Friday, July 10, 2015

Great Fishing at a Great Park! And win a Great Parks parking permit.

I had the opportunity a few days ago to try fishing at Lake Isabella, located just of I-275 near Montgomery and Loveland, one of the Great Parks of Hamilton County parks system.

The setup is great for a day -- or a weekend -- of family fishing.  Great Parks stocks the lake multiple times each spring and summer with trout, bluegill, catfish and perch starting in March with the final stock of trout released in November.  You can find the schedule here.

I chose Lake Isabella because it was the closest of the fishing lakes (the others are Campbell Lakes, Miami Whitewater Forest, Mitchell Memorial Forest, Sharon Woods, Triple Creek, and Winton Woods) to my home, and it was a happy choice.  The lake feels surprisingly rural, even though I-275 rolls right past it just out of sight.  Once I wound around the drive, I felt as if I were out in the country instead of just inside the beltway.  Trees and picnic tables surround the lake, and there's a well-stocked shop with bait sales and equipment sales and rental.  The staff were great -- sold me some red wigglers, gave me a refresher on hook-baiting, showed me how to find a good spot, and told me a lot about the lake.  I caught a bluegill!  Very exciting.

The parks system runs multiple events for fishermen throughout the year -- contests, classes, and fishing camps for kids who want to learn to fish.  Lake Isabella offers Friday Night Grillouts throughout the summer -- families can catch dinner and grill it right there on site.  On Saturday August 8th from 8am - 4pm, they're holding their annual Market Trade event, a kind of flea market for fishing enthusiasts to sell or trade used fishing gear.

I threw my bluegill back in -- he can grow and become a bigger meal for someone else -- but if I'd had a mind to clean and filet him, here's what I'd have done:

Bluegill Parmesan
Serves 4

1/4 c butter, melted
1/2 c dry bread crumbs
1/3 c grated Parmesan
2 T finely chopped fresh parsley
1 t salt
1/2 t paprika
1/4 t oregano
1/4 t basil
1/4 t pepper
1 pound bluegill fillets
1 lemon, cut into wedges.

Preheat oven to 350.  Grease a 13x9" baking pan.

Place butter in a shallow bowl.  In another bowl, mix bread crumbs, Parmesan, herbs and spices and mix well.  Dry fillets, then dip into butter and then in breadcrumb mixture, coating both sides.

Bake, flipping once halfway through, for approximately 20 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork.  Serve with lemon wedges.

Great Parks gave me a couple of 2015 parking permits to give away -- leave a comment here, and I'll randomly draw two winners on July 17th.  Either check back to see if you won or include your email so I can notify you!

Saturday, June 6, 2015

DIRT: A Modern Market

Findlay Market is opening a year-round market place for producers of locally grown foods and other agricultural products. DIRT: A Modern Market will open at 131 West Elder in June.

DIRT will be a full-time retail store selling only locally produced fruits, vegetables, meat, cheese, dairy products and cottage goods. It will function like a consignment store where growers and producers rent space by the week or month, set up their individual display, set their own prices, and are reimbursed 70-80% of their gross sales.  

Findlay also plans for this space to become the informal hub of local food initiatives at Findlay Market and to provide an informal community center, hosting meetings of local organizations and presenting classes on topics such as gardening, healthy cooking, food preservation, crafts, and issues relating to sustainability.

For more information, visit the website.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Food Truck Festival June 24 Fountain Square

Local non-profit Josh Cares will hold their third annual lunchtime festival and fundraiser, Food Truckin’ for Josh Cares on Wednesday, June 24 from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at Fountain Square in downtown Cincinnati. 15 food trucks will participate.  

Guest celebrity judges, including Reds Executive Chef James Major and Donna Covrett, Executive Direction of Cincinnati Food & Wine Classic, will determine the winning dishes for the Golden Spatula Award for Best Entree and Best Sweet Treat.  Past years' winners include Eli's Barbeque, C'est Cheese, and Street Pops.  

Josh Cares provides companionship and comfort to children hospitalized in critical and chronic care units at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. Proceeds from the event help fund the work of Josh Cares Child Life Specialists.

Tickets can be purchased at the event for $2 each and redeemed for items at any of the participating food trucks.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Okara and Veggies/Meatless Main Dish Recipe

Anyone who makes their own* soy milk or tofu knows about the okara problem: what to do with the 'soy lees' or okara -- the leftovers after all the soy milk has been squeezed out of the ground beans.  We know this stuff is full of protein and fiber, so isn't there a way to keep it out of the compost pile?

