Nosh News and Best Bites: Jammed Together Edition

Now is the time to find ripe strawberries at local farmers markets and roadside stands.

Berry fans, rejoice: The local strawberries are ripe! I picked quite a few quarts on Tuesday during my volunteer shift at Full Earth Farm, and got to take some home. We ate all of them fresh — the first ripe strawberries of the spring never last more than minutes around here — but next time I luck into a berry bounty I’m going to restrain myself long enough to make this recipe, which was inspired by a dish served at Disney World’s Grand Floridian Resort: Simple Strawberry Soup from Christy Jordon’s Southern Plate blog.

Paella and flamenco make the perfect picante pairing. On Friday, April 27, you can relish both at Mission San Luis, 2100 W. Tennessee St. Award-winning guitarist Grisha Goryachev will perform modern and traditional flamenco music while local caterers Real Paella serve a sit-down gourmet dinner that includes sangria, Spanish salad, flan and, of course, paella mixta with vegetables, meat and seafood. The event begins at 6 p.m. Tickets are $35. Visit the Real Paella website to order tickets or call 339-2043.

In the epic battle of the big coffee chains, I’ll choose Dunkin’ Donuts over Starbucks every time. So I was thrilled to discover that filmmaker Whit Stillman prefers the Double D, too. In fact, the crew on his just-released film “Damsels in Distress” was treated to two Dunkin’ Donuts runs each day. I found out about Stillman’s coffee predilections, along with a handful of unexpectedly intriguing everyday insights, when he was featured this week in Bon Appétit’s My Morning Routine series, which explores how people kick-start the day.

Do you dream of owning a food truck? Find out more about how to make it happen at the Food Truck 101 Workshop offered by the Tallahassee Food Truck Association. The event is set for 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, April 27 at the All Saints Hop Yard, 453 All Saints St. Attendees will learn about required licenses and registrations, insurance, suppliers and more, and will have the chance to talk with food truck owners who’ve already hit the local streets.  The cost is $25. To register in advance, visit the Tallahassee Food Truck Association website.

Roll into National Bike Month with the Capital City Cyclists, who are encouraging Tallahassee-area bicyclists to get together for dinner at a different local restaurant on each Wednesday in May. The Dinner by Bike series kicks off on Wednesday, May 2 with a meal at Mike’s Stone Baked Pizza, 1313 Jackson Bluff Road. Start your ride from home, work or school and meet up with other riders at the restaurant anytime between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. For more information about Dinner by Bike and other National Bike Month events, visit the Capital City Cyclists website.

Farm Fresh: Welcome Spring with Snow Peas

We’re sharing our favorite veggie-centric recipes featuring the produce that’s in season right now in north Florida, and available at local farmers markets, produce stands and Community Supported Agriculture programs.

These fresh snow peas soon will meet their stir-fried destiny in the wok.

Bite into a snow pea, and you will experience everything that is most wonderful about spring. A just-picked snow pea tastes crisp and green, delicate enough not to overwhelm your senses but robust enough to be memorable.

We’ve been fortunate to receive locally grown snow peas in our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) share for the past two weeks. Last week, we ate them fresh, in handfuls as a snack and tossed into salads.

This week, we decided to put our snow peas at the center of a dinner entrée. Nothing elaborate, of course, since produce this fresh requires very little adornment and, besides, who wants to spend hours in the kitchen when the weather is so lovely?

The folks at Full Earth Farm, who grow our CSA share, offered up the perfect suggestion. Their weekly email, in which they list the produce we’ll be receiving and update us on what’s new at the Quincy farm, also included a recipe for a snow pea stir fry.

I’ve tweaked the simple recipe, adapted from Martha Stewart’s website, so it will be spicy enough for my chile-loving household. Feel free to use 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, as per Ms. Stewart’s original recipe, instead of the serrano chili and Vietnamese chili garlic sauce I’ve added, if you don’t like your meals quite as fiery. We love to serve our stir fries on top of Asian noodles, such as soba or rice noodles; brown rice would be a great addition, as well.

