a couple frozen packages of venison from my parents every few weeks, saving us poor college kids a lot of money and providing us with delicious, lean meat. It’s something that we’ve really missed, now that we’re 400 miles away. Local, sustainable meat is so expensive, and we only really buy it for special occasions. But my parents, God bless them, always bring a cooler full of home-grown venison when they come to visit. My mom and sister delivered the latest batch over Mother’s Day weekend, when they came up for an impromptu visit. Our first recipe from the supply made use of the super flavorful sweet italian sausage, which we served in a pasta with a bunch of fresh broccoli rabe that Matt picked up at the farmers market.

Local highlights:
– Venison Sausage from Dailey Acres (it has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?)
– Broccoli Rabe from Lani’s Farm Stand at the Union Square Greenmarket

broccoli rabe

The bitter rabe paired perfectly with the sweetness of the slightly gamey sausage, which we browned with olive oil, a hearty helping of garlic, and a few dashes of crushed red pepper. We used a hearty whole wheat penne (well, half whole wheat, half Barilla plus multigrain because we didn’t have enough of either), and we generously topped it parmesan cheese. It was one of the simplest, tastiest recipes we’ve made in a long time. Between forkfuls, we kept mumbling things like, “oh my gosh, this is so delicious.”

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I Made This: New Haven Style Clam Pizza

New Haven Style Clam Pizza, pizza, clam pizza, mark bittman pizza dough, littleneck clams

All my life, I have loved pizza. Now, everyone says they love pizza, but when I say I love pizza, I mean that I love pizza. It is truly, honest to goodness, my favorite food. And I don’t discriminate when it comes to pizza. I’ll gobble down a greasy late night slice just as soon as I’d make reservations at the newest gourmet pizza restaurant. So when I finally got my own pizza stone for Christmas, I was over the moon. Finally! I can make delicious, non-pita bread pizza (my specialty) whenever I want!

But then came the problem of the dough. Everyone says frozen dough is the quickest, easiest way to whip up a pie, but guess what? My city grocery store (read: not a suburb supermarket wonderland that has 17 types of every product) does not carry frozen pizza dough. Plus, why buy the frozen stuff when homemade dough only calls for about four ingredients?

Mark Bittman pizza dough, pizza dough, homemade pizza dough, pizza dough recipe

For the first couple tries, I made a rather sticky dough based off the recipe in the instruction booklet that came with the pizza stone. It tasted ok, but it didn’t crisp up very well, yet still wound up being kind of hard and chewy. The week before I embarked on my clam pizza, I found Mark Bittman’s simple pizza dough recipe that used the food processor. I don’t have a stand mixer (you may have heard something about apartments in NYC being small…), and I love my food processor almost as much as I love pizza, so I knew I needed to make this dough. And the simple toppings of a New Haven-style clam pizza were actually perfect for being able to really taste the dough. It was thin, crispy, and the crusts were beautifully golden on the outside while still light and soft on the inside.

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Spotlight: Clams from Blue Moon Fish

littleneck clams, blue moon fish, clams, hard shell clams

So, about those beautiful littleneck clams I bought from Blue Moon Fish

I had big plans to make a New Haven-style clam pizza with Mark Bittman’s food processor pizza dough (recipe to come!), and the fact that I didn’t know the first thing about preparing fresh clams wasn’t going to stop me. It was only when we were hacking away at the stubborn little guys with our butter knives did I think, “Hmm, perhaps I should have bought a shucking knife before I bought the clams.” But nevermind that. We (ok, Matt) got them all open without losing any fingers, and let me tell you, they were delicious. It was like eating the ocean.

littleneck clams, blue moon fish, clams, hard shell clams

Unfortunately, I have a bad habit of getting too caught up in my food preparations and forgetting to take photos, so I don’t have any pictures of the fresh juicy clams swimming in their little pool of liquor on their half shells. But, in all honesty, most of our clams were a bit mangled and the shells were cracked and broken thanks to our amateur shucking job. In fact, when I slurped one down raw with a bit of hot sauce and a spritz of lemon, I crunched down on a piece of shell. There is a reason why every “How to Shuck Clams” video says you should not use anything but a clam knife.

The clams smelled exactly as fresh clams should, like the salty waters of the Atlantic. Raw, they were slightly sweet and salty, soaking in their briny liquor. Cooked, they were tender, sweet, and almost buttery. Combined with garlic, parmesan-reggiano cheese, oregano, and copious amounts of olive oil on a pizza… oh. my. god. It was perfect.

I’ll be ordering a couple of shucking knives this week so we can do it all again as soon as possible, minus the risk of slicing off our fingers.

At the Market: Blue Moon Fish

Blue Moon Fish, Blue Moon Fish new yorkphotos via Blue Moon Fish

Every Saturday at the market, without fail, Blue Moon Fish has a line a dozen people deep at all times. And every Saturday, without fail, I think, “Next week, I’m going to come prepared and definitely buy some some fish from them.” Well, after nearly three years of thinking that, I finally followed through.

Instead of purchasing a cut of fish that I’m familiar with, I bought littleneck clams, a product I’ve never worked with. But before I tell you all about my clams, a little about Blue Moon Fish. Alex Villani started Blue Mood Fish in the late ’70s, docking his 36-foot-long boat at the Mattituck Inlet on Long Island, where he still is today. He started selling his catch at the Tribeca Greenmarket in 1988, and quickly expanded to Grand Army Plaza, where he would sell out most of his catch. He met his wife at the Grand Army Plaza market in 1990, and today, the two of them still sell at both those markets, plus Union Square on Wednesdays.

Throughout the year, Blue Moon Fish offers more than three dozen different types of fish and seafood, ranging from whole bonito and butterfish to  scallops, mussels, and oysters. In the summer months, a typical day’s catch is between 400 and 600 pounds of porgies, blackfish, bluefish, fluke, squid, and at each market, about a dozen different products are available. The fish is widely considered the freshest fish one can buy in New York City, and the Villani’s one-boat, fisherman-to-table operation really sets them apart from other local fisheries.

Instead of selling wholesale to the Fulton Fish Market, where they would just box up their fish on the dock and ship it out, the Villani’s see their customers every week and can share recipes and tips with them. Plus, their model lets them sell fish that other fishers waste, like sand shark or sea robin, because those fish aren’t the target of the larger boats. Blue Moon has the freedom to sell whatever they catch so nothing goes to waste.

For a really great article on Blue Moon’s operations, read the two page piece by Edible Brooklyn from 2006, linked on Blue Moon’s website.

Clam details and a clamlicious recipe to come!