Most American recipes I've found try to shoehorn okara into baked goods or meatloaf as a filler or meat substitute.  Most Asian recipes call for ingredients I can't find even at my local Asian supermarket.  I adapted this one from a couple of Japanese recipes that treat okara as a main ingredient and don't try to hide it.  My non-tofu-loving family went back for seconds (before I told them what they were eating) and have admitted they'd be happy it if I made it again.

It's March, so I used root vegetables, frozen edamame, and dried shiitakes, but you could substitute any number of seasonal vegetables in this recipe.

Okara & Veggies
Serves 4

1 oz dried shiitake mushrooms
1 T olive oil
1# golden beets, peeled and cut into matchsticks
1 T salt, divided use
1 large russet potato, peeled and cut into 1/4" dice
3 T soy sauce
1 T mirin
1/2 T rice wine vinegar
1 T sugar
1/2 c broth or stock
12 oz shelled edamame
1/2 c sliced leeks or onions
3 c cooked soy lees or okara**
1-2 T sriracha sauce to taste
1/4 c mayonnaise

Cover shiitakes with 2 c boiling water and leave to soak 1/2 hour, then drain through a cheesecloth or very fine sieve (reserving liquid), remove and discard stems, and slice thin.  Set aside in large bowl.  In the meantime heat oil in a 6-QT or larger sauce pan over medium-high heat.  Add julienned beets and 1/2 t salt, stir, cover, and lower heat.  Allow to sweat 15 minutes or until barely tender and add to mushrooms in bowl.

In same pan place diced potatoes and 2 1/2 T salt and add water to barely cover.  Place over high heat.  Once boiling, lower heat to lowest setting, cover, and cook until barely tender, 3 - 5 minutes.  Drain and add to beets and mushrooms in bowl.

Return pan to burner and set to medium high heat.  Add reserved mushroom liquid, soy sauce, mirin, rice wine vinegar, sugar, broth, edamame, leeks, and okara/soy lees.  Stir gently until combined and bring to a bare simmer.  Lower heat and cover, stirring occasionally, until leeks are barely tender.  Uncover and continue to cook until most of the liquid is absorbed.  Add 1 T sriracha sauce, mushrooms, beets, and potatoes and heat through.  Taste and add more sriracha if desired.  Remove from heat and add mayonnaise.  Serve hot.

*And you should consider making your own soy milk at least.  It's much, much cheaper, and you know exactly what went into your food.  Tofu is a bit of a process, but it's not difficult, again it's a lot cheaper, again you know what went into it, and the end product is better than what you can buy at the supermarket. And, bonus: if you make it yourself, you end up with okara.

**If you made your soy milk in a soy milk making machine, your okara is cooked.  If not, you need to cook it.  To cook, break okara up, wrap in a linen or cotton dishtowel, and set onto a steamer basket.  Place steamer basket into a sauce pan with 1/2" of boiling water, cover, set heat to lowest setting, and allow to steam for 25 minutes.  Cooked okara will keep 3 days in the refrigerator or can be frozen.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Get Up and Garden at Gorman Heritage Farm

Are you considering growing a vegetable garden this year but not sure where to start? Local horticulturist, Cheryl Shelby, is offering a class atGorman Heritage Farm that focuses on topics such as when and how to start seeds, cool and warm weather crops, containers vs. ground crops, extending the seasons, and protection from predation. Saturday, February 14th, 2015, 10:30 am - 12:00 pm. For more information or to register, visit the website

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Pork + Bottle Dinner at Metropole

Metropole in the 21c Museum Hotel is serving up a Pork + Bottle Dinner pork-themed ala carte menu available nightly from 5:30pm to 10:00pm Sunday, January 25ththrough Saturday, January 31st. Reservations 513.578.6660.

The Pork + Bottle Dinner is an ongoing installment of the Metropole's Fork + Bottle Dinner series. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Pop-up Nigerian: Friday November 28

Lagos, who describe themselves as "born in Nigeria and raised in Detroit, serving authentic Nigerian cuisine in a relaxed and communal setting. We don't peddle tired stereotypes or gimmicks; none of that coming-to-america-mud-cloth-and-zebra-print-wearing-spear-chucking-natives-in-ceremonial-masks going on here," is a popup restaurant coming to Cincinnati (as part of a tour that also includes Chicago, Minneapolis, New Orleans, Philadelphia, and Brooklyn) for one night only on Friday November 28th. There'll be a single seating at 6:30.  For menu and tickets, visit From Lagos.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Invitation to learn more about Northside's Apple Street Market

Come enjoy a home cooked spaghetti dinner while learning about and supporting our new neighborhood grocery store. 

