Holy pajamas, it's already a week later! Sorry, folks. Weeks just fly by on farms with their constant chores and treasured trips into town. So, food stamps. How did they come get wound up into the Farm Bill? Well, the short answer is they are a forced way for urban and rural politicians to come together. The long answer is not so simple.
When President Kennedy came into office in 1961, the urbanized North was going bananas, economically wise. Suburbs with their cookie cutter houses, factories, cars and highways as far as the eye can see. But that wasn't the case in the South. To many, it was the land that time forgot and Michael Harrington's book "The Other America" brought it to national attention. President Kennedy, and later President Johnson, made poverty alleviation part of their policy agendas including such things as food stamps. From the very beginning, people have been fighting about what the poor should be able to buy with their stamps and there have been constant attempts to encourage the buying of fresh produce and healthful foods. That, in return, would give regional farmers a new market to tap. To this day, $1 from SNAP ends up bringing $1.73 into the economy. You see what they did there?
It wasn't until 1974 that the food stamp program went nationwide. 40 years ago, if you were struggling and starving, you could only hope you lived in the right area to receive some support from the federal government and even then receiving that help was a complex process involving paperwork and office visits. In 1977, the Democratic President Carter suggested reforming the program and signing it into legislation which became the Food Stamp Act of 1977. It was spearheaded by two Democrats (from South Dakota and Minnesota) and two Republicans (from New York and Kansas), so yes it was bi-partisan--as any big legislation should be--but not fully rural meets urban halfway. Plus, at this time, the USDA and agriculture industry was hellbent on farming "fencerow to fencerow" and those subsidies were increasing in size. This gave the country a supposed outlet for surplus crops. So it joined the motley crew of nutrition programs in the 1977 Farm Bill. It's not a true law, the program to this day has to pass through Congress as an act/bill.
Now what I personally find hilarious is that food stamps are labeled urban, while farming is labeled rural. Anyone else heard about urban farming lately? How successful farms are located close to urban centers? Or had anyone bothered to look at this NY Times infographic from 2009? Food stamps actually don't primarily go to the urban poor. Put this in your pipe and smoke it, Frank Lucas of Oklahoma. jump
The other day I spotted some tasty looking glazed chocolate doughnuts on chef friend Elizabeth Barbone’s site glutenfreebaking.com. Though I’ve never baked gluten-free goodies before, I took a peek at the recipe (it looked so easy!) and I decided to take the plunge and make them for my gluten sensitive niece . . .
A few months back I picked up this baked mini doughnut pan at Sur la Table. Lawman laughed at me and said you’re never going to make baked doughnuts. And while it’s true that I do love frying up some doughnuts, I thought that the pan would be conducive to some fun baking adventures with Lil B.
While my son is perhaps too young to fully get in the game with this recipe, there were small tasks that he was able to help with—whisking the dry ingredients (sort of, I’ll admit I went back in to make sure they were fully incorporated) and zeroing out the scale as I measured the ingredients, a task that he took great delight in.
With the mini-doughnut pan you really need to pipe the batter in with a large round tip. With the pan being so small and shallow, you really need only one swipe around with the batter to fill it halfway—any higher than that and you get really puffy overgrown doughnuts with a barely perceivable doughnut hole.
The doughnuts aren’t overly sweet by themselves so don’t skip out on the glaze. As for the reaction…they were a HIT with gluten and non-gluten eaters and they went very quickly at the party. I’ll definitely make these again.
Now to bake these doughnuts I invested in a bag of xanthan gum. It was $14.99 for half a pound. I used ¼ teaspoon of that. It expires in two years so hit me up in the comments with your best gluten-free baked goods recipes! jump
It’s no secret that we’re fans of Ben & Jerry’s. And we’ve been lucky enough to get a peek at new flavors and exclusive press launches (mmm…Late Night Snack). Tomorrow Ben & Jerry’s is going to be debuting their New York City exclusive “City Churned” flavor and they’re inviting the public for a taste of this one-time-only treat…
Here are the details…
WHEN: Friday, July 26th (That's TODAY!)
