Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Andy's Beef Stew

Here's a simple beef stew recipe, courtesy of a local CSA member, Andy A. The red wine combined with the aromatic vegetables and herbs gives it a rich, fruity complexity. You don't have to use an expensive bottle, but make sure that it's good enough to drink on its own. Whatever flavors are in the wine will be concentrated during cooking.


2 lbs. beef stew cubes
1 large onion, diced
5 carrots, sliced
4 stalks celery, sliced
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 lb. potatoes, 1" dice
5 sprigs thyme
2 or 3 branches parsley
bay leaf
1/2 bottle red wine (or substitute beef or chicken stock, or water)
32 oz. can crushed or diced tomatoes
salt & pepper to taste
large (family size) dutch oven

Preheat oven to 300F. Brown beef cubes in oil or butter in the oven (in batches if necessary), toss cubes in flour seasoned with salt & pepper, and set aside. Pour fat from dutch oven. Deglaze oven with a little red wine, being sure to scrape up and stir all the brown bits until they dissolve, and reserve this liquid.

Add the onion, carrots, celery and garlic to the dutch oven and cook for a few minutes, until the onion softens. Add the beef cubes, reserved liquid, potatoes, tomatoes, parsley, thyme, bay leaf and red wine (or stock or water), leaving an inch or two of room in the dutch oven.

Bring to a gentle simmer, and then place in the oven. Cook for 2.5 - 3 hours. Check in occasionally to make sure the stew is still simmering slowly, and adjust the oven temperature if needed. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Here's to a Delicious New Year!

Each year we make them, and each year by about February we seem to develop selective amnesia. Resolutions? What resolutions? But I have a feeling that this year will be different.

Forget willpower. We just need to make our goals more delicious! So, in the spirit of the new year, we thought we'd kick off 2010 by sharing some of our personal local food resolutions. Throughout the year, we'll keep you updated on our progress by blogging about our efforts.

Here's a taste of what's to come:

I will cook a rabbit. I've seen them at the farmers market, and I've always wanted to give it a go. Also, I'll learn to brew my own beer at home. - Jen

This year I'm going to buy more of my food locally, without increasing my family's grocery budget. I'll be keeping track of our spending & comparing it to our usual grocery bill. I'll let you know how it goes! - Cheryl

I've found it easy to eat locally by freezing the harvest, but lately I've been wondering how I can avoid using so many plastic bags. So my goal is to explore more ways to preserve local foods, including canning and fermentation. - Susan

Are you planning to join a CSA, plant a garden, buy pasture-raised meat, spend $10/month on local food, or go all out & eat a 100-mile diet? We'd love to hear about your own local food resolutions - leave us a comment below!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

10 Good Reads from 2009

Now that the days are short, and the holidays have come and gone, we have a little more 'indoor' time on our hands. Here at Buy Fresh Buy Local South Central PA, we think there's no better way to spend a cold January day than curled up with a hot cup of tea and a good book!

In case you were too busy this year gardening or cooking or just enjoying the sunshine to keep up with the latest in food lit, we thought we'd make a list of 10 notable local food books of 2009. Whether you're planning your next food project, or just want to tag along on someone else's adventure, we think there's something here for everyone.


Mark Bittman's Kitchen Express: 404 inspired seasonal dishes you can make in 20 minutes or less - Mark Bittman

The author of the New York Times column "The Minimalist" and the bestselling "How to Cook Everything" has done it again, this time with 101 tasty recipes for each season that make the most of fresh ingredients. Perfect for weeknight dinners.

The Blackberry Farm Cookbook: Four Seasons of Great Food and the Good life - Sam Beall & Molly O'Neill

A coffee table book so luscious you could eat it. Of course you could actually make the recipes, or you could just daydream about visiting the Blackberry Inn in the Great Smokey Mountains of Tennessee, where the food is always farm to table fresh, artisanal and delicious.

Well-Preserved: Recipes and Techniques for Putting Up Small Batches of Seasonal Foods - Eugenia Bone

If you're thinking of trying out some canning this summer, or you're wondering what to do when you have just a little extra produce from the market or a farmshare, this is a great place to start. With 30 small-batch preserve recipes and 90 recipes for using those preserves.