Come to the market's Spaghetti dinner, Saturday September 20 at North Presbyterian Church, 4222 Hamilton Avenue Cincinnati 45223, from 6-8 P.M. Doors will open at 5:30. Suggested donation is $15 for adults and $5 for children 12 and under. There will be a vegetarian sauce with vegetables from Our Harvest Cooperative and meat sauce with local grass fed beef, salad from Our Harvest, garlic bread, beverages, apple crisp and ice cream. Split the pot to be drawn at the end of the evening. Winner must be present. Listen to a presentation on Apple Street Market. Watch a video about Our Harvest an urban farm co-op operating since April 2012. Like the market, Our Harvest is a Cincinnati Union Co-operative Initiative.

Apple Street Market will be a full service grocery carrying products to please a diverse socioeconomic neighborhood including packaged goods for Save-a-lot prices, organic products, locally grown produce and meats as well as conventional meats.  We need you to make the Apple Street Market happen! Thinking about waiting until the market opens to be a member? No! We need you now! Why the rush? The old Save-A-Lot landlord has other tenant options and may not wait. We need to convince potential sources of funds that this can be a successful project. The way to do this is prove that there is community support and membership money, equity, to represent that support. We have a loan from the Cincinnati Development Fund below market costs if we can raise the requisite equity. When we have the requisite money, we can lease the old Save-A-Lot building and begin construction of Apple Street Market. The City has agreed to give us a 75% tax abatement on the property and the landlord has agreed to lower the leasehold costs in return. Join Apple Street Market Cooperative for $100 and help the store  become a reality.  If there is not enough interest to start the store membership fees are in escrow and everyone gets their $100 back. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Help Apple Street Market open. Become a co-op member, come to our fundraiser, eat a delicious meal and learn!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Six Secrets to Smooth, Creamy, Silky Hummus

Hummus is a funny old thing.  There are only six ingredients.  For most recipes the preparation couldn't be simpler: throw everything into a food processor and puree.  So why isn't your homemade hummus ever as good as the stuff you can buy at the grocery?  The texture is just never quite what you were hoping for.

Turns out there are a few secrets.  Some are more important than others, so you can weigh the extra yumminess against your own personal time constraints and decide which ones you want to incorporate, but I promise if you make hummus using all the secrets, you're never going to want to buy hummus again.  You'll be asked to bring Your Amazing Hummus to every party from here on out.

1.  Start with dry beans.  If you need hummus before tomorrow, you're going to have to go with canned, and yes, your hummus will still be very, very good if you use all the other secrets.  But if you have time, soaking and cooking your own beans will help enhance the texture and add a depth of flavor that even the highest-quality canned beans just can't match.

2.  Add a little baking soda to the soaking water.  The beans soak up just enough of the baking soda to make their texture creamier, but not enough to change the taste of the final product.

3.  Remove the skins.  I know, I know.  Very few of us are delighted at the thought of spending twenty minutes removing the skins from a pound of chickpeas, but this is one of the more important secrets.  You could also use a food mill or mash the beans through a fine sieve to remove the skins, but to me the extra steps of setting up and cleaning the food mill seem like more work than simply plopping down in front of the TV with a bowl of beans in my lap for a few minutes, so I just do it by hand.  Now, that said, if you decide to skip this step, you'll still end of with very good hummus if you follow all the other steps.  It just won't be mindblowing hummus.

4.  Chill the beans before pureeing.  Hot or warm or even room temperature beans won't emulsify as well as cold beans and instead can become gummy.  Additionally, when the beans are pureed warm, its impossible to tell whether more water or oil is needed to get to the puree to the desired consistency.  What seems like the perfect consistency when warm or room temperature may thicken to a cracker-breaking stiffness in the fridge.  Chill a cup or so of the cooking water, too, while you're at it.  Even if you're using canned beans, chill them before you use them.

5.  Roast the garlic.  Raw garlic is really hard to get perfectly smooth in a food processor, even after you've minced it fine, and I think the roasted garlic flavor is an improvement in hummus.  However, if you prefer the flavor of raw garlic, you can mash it with a mortar and pestle or put it through a garlic press. To roast just a clove or three, lay them on a cupped square of sprayed tin foil, add a teaspoon of olive oil, wrap tightly, and roast at 300 for an hour until the cloves are completely softened.