WHAT: Flavor Unveiling and Tasting Celebration Event
WHEN: 5:00 – 7:00 p.m. (Flavor unveiling will happen promptly at 5:00, so don't be late!)
WHERE: Pier 57, New York, NY
WHY: 'Cause ice cream is delicious and free ice cream is quite possibly more delicious. You can read more about the whole City Churned campaign here.
I can’t remember the last time I had a Pop Tart. To be quite honest, I haven’t thought of Pop Tarts in years, until recently. In the last month it seems Pop Tarts or similar breakfast pastries are everywhere I look. . .
First I spotted some gorgeous strawberry rhubarb Pop Tarts in the Cinnamon Snail’s FB feed. Then I saw Serious Eats was blogging about new Pop Tart flavors. Chocolate peanut butter?! They didn’t have those back when I was in high school. When I spotted said chocolate peanut butter tarts at my local grocery store. I couldn’t help it, the reviews were in and they were good, I had to try them. Alas, it was not to be. Just before opening the box I flipped it over for a peek at the nutritional info and saw that in addition to peanut butter these Pop Tarts included almond butter. Booo. Some people (ahem, like me) are allergic to tree nuts but not peanuts. Thanks for making Peanut Butter Pop Tarts off limits, Kellogg! *shakes fist*
All of this is a super long winded way of saying I was especially susceptible to the charms of anything in Pop Tart-ish form when I dropped by Union Market on 7th Ave in Park Slope last week and spied the beauty you see above. This lovely pastry is made by Magpies Artisanal Tarts, a small Brooklyn company who has been rockin’ the Smorgasburg since last spring. Union Market had several flavors of tarts. Alas they signage wasn’t that awesome, so I couldn’t really tell which flavor was which. I took a guess that this would be blueberry and ding, ding, ding, I was right. Magpie’s tarts are made with Anarchy in a Jar’s jams (ummm, yes, please). They’re buttery and pleasant and don’t leave any weird chemically aftertaste. I’m looking forward to trying the other flavors. If Magpies would create a peanut butter chocolate tart, all would be right with the world....jump
Over the past few weeks, a number of people in my life have asked my opinion regarding the goings-on of the 2013 Farm Bill. There have also been a number of well respected food personalities who misinform the general public or don't appear to have any real grasp of what the Farm Bill really is beyond the chunk that is SNAP aka food stamps. Well, while I'm out on a farm doing farm things, I'll sit down and try to pass on what little knowledge I have. Mind you, I'm no expert, but I have learned more than my fair share about this over the past few years.
To start, the best way to think about the Farm Bill is to think about like cable TV. It started out really small with good intentions, but as the years go on, new things are added, each with their own agenda and purpose, some making absolutely no sense to you, but the best thing in the world to others (I'm looking at your Disney Family channel). It's made celebrities of senators who haven't done anything else notable with their careers, Kim K-style. And now, we can't imagine life without it.
The first "Farm Bill" happened in 1933 (the Agricultural Adjustment Act) following the Agriculture Marketing Act of 1929 which established the Federal Farm Board. At the time, the American agricultural sector was a mess: drought in some areas, too much production in others, sharecroppers being exploited, simplistic economic theories ruled the day, just a mess. This bill started the creation of farm supports to keep farmers on the land (and out of the city), and also conservation efforts, not to conserve land, but to stop production. Imagine this as the Big 3 networks. They showed us what was possible.
The next bill, in 1938, is one of the few Farm Bills signed into law. It established price supports (subsidies) for corn, cotton and wheat, along with the Federal Crop Insurance Program. This is FOX. Sometimes useful (The Simpsons), sometimes awful (Joe Millionaire).