Shrimp, Shiitake and Snow Pea Stir Fry
Recipe adapted from MarthaStewart.com

Ingredients
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon Vietnamese chili garlic sauce (Thai sriracha sauce also would work well)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pound shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and halved (large ones quartered)
1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
4 ounces (2 cups) snow peas, trimmed
1 serrano chili, cut into thin slices (you could use a jalapeno instead)
2 scallions (green parts only), chopped

Directions
1. In a small bowl, combine garlic, ginger, vinegar, soy sauce, and Vietnamese chili garlic sauce.

2. In a large skillet or wok, heat oil over medium-high. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring, just until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic mixture and cook until slightly reduced, about 2 minutes. Add shrimp, snow peas and serrano chili and cook, stirring, until shrimp are opaque throughout, 3 to 4 minutes. To serve, top with scallions.

Farm Fresh: Tomato Land

We’re sharing our favorite veggie-centric recipes featuring produce that’s in season right now in north Florida, and available at local farmers markets, produce stands and Community Supported Agriculture programs.

This past Saturday, I visited Tomato Land. I’ve taken food to go from Tomato Land (I’ll save that deliciousness for another post), but never shopped for produce. A few weeks ago when a Tallahassee Groupon was offered for Tomato Land produce, I figured it’d be the perfect opportunity to give their produce a try. So this Saturday, I had $10 to spend, and believe me, it went far! I purchased: 2 local grapefruits, 5 tangerines, 1 bell pepper, 4 ears of corn, 1 yellow onion, 1 mango, 2 tomatoes and 2 green apples!

Tomato Land’s selection of tomatoes.

With the fresh corn, I tried a new slow cooker recipe, Corn on the Cob with Garlic Herb Butter, and it was amazing!

Corn on the Cob with Garlic Herb Butter
A recipe from “Crock-Pot The Original Slow Cooker: Recipe Collection”

Ingredients
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 to 4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely minced
4 ears of corn, husked
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions
1. Thoroughly mix butter, garlic and parsley in small bowl.
2. Place each ear of corn on a piece of aluminum foil and generously spread butter mixture on each ear. Season corn with salt and pepper and tightly seal foil.
3. Place corn in 4 1/2 quart slow cooker; overlap ears if necessary. Add enough water to come 1/4 of the way up each ear. Cover; cook on low 4 to 5 hours or on high 2 to 2 1/2 hours.

Tomato Land on Thomasville Road.

I found the selection, customer service and prices at Tomato Land to be great. I’ll definitely go again for produce. Also, if you are looking for fresh wreaths and Christmas trees, they have quite a selection!

If you want to send Florida citrus to friends and relatives up North, Tomato Land has gift baskets ready to go.

Just the facts
Tomato Land

1847 Thomasville Rd., Tallahassee
(850) 425-8416

Farm Fresh: Learning to Love Beets

We’re sharing our favorite veggie-centric recipes featuring the produce that’s in season right now in north Florida, and available at local farmers markets, produce stands and Community Supported Agriculture programs.

A freshly picked beet from Full Earth Farm.

When the Professor and I signed up a year ago for the Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) program offered by Full Earth Farm, I knew that we would encounter some vegetables we’d never cooked with before.

Through recipe research, great recommendations from friends and the folks at Full Earth Farm, and some random experimentation, we’ve conquered kale, collards, garlic scapes and other vegetables that once were foreign to us.

But one vegetable confounded me: Beets.

Before joining the CSA, I best knew beets in their commercially pickled form, which to my tongue taste overwhelmingly sweet, with an unpleasant metallic tinge. Thus, I despised them. So when freshly picked beets turned up in our CSA share last fall, I eyed them warily. Then I tried them raw in a salad, and roasted with other root vegetables. And I still didn’t like them much.

Well, it’s beet season again. This year, though, I’m actually eager to see those crimson orbs in our CSA share, thanks to a brand-new recipe created by Katie Harris of Full Earth Farm. We gave Katie’s recipe a test run last weekend with our first share of beets, and I can’t wait to make it again.

Here’s the recipe that taught me, at long last, to love beets:

Fun Mash
A Katie Harris original recipe
This is basically pink mashed potatoes. The amounts of each ingredient are up to you and your liking. It’s flexible and you won’t mess it up!

Ingredients
Onions
Garlic
Oil
Salt
Pepper
Butter
5 potatoes
4 beets (roots only; save the greens for another recipe)
Sour cream and/or milk

Directions
In a large pot, boil enough water to cover beets and potatoes. While that’s getting hot, quarter the beets and potatoes. Once the water is boiling, toss them in. While they are cooking, sauté the onions and garlic in oil until they are as done as you want them. Once the beets and potatoes are soft, drain most of the water off, but leave a little. Mash with a potato masher and add butter, milk/sour cream, sautéed onions and garlic, salt and pepper. Mash well and serve warm.

Doesn’t this scoop of Fun Mash look like raspberry sorbet?

To make our own version of Fun Mash, we used eight small red potatoes instead of five big ones. The potatoes and beets took about 30 to 35 minutes to get soft. When we mashed them, we added plain Greek yogurt instead of sour cream, along with a splash of half ’n’ half instead of milk. Since we put chile peppers into just about everything we cook around here, we threw in a couple of tablespoons of our latest adaptation of Rick Bayless’ Adobo de Chile Ancho.

A note about Adobo de Chile Ancho: This seasoning paste, which is one of Bayless’ workhorse Essential Recipes from his cookbook “Rick Bayless’ Mexican Kitchen,” adds earthy, spicy flavor to all sorts of dishes, including marinades, beans, chili, enchilada sauce and scrambled eggs. This time, we made the adobo with a mix of guajillo and ancho chiles, and used some juicy roasted tomatoes instead of broth.

When the Fun Mash was ready to eat, I cast aside my usual skepticism about any recipe containing beets when I got a glimpse of its color: a gorgeous fuchsia. The scoop of Fun Mash on my plate looked just like a dollop of raspberry sorbet.

As good as this dish looked, it tasted even better. The red potatoes, along with the Greek yogurt, butter and Adobo de Chile Ancho, tempered the sweet beets into something much more savory to my tastebuds. And the beets, in turn, gave the dish a depth of flavor that’s usually lacking in traditional mashed potatoes. I loved the bit of unexpected crunch from the sautéed garlic and onion, too.

We’ve got more beets coming our way this CSA season, so I’ll have the opportunity to continue experimenting with this versatile recipe. Next time, we’re going to add some diced jalapeños to the garlic and onion before we sauté. Thanks for the great recipe, Katie!

Farm Fresh: Keeping it Simple

We’re sharing our favorite veggie-centric recipes featuring the produce that’s in season right now in north Florida, and available at local farmers markets, produce stands and Community Supported Agriculture programs.

Thanksgiving week = crazy busy. With that being said, my cooking and veggie-centric recipe was kept simple. I picked up two ears of corn at Earth Fare for only 89 cents each! Fresh corn can be made into many things, but in my “keep it simple” state, I threw the corn on the grill. After about 15 minutes the corn was done, I put some butter and salt on it, and it was the perfect side dish!

Grilled corn

P.S. Since I was using the grill, I grilled two pieces of free-range chicken breast – also purchased at Earth Fare. I like getting my chicken from Earth Fare because they disclose the farm it came from as part of their 100 mile radius commitment, which means they are committed to purchasing from farmers within 100 miles of the store and will not label anything “local” unless it came from within 100 miles of the store location. I marinated the chicken in soy sauce, garlic and honey for one hour prior to grilling … it was delicious!!