The Joy of Jams, Jellies, and Other Sweet Preserves: 200 Classic and Contemporary Recipes Showcasing the Fabulous Flavors of Fresh Fruits - Linda Ziedrich

If you have a little experience under your belt, you might want to dive into this collection celebrating the sweeter side of life All recipes made without commercial pectin or other artificial ingredients.

Market Fresh Mixology - Bridget Albert & Mary Barvanco

It was only a matter of time, right? The local food movement has caught up to the world of mixology, and now you can fix yourself a seasonal cocktail while you read, if a cup of tea's not your thing!

Food Lit

The Food of a Younger Land: A Portrait of American Food - Before the National Highway System, Before Chain Restaurants, and Before Frozen Food, When the Nation's Food Was Seasonal - Mark Kurlansky

The title pretty much says it all. Kurlansky got his information from the files of a never-completed WPA project from the 1930s that set out to document America's foodways.

Fat of the Land: Adventures of a 21st Century Forager - Langdon Cook

Set in the Pacific Northwest, and structured around the seasons, the book follows Cook's adventures as he tries to catch, track and gather wild foods from the land and sea around his home.

Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer - Novella Carpenter

A woman chronicles her efforts to turn a vacant lot in Oakland, Ca. into a thriving urban farm, complete with veggies, bees, rabbits, pigs, you name it!

Made From Scratch: Discovering the Pleasures of a Handmade Life - Jenna Woginrich

A yound city-dweller decides to become more self-sufficient, and writes about her successes and disappointments as she learns to grow her own food, make her own clothes, and live a simpler life. With how-to tips.

The Backyard Homestead: Produce all the food you need on just a quarter acre! - Carleen Madigan

A wide-ranging how-to guide to producing your own food, from gardening and raising livestock to cooking, canning, curing, brewing, tapping maple trees and making your own cheese and yoghurt.

So there you go! Ten good reads to keep the local food fires burning this winter. Do you have a book to recommend? We'd love to hear about it! Let us know by commenting on this post.

Comfort In A Bowl

'Tis the season for comfort foods, and what could be more satisfying than a hearty braise or stew?

Braising and stewing transform cheap cuts of meat into meltingly tender bites, while infusing the cooking liquids with rich, complex layers of flavor. Best of all, you can put together a meal with whatever ingredients and flavorings you have on hand, once you know the basic steps to follow.

A braise usually uses larger pieces of meat (often with the bone in) and less liquid, while a stew generally uses bite-size pieces of meat. Both methods make the most of more inexpensive cuts. A pricier (& usually leaner) cut will dry out during the long cooking time required, but an economical cut (think shoulder, leg, shank, or tail) will stay moist as the connective tissue and fat dissolve during cooking. You can always skim the fat from the braising or stewing liquid before you serve it!

1. Season the meat with salt & pepper. (You can do this a day ahead of time for extra flavor).

2. Brown the meat on all sides in a heavy pot, in batches if necessary, and set aside.

3. Pour off the fat.

4. Deglaze the pot with a little wine, scraping up all the browned bits, and reserve the liquid.

5. Cook the aromatic vegetables (any combination of onion, celery, carrots, fennel and leeks) in a bit of fat.

6. Add the meat & deglazing liquid back to the pot.

7. Add stock or water. For a braise, the liquid should come about halfway up the meat. For stew, it should almost cover the meat.

8. Add any flavorings, like sprigs of herbs (e.g. parsley, thyme & bay leaves) and spices (e.g. whole peppercorns in cheesecloth).

9. Bring the liquid to a boil, then lower the heat to a gentle simmer and cook (either on top of the stove or in a 300F oven) until tender (usually around 4 hours).

You can play around with this basic formula to end up with any number of meals. Try marinating the meat before you cook it. Add tomatoes, potatoes or other root vegetables to the pot. Serve with dumplings or on a bed of polenta. Or season it with spices from the Middle East or South Asia. Enjoy, and let us know if you do!

*photo by jspatchwork