Zoom up to 1949 and you have the other Farm Bill that is constantly lurking about waiting to regain its foothold on society due to being signed into permanent law. Just looking at the tables accompanying the first Act (Basic Agricultural Commodities) makes me want to throw up on myself. This is the first bill that allowed us to give surpluses to friendly countries (remember this is post-WWII. Hello, Cold War, how you doing?) And guess what Washington wanted to buy?! Wheat, corn, flour, legumes, rice, vegetable oil, the "healthy" stuff. This is also the bill that had dairy price supports that threatened to make ice cream really expensive at the beginning of the year. It doesn't want you stuffing your face with frozen cream while attempting to read the entire act. This is PBS bringing us BBC and Sesame Street, but with the fundraisers all. the. damn. time.
By this point in the game, the commodity crops we know and love (or despise) today had established themselves as the pillars of our food system, and the USDA had already begun devising a plethora of programs to deal with food surpluses. Food stamps had been in use from 1939 to 1943, stopping as the "unmarketable" surpluses and widespread unemployment declined. And er mah gawd, here comes cable.
(To be continued because I need to get my bikini on and head down to a party at the lake)jump
A couple of weeks back I was minding my own business scrolling through Facebook and what should I spot in my feed but a photo of the Roasted Strawberry Buttermilk ice cream from Jeni's. I've never tried Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream, but I have heard wonderful things and the Roasted Strawberry Buttermilk combo sounded way too good to pass up. Alas, the Jeni's distribution in our area is a bit sparse, so I started plotting ways I could make this at home…
First I ate as many frozen vegetables as possible so I could fit the ice cream maker bowl in the freezer. This is what you call earning your ice cream.
Then the heat wave hit and while I had enough space in the freezer, I didn't have all the ingredients. Oh noes! It's not exactly easy to get out to the store with a toddler and newborn in tow in the heat. So I resigned myself that this little project would have to happen another time. Well, fate had other plans because just as I had given up hope, I saw that Siobhan had posted a link on our Facebook page to a Bon Appétit slide show with a recipe for Strawberry Buttermilk Sherbet (one more reason you should be following us on FB). While I didn't have all the ingredients for ice cream on hand, I could make a sherbet with the contents of my fridge and freezer. Sweet victory was in sight!
I adapted the recipe slightly and was very pleased with the results. All the flavors melded together nicely in the sherbet (please tell me I'm not the only one who wants to pronounce it sherbert). The balsamic and strawberries are up front and center on that initial taste but it finishes with the tang of buttermilk. While it's not as creamy as ice cream it's plenty refreshing for this hot weather we've been having. Here’s my modified recipe. When strawberries are in season I prefer to use the fresh stuff for immediate consumption, opting for frozen ones for cooking, feel free to use the fresh stuff if you prefer.
Balsamic Roasted Strawberry Buttermilk Sherbet
Serves 4 to 6
12 ounces frozen strawberries
1/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1/3 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Pinch of kosher salt
Move oven rack to center position and preheat oven to 425° F. Line a large baking pan with parchment paper. Add strawberries and sprinkle with sugar then drizzle with balsamic vinegar. Roast the berries, until berries are softened and juices begin to bubble, about 20-35 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.
Purée berries and rendered juices along with buttermilk, sour cream, vanilla extract and salt in a blender until smooth. Transfer mixture to an electric ice cream maker and churn according to manufacturer's instructions. Store in an airtight container in the freezer until serving.
If I want some heat and a Thai menu that goes beyond Massaman and Pad Thai, I hit up Wondee Siam in Hell’s Kitchen. The space is tiny and we go far less often than I might like, but when I do, the Mieng Ka Na (dried pork salad) from their not-so-secret Thai menu is a must . . .
There are a bunch of Wondee Siam locations in Hell’s Kitchen but we’ve never stray from the original after hearing from some native Thai folks that it had the best cooks. Back when we started going to Wondee Siam their “secret Thai” menu was still sort of under the radar. You had to ask specially for the little card to be brought to your table. Thai food fanatics soon got wise to the offerings—sautéed Chinese broccoli or watercress with crispy pork, chive pancake, whole fried fish with mango salad—and blew it up on the internets. For a while Wondee Siam left the secret menus out in the open on every table, but the past few times we’ve gone you’ve had to ask for the menu once again. Maybe they discovered that their customers liked being in on the secret.
The salad consists of salty dried pork bits, peanuts, shallots, ginger, red onion, tiny lime wedges that you eat whole, peel and all wrapped up in Chinese broccoli. The salad comes tossed in a light, sweet and tangy dressing and the overall effect is all at once sweet and salty, spicy yet light. Just the sort of lunch or dinner I crave during the summer time.
I'll admit that beans aren't that sexy. They're not lovable like cows and pigs and ducklings. They're not completely gorgeous like heirloom tomatoes or jewel corn. They're just these things that exist and are important because of their high nutritional value and generally low cost. We take them for granted. But they deserve their moment in the sustainable food spotlight and companies like Cayuga Pure Organics have been trying to do just that: to spread the word about and love to the lowly beans and grains among us. Until disaster struck! And now Cayuga themselves are the ones in need of saving!!
As you can see from the video, Cayuga Pure Organics is desperately trying to get their operation back up and running after a devastating fire. A number of organizations, chefs, and regular old foodies like myself have donated money, but the equipment is incredibly expensive and they are not even halfway to their goal. So, I plead with you, our wonderful readers, to help out Cayuga Pure in any way you can. Saving Cayuga means saving heirloom grains and beans for our future generations, and allowing this small piece of the local food economy to stay intact. Here's their IndieGoGo campaign with more information about their operation and why rebuilding is so expensive. jump
At the risk of angering a mob of Windsor Terraceans and Kensingtonians by blowing up their spot, I'm putting it out there that if you aren't brunching at Hamilton's, you need to remedy that ASAP . . .
Once upon a time I was a girl who lived for brunch. I still love the sweet/savory/decadent combos that are so at home on a brunch menu. What I don't love are the ridiculous prices--come on, it's scrambled eggs!--and the waits. When you have an infant and a toddler those days when you could roll out of bed at noon to join a two-hour brunch line are long gone. These days if we go out for brunch we get their right when the place opens, eat and leave before the crowds descend.
We showed up at Hamilton’s at around 11am on a Saturday and were able to score a prime outdoor table. They’re a kid-friendly spot and have a ton of high chairs on hand and best of all the menu is super reasonable.
Here’s what we had:
Brioche French Toast ($9), thick cut brioche, spiced citrus custard, toasted almond butter, with mint infused maple syrup. While we were perusing the menu, we overheard the table next to ours gushing over the French toast so naturally we had to order it. I didn’t get to taste this myself because of the almond butter, but it was the hands down favorite of our group. Lawman-in-law described it as tasting “like the middle of a cinnamon bun.”
The Chorizo Biscuits & Gravy ($10) was a hearty, tomato-ey version of your classic biscuits ‘n’ gravy. Hand rolled biscuits were light and fluffy—I wouldn’t have minded a side of these on their own, perhaps with a bit of jam.
The Beef Hash & Eggs ($11), corned beef, potatoes, onion, sunny side eggs, was another substantial plate that was commended to us by our waitress. It was substantially better than another hash dish we recently had at a popular (and pricier) brunch spot in Carroll Gardens.
Next time (and there will be a next time soon!) I want to try their soju slushies…
The All Star Game has come to my favorite stadium: Citi Field! I was fortunate enough to head to All Star Sunday yesterday--there was the Futures game as well as the Legends/Celebrity softball game to watch--and got to try the latest addition to the Shake Shack menu: Meet the Pretz. It's totally on the list of things to try, despite the reported 1020 calories.
Oh, and the lady behind the counter said she gave me extra pretzels for being patient. As for other things you should eat at Citi are the fried chicken sandwich from the almost always line-less Blue Smoke, fries from Box Frites, or the Pat LaFrieda steak sandwich. If none of those things fit the bill for you, consider stopping by the Tortas Neza truck underneath the 111th Street Station. It's literally a five-minute walk from the stadium and he'll give you enough food for two people for under $10. Also, make sure to do the outside stuff, like test driving a Camaro. It's fun times for everyone. jump
Ah, cherry season! So magical! So fleeting! If you follow the goings on at Four & Twenty Blackbirds pie shop like I do, you might have spotted some pics of cherries on their Facebook page. Well, cherry pies are indeed happening right now--both sour cherry and sweet cherry with streusel ($5.50), and they won't last...
Yesterday I made my first major solo outing with two kiddos in tow for the baby's check up and we celebrated with pie--it seemed a fitting thing to do since Lil B made his very first Four & Twenty visit when he was a newborn, too. Let me just put it out there that I ADORE sour cherry pie. In fact, sour cherry pie ranks among my top food memories--the specific pie that I'm thinking of was made by my high school boyfriend's mom with cherries from their own yard. For years this pie has been my white whale--unmatched by any pie before or since...until now.
The sour cherry pie from Four & Twenty Blackbirds is certifiably awesome. So many cherry pies are, in my humble opinion, ruined by over sugaring and the addition of almond extract. Cherries don't need almond extract to taste great! They are naturally delicious and that's what's so wonderful about this pie. The Elsen sisters let the sweet/tart flavor of the sour cherries shine. And their buttery crust is lovely and flakey as always. Emily Elsen told me that they were up at Wilklow Orchards checking out the cherries and they are in their prime now, but going fast. She predicted they'd have sour cherry pie for perhaps the next week and sweet cherry pie maybe a bit longer and that will be it! If you love cherries like I do, don't tarry, go get your slice or whole pie asap. They don't always post their daily offerings online so it's best to call in advance to see what's on offer if you have your heart set on a certain pie.
For pie lovers who can't hit their Brooklyn shop, The Four & Twenty Blackbirds cookbook is coming out this fall and is available for pre-order. I can't wait to get my hands on a copy!
Four & Twenty Blackbirds
439 Third Ave. at 8th St,
Brooklyn, NY 11215
Hours: Monday to Friday: 8am - 7pm
Saturday: 9am - 7pm
Sunday: 10am - 6pm jump
The ongoing G train sagas haven't bothered me lately since there's really no reason for me to ever leave my neighborhood. We have cool bars, great shops, two farmers markets plus Smorgasburg and the Flea, and I'm surrounded by friends. *And* we have all the doughnuts you could want, especially now Spina has opened, where they've decided to offer up Dough doughnuts!
Spina is part flower shop/part cafe that appears to have moved from "the other side" of Greenpoint and a new store that is actually needed on Franklin Avenue. The couple of times I've stopped by, my entrance is instantly greeted with a refreshing "how are you?" instead of grimaces or smirks. That sort of attention forces you to be all positive and friendly, and then you see the beautiful flowers--seriously gorgeous bouquets--and doughnuts. They seem to get a couple of varied dozens and I, of course, picked up my favorite, hibiscus, though I have seen the other usual suspects. Thank goodness using the ferry isn't my morning routine or a doughnut and coffee would become a regular thing.
107 Franklin Avenue
Depending on what you’re reading kale is either the next super food that will help us all live to 159 or it’s the butt of #stupidfoodie jokes. While I might roll my eyes at Kale Martinis, I’ll never say no to a kale salad. In fact lately I’ve been making a ton of kale salad at home—it’s easy and best of all it lasts several days in the fridge. Recently I tried the Organic Kale Salad ($9) from Brooklyn Commune and after having it three times within the last two weeks, I can say with certainty that this is a meal you’ll want to eat in the heat . . .
The salad is simple, chopped up kale and radicchio with shaved Manchego and anchovy dressing, Brooklyn Commune has a local and seasonally focused menu and their kale comes from Snug Farm on Staten Island, a farm that visited last summer with Blondie!
Lately I’ve been making my own kale salads with lemon dressing, but after having this salad, I might have to give homemade anchovy dressing a try. How do you like you’re kale salad?
It’s summer. It’s muggy. And pretty much all I want to do is eat ice cream. And lots of it. Earlier this spring I satisfied my intense pregnancy induced craving for a hot fudge sundae at Ample Hills Creamery in Brooklyn with their über-decadent Crossing Brooklyn Ferry sundae. Well, I can also report that their regular old hot fudge sundae ($7.60) is also well worth your while...
Behold, the Cookie Au Lait Hot Fudge Sundae! That’s a scoop of Cookie Au Lait ice cream (espresso ice cream made with Brooklyn Roasting Company Espresso and Back-To-Nature Sandwich Creme Cookies) perched atop a dark chocolate fudge brownie smothered in their hot fudge then tricked out with rainbow sprinkles, and home-made whipped cream. Cookies Au Lait holds a special place in my heart, it’s the flavor I voted to save to the permanent menu when Ample Hills recently trimmed their daily offerings down to 16 flavors. Blondie voted to save it too and what do you know, but Cookie Au Lait finished just 2 votes ahead of the next most popular flavor. It’s coffeetastic and cookietacular. You’re welcome.
The F Street location only opened a few weeks ago and was overrun with tourists when I arrived leading to a bit of line confusion. I was there for one thing only and was determined to get it in my hour to spare: the "Doughnuts are Forever" concrete. Vanilla frozen custard, pieces of a coconut doughnut from Astro Doughnuts, strawberry jam and rainbow sprinkles all mixed together into a little cup of heaven. It's a really fun concrete, not too chocolatey or overwhelming and eating spoonfuls of jam took me back to childhood when I would sneak such things out of the jar. Maybe next time I'll finally go to the Spy Museum next door.
Remember that time when I made homemade Sriracha Cheez-its? Yeah, me, too. They were awesome. So awesome that they got me thinking, what other cheesy crackers could I make at home? How about Cracked Pepper and Gorgonzola? Winner, winner, cheesy cracker dinner…
The recipe I got for Sriracha Cheez-its from Molly Yeh's blog was so easy to make that I basically just swapped out gorgonzola cheese for cheddar, omitted the sriracha sauce in favor of cracked black pepper to taste and voila, cracker magic.
In the interest of not nomming down on ALL THE CRACKERS(!), I recommend halving the recipe when making the dough and saving a portion to bake another day. This was pretty much the only way I could control myself in the presence of such deliciousness. Trust me, unless you are having a party or have some outlet to share these crackers you don’t want to eat them all yourself.
Homemade Cracked Pepper and Gorgonzola Crackers
8 ounces crumbled gorgonzola cheese
4 tablespoons cold, cubed, unsalted butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Move oven rack to the center position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Add ingredients to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse about 5 to 7 times, or until flour & butter/cheese comes together in pea-sized clumps. Add in one tablespoon of ice water at a time, pulsing between additions until mixture begins to come together like pie dough.
Transfer mixture to a medium bowl and use your hands to bring the dough together in a ball. Cut the ball in half, wrap with plastic wrap and freeze or refrigerate for another day.
Place remaining dough on a sheet of parchment paper cut to fit a large baking sheet. Flatten the dough into a disk, then place a sheet of plastic wrap on top. Roll out the dough to about ¼ inch thickness and use a sharp knife to slice 1 inch square(ish) crackers. Place the parchment paper on your baking sheet and arrange the crackers so they have at least a ¼ inch between each cracker. Bake for 10 to 14 minutes or until crackers are golden brown. Store leftovers in an airtight container.