Homemade Gravlax (Cured Salmon)

Bagels and lox. A glorious combination, and I think most would agree. After being faced with the need to eliminate gluten, bagels are pretty high up on the list of things I miss. Most gluten-free bagels I’ve tried are pretty much bread with a hole in the middle. Fills the void, but doesn’t fill it well.

Homemade Gravlax | The Fresh Day

The online market of my CSA carries some products from local gluten-free bakeries, which is pretty awesome. This includes bagels from Sweet Note Bakery, a Philadelphia company that specializes exclusively in perfecting the gluten-free, New York style bagel. They are also soy-free, dairy-free, vegan, and non-gmo, garnering some serious respect. Even better, they are the best tasting gluten-free bagels I’ve had, with a chewy texture that’s amazingly close to the real thing.

The best thing to put on these bagels? Salmon, of course. Gravlax is cured salmon, like lox, but without the smoke. I brought home a big filet of wild-caught salmon from the Italian Market with just this purpose in mind. It’s an easy recipe that I like making just because it’s SO cool to be able to cure your own fish. Like ceviche or other raw applications, I suggest starting with the freshest, highest quality fish you can find (though sushi-grade is not necessary).

Homemade Gravlax (Cured Salmon)

Makes 4 servings (this recipe can be scaled up depending on the size of the salmon filet)

Ingredients
• 1.5 lb filet of salmon, skin on
• 1/4 cup salt
• 1/4 cup sugar
• 1 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
• 1 bunch fresh dill, chopped, or 2 tbsp of dried dill

Equipment
• 9 x 12 glass or ceramic dish
• plastic wrap

Homemade Gravlax | The Fresh Day

1. Prepare salmon by trimming if necessary and making sure all pin bones are removed.
2. In a small bowl, mix salt, sugar, pepper, and dill. Spread half the mixture in the bottom of the dish.
3. Place salmon skin side down on top of the curing mixture in the dish. Sprinkle remaining mixture evenly over the top of the salmon and gently rub in.
4. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and keep in the fridge for 3 days, turning over the salmon each day. (The curing mixture should have turned to liquid.)
5. At the end of the third day, gently rinse the curing mixture off the salmon. Thinly slice, removing from the skin. Serve with lemon, capers, maybe some creme fraiche or cream cheese, and bagels, of course.

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A Day at the Yogi’s Table

It’s hard to think of a better way to spend a Saturday afternoon than with an hour-long yoga class and a delicious, healthy chef-prepared meal. Conveniently, that is the very experience Onna Hepner and Stacia Nero put together for their guests at the Yogi’s Table.

A Day at the Yogi's Table | The Fresh Day

This past weekend, I had to pleasure of attending the Yogi’s Table, a yoga and dining event series recently featured on Be Well Philly. I was pumped to be a part of the experience, and to represent my CSA, Philly Foodworks, who provided local produce and products that were featured in the brunch prepared by Onna.

The event was hosted in the studio space of Full & Happy, a small supper club and cooking school Onna formed after years of working as a chef and food stylist. She transformed the apartment below her own into an enchanting yet functional space where the Yogi’s Table events have been happening monthly since May. Scheduled around brunch or dinner, the event starts with a challenging yet relaxing yoga session from Stacia, who is also an instructor at several studios in the city. As the class comes to an end, Stacia brings in freshly made green juice from the kitchen. The room is then transformed from yoga studio to dining room, thanks to some ingenious homemade portable furniture. The meal begins with a brief cooking demonstration, and Onna is enthusiastic about including some education in the experience. She told our group about the wonders of farro and barley – grains that are virtually foolproof and impossible to overcook (but note, they do contain gluten). Onna was careful to ask about food allergies up front, and the meal included options that suited us all.

Yogi's Table | The Fresh Day

Once we sat down at the table, we were joined by Onna, Stacia, and Onna’s assistant (who also happens to be her mother). The atmosphere was like a family meal – casual, comfortable, and conversational.

“I want people to leave feeling refreshed, rejuvenated, and like they just did something great for themselves” Onna said,  “I also want them to learn something – about cooking, about food, about yoga, about themselves. We also love the idea of bringing eight strangers together for a really special experience- who knows who you might meet or where the conversation will lead?”

I have to say, Onna achieved exactly what she set out to do. The Yogi’s Table is a uniquely enjoyable experience, and a moment in time that allowed me to focus on my own well-being.

Email onna@fullandhappy.com for more details, or visit the website. Tickets are $50, which includes the hour-long yoga class and the meal.

Upcoming classes are:
Thursday, December 11th 6:30 pm (there’s only two spaces left for this date!)
Thursday, January 8th at 6:30 pm
Thursday, February 5th at 6:30 pm

Kitchen Sink Shakshuka

There’s a little place in Old City called Cafe Olé, just around the corner from where my office used to be. It’s one of the best lunch options in the area, mostly because they have plenty of vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options. My order was usually a salad, but every time I went in I saw people with a big bowl of what looked like tomato sauce and smelled like heaven. It was only so long before I had to try the dish for myself, and that was my introduction to the wonderful world of shakshuka.

Kitchen Sink Shakshuka | The Fresh Day

Shakshuka is a dish with a diverse ethnic background. Variations exist across different cultures, but it is generally a middle eastern and north African dish. Essentially, it is eggs poached in a tomato stew – a winning combination, but not something I had thought of before. It is traditionally served for breakfast, but for me, it is the perfect meal for anytime.

The basic tomato stew presents an opportunity for lots of additions. I’ve had versions with chickpeas, potatoes, spinach, mushrooms, and more. So when I had farm fresh eggs, a can of tomatoes, and an excess of eggplant that needed to be cooked, shakshuka was the answer. It is a great one pot vegetarian meal, and a flexible recipe to keep on hand when you’re looking to use up the veggies you have left from your CSA share.

Kitchen Sink Shakshuka

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients
• 2 tbsp olive oil
• 1 onion, chopped
• 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
• 1/2 lb of mixed mushrooms, cleaned and roughly chopped
• 1 spicy pepper, chopped (try a poblano or cubanelle)
• 2 eggplants, roughly chopped
• 1 tsp cumin
• 1 tsp coriander
• 1 tsp paprika
• 1 tsp oregano
• 1/4 tsp cayenne
• 1 28 oz. can of diced plum tomatoes
• salt and pepper to taste
• 6 large eggs
• cilantro for serving

1. Preheat oven to 375ºF.
2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Sauté onion until soft, about 5 minutes.
3. Add garlic, mushrooms, and pepper. Let cook for 2 minutes, then add eggplant, cumin, coriander, paprika, oregano, and cayenne. Sauté until all vegetables are soft and cooked through, adding more oil if necessary, about 20 minutes.
4. Pour in can of tomatoes and stir well. Add salt and pepper, then bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes.
5. Use the back of a spoon to make small indents in the stew and gently crack an egg into each one. Season each egg with salt and pepper.
6. Carefully transfer the skillet into the oven. Bake for 10 minutes, or until the eggs are set.
7. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro, and serve with bread for sopping up the sauce!

Make Your Salad Bitchin’

I eat a lot of salads. They’re a quick, easy meal and one of the best ways to appreciate the taste of fresh from the farm CSA produce. But as much as I love veggies, for me, it’s the dressing that can make or break the salad. Give me a good, hearty but healthy dressing and I could eat a whole head of lettuce, no problem.

Bitchin' Sauce Inspired Salad Dressing

This past May when I was visiting cousins in San Diego we went to the Little Italy Farmer’s Market. It was pretty incredible, offering a different range of products than what we get here in Philly. We bought fresh dates, green juice blended with coffee, and live sea urchin – so cool. As we were walking through, my cousin told me there was this stand with dips I just had to try. We made our way down to the Bitchin’ Sauce stand and helped ourselves to samples. Delicious. The vegan, gluten-free, almond based sauce tasted like nothing else I’d had before. Rich and savory, definitely umami.

Once back in Philly, I looked up Bitchin’ Sauce so that I could make my own interpretation. I thinned it out to create a creamy salad dressing that made me want to lick the bowl, and I’ve made it many times since. The best part is how healthy the dressing is. Mostly almonds, it’s thick and satisfying without adding any oil or mayonnaise. Now I end up making salads just to satisfy my Bitchin’ Sauce craving.

Bitchin’ Sauce Inspired Salad Dressing

Makes 3/4 cup

Ingredients
• 1/4 cup water
• 1/2 cup almond butter
• juice of one lemon
• 2-3 cloves of garlic roughly chopped
• 1 tbsp of soy sauce or gluten free tamari
• 2 tbsp of nutritional yeast
• 1/2 tsp cumin
• 1/2 tsp coriander
• 1/2 tsp paprika
• 1/2 tsp chili powder
• 1/4 tsp cayenne
• salt to taste

Equipment
• Blender

1. Combine all ingredients in a blender. Blend until dressing is a smooth, even consistency, about 1 minute.
2. Enjoy on a salad, as a vegetable dip, or any other way you chose. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to one week.

sauce

Heritage Farm: Providing More than Produce

Heritage Farm is one of the largest urban farms in Philadelphia. You’ll find their produce at the farmer’s market, in your CSA, and at your favorite restaurants (hey, Russet). All pesticide-free, organically grown vegetables, fruit, and mushrooms. They even run their own compost on-site.

Heritage Farm

This week, I spoke to Adrian Galbraith-Paul, one of two farmers there. What I learned was how impressive Heritage Farm truly is, not just for it’s size and admirable practices, but for its role in the community and helping people rebuild their lives.

The farm is located on the campus of the Methodist Home for Children, a nonprofit that “provides life enriching services to children, adults and families as they face the challenges of limited resources, increased poverty and homelessness, disability, deficits in education and behavioral health services.” These services include housing, child care, education programs and more. The campus is home to many young women who age out of foster care, single mothers, and their children. Not to mention, a beautiful, bountiful three acre urban farm.

The huge variety of produce grown there includes tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, kale, collards, swiss chard, baby greens, and cucamelons. Thirty percent of this produce is donated directly to the Methodist Home for Children, where residents have the opportunity to learn about nutrition and how to cook the fresh food they receive. Heritage Farm also provides jobs to residents. “For many of them, it is their first job,” said Adrian. In addition to the skills it takes to run a farm, “they learn responsibility.”

Heritage Farm

I’m writing this post because I want to shine a spotlight on a spectacular urban farm and nonprofit working towards an inspiring mission. Next Thursday, October 2nd is the second annual Heritage Farm Fare, a celebration of the fall harvest and an opportunity to raise the funds needed to operate the farm. The event will feature local restaurants and vendors including Russet, Bar Ferdinand, Di Bruno Brothers, and Weckerly’s, serving tasty plates with the beautiful setting of Belmont Mansion and a view of the city skyline.

My CSA and partner Philly Foodworks is one of the sponsors, and will be running a charitable farm stand at the event where all proceeds are donated to Heritage Farm.

Join us for what is bound to be a memorable evening, and be a part of making good things happen in the Philadelphia community.

Photos courtesy of Adrian’s Instagram.

Spiced Swiss Chard Kimchi

Swiss Chard Kimchi

I had my first taste of kimchi in the summer of 2012 at food festival in Prospect Park, Brooklyn. It was Mother-in-Law’s Kimchi,  a brand made locally in New York City from a traditional Korean recipe. Ever since, I haven’t been able to live without it.

Kimchi is spicy sour fermented cabbage, and the national dish of Korea. Like other fermented foods, kimchi is full of probiotics that encourage digestive health among other benefits. Over the past few years, I have made a fair share of my beloved Korean kimchi at home. It wasn’t until recently that I thought, why not apply the same fermentation method to other leafy greens? Some experimentation led me to this swiss chard version, which is pleasantly simple and incredibly tasty.

For those who haven’t fermented vegetables before, this is a great recipe to start with. It is super easy to make and produces a mildly tangy yet flavorful result. But I must warn you, fermentation is highly delicious and highly addictive.

Swiss Chard Kimchi

Spiced Swiss Chard Kimchi

Makes 2 quart size jars

Ingredients
For Brine:
• 2 1/2 tablespoons of sea salt
• 4 cups filtered water
For Kimchi:
• 1 bunch of swiss chard, roughly chopped
• 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
• 1 carrot, shredded
• 1 hot pepper, diced (I used a cubanelle)
• 1 tbsp fresh ginger, finely chopped
• 1 tbsp cumin
• 1 tbsp paprika
• 1/2 tbsp cayenne
• 2 tbsp fresh parsley (or carrot tops if you have them)

Equipment
• 2 very clean quart sized mason jars
• 2 sandwich sized plastic bags

1. Make the brine by combining salt and water, stirring until salt is completely dissolved.
2. Combine all kimchi ingredients in a large bowl and mix well.
3. Divide the kimchi mixture in the two jars. Pack down tightly using the back of a spoon.
4. Pour brine over vegetables until they are completely submerged. If there is leftover brine, it can be kept in a jar in the fridge and reserved for another use.
5. To ensure the vegetables remain submerged, create a weight using a plastic bag. Open the plastic bag and push the bottom into the jar, then fold the top of the bag down over the outside of the jar. Fill the bag with some water or additional brine, then screw on the cap of the jar.

Swiss Chard Kimchi
Plastic bag jar weight for submerging vegetables.

6. Leave the jar of kimchi to ferment at room temperature for 3 days, in an area that does not get sunlight. Once done fermenting, remove the plastic bag weight, put the cap back on, and store in the fridge. Enjoy your kimchi at any time starting now and for up to 3 weeks!

Eggplant & Pattypan Baba Ghanoush

Eggplant and Pattypan Squash

A couple weeks ago, I stumbled upon something truly amazing.

I had just made hummus using Michael Solomonov’s technique for the first time. His most important tip? It’s about the tahini, not the chickpeas. So the following day, I picked up Soom tahini, Solomonov’s brand of choice that is made right here in Philly. Naturally, I had to try some with a spoon when I got home. Holy crap. Soom is so good, my definition of tahini has forever changed. Luckily, Philly Foodworks carries Soom, so I can get it delivered in my CSA every week (but I’m trying not to go through it that fast).

Soom Tahini

Next, I had to figure out what to make with it, immediately. I had also brought home some eggplant and pattypan squash, so I opted to try a non-traditional baba ghanoush. It was a very good decision. Using half eggplant and half summer squash makes for a light, airy, super smooth baba ghanoush. If you don’t have pattypan on hand, try the recipe with zucchini or yellow squash.

Eggplant & Pattypan Baba Ghanoush

Makes about 2 1/2 cups

Ingredients
• 2 small eggplants (about 2 pounds)
• 1 patty pan squash (about 1 pound)
• olive oil for roasting
• 2 cloves of garlic
• juice of 1 lemon
• 1/3 cup of tahini (Soom preferably)
• salt and pepper to taste
• cayenne to taste

Equipment
• blender

1. Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Cut the pattypan squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