6.  Emulsify the lemon, tahini, oil and garlic together first.   Along with removing the skins, this is the most important secret to smooth, creamy, silky hummus.  No matter how many other recipes direct you to do so, you can't simply throw all the ingredients into the food processor together and expect them to emulsify.  I suspect the reasons there are so many recipes out there calling for the dump-and-puree method (and so many home cooks wondering why they can't get their hummus as smooth and creamy as Mrs. Hoozit's down the road) is because whenever someone asks Mrs. Hoozit for her recipe, she simply (whether by oversight or design) hands over the list of ingredients and doesn't get into the techniques.

A final word about ingredients:  This won't affect the texture, but it will affect the taste.  The olive oil, tahini, and lemon juice are what give hummus most of its flavor, so when possible it's worth it to choose high-quality ingredients.

Okay, so the recipe:

Smooth, Creamy, Silky Hummus

1 pound dried chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
1 t baking soda
1 clove garlic, roasted (or more to taste)
1/4 c tahini or roasted tahini (or more to taste)
3 T extra-virgin olive oil
2 T fresh lemon juice (approximately the juice from 1 large lemon)
salt to taste

In a large covered saucepan place beans and baking soda and add cold water to cover by at least 2 inches  Allow to soak 12 hours or overnight, adding water if necessary to keep beans covered.

Drain beans and rinse; cover with fresh water by at least an inch.  Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, and simmer covered over lowest heat for 1 - 2 hours.  Drain, reserving one cup of cooking water.  When cool enough to handle, remove the skins by pinching each bean gently to slip the skin off.  Chill beans and reserved cooking water.

In the bowl of a food processor place tahini, olive oil, and lemon juice, and puree several minutes, stopping to scrape down sides as needed, until the mixture looks smooth and emulsified.  Add garlic and process until smooth.   Add 1 - 3 T of chilled cooking water, 1 T at a time, processing 2-3 minutes after each addition, until you have a silky consistency.  Add chilled beans (I like to reserve a few for garnish) and 2 T cooking water and process 5 - 10 minutes, stopping to scrape down sides as needed and adding additional cooking water 1 T at a time if necessary to produce a smooth texture.  When the mixture looks very, very smooth, stop and check for desired thickness.  Add additional cooking water, 1 T at a time, until the desired thickness has been reached.  (You're looking for a dense, smooth texture that is not so stiff it will break a cracker dipped into it and not so thin it will slide off it.)  Taste for seasoning and add salt if necessary, processing for a few seconds to incorporate.  Refrigerate if not serving immediately.  To serve, swirl on a plate with the back of a spoon, drizzle with olive oil, garnish with reserved beans, and serve with crackers, pita chips or fresh pita, or raw vegetables for dipping.

Monday, July 15, 2013

The True Cost of Food

I've been in a civil disagreement with another blogger (gardening/recipes blogger Leaf+Grain) over the past week or so about prices at the farmers' market.  She's experiencing sticker shock, and I understand. 

Her argument is that prices at the farmers' market are too high for the average American to afford.

My counterargument is that "afford" is a relative term, and that if it's truly not sustainable to produce food the way we've been producing it over the past few decades -- that is, lots of soy- and corn-based processed foods, meat from feedlots, produce from large monocultures -- is unsustainable, then we don't have much choice but to recalculate what portion of our food budget needs to go to food.

We Americans have experienced cheaper and cheaper food prices over the past hundred years.  Industrial food is cheap food.  Our great-grandparents put a quarter of their income toward food -- and that was in a time when very few families ate in restaurants more than a few times a year.  Today the average American eats five meals a week in a restaurant, and still we spend only 9% of our household budgets on food.  This leaves us a lot of money to spend on nonessentials, and we've gotten used to that. We expect it.  When food isn't cheap, it feels overpriced.

Unfortunately she shut down the comments on her blog post, calling me a food elitist.  I don't think I'm an elitist.  I think I'm a realist.  If cheap food is truly unsustainable -- that is, if it's impossible to continue producing food this cheaply forever -- then eventually the era of cheap food will end.  If we haven't prepared for it, we'll be in much worse shape than if we had.  And I believe part of preparing for it is educating ourselves on the true cost of producing our food.

Here's the blog post.  I'd be interested in hearing any comments, either privately or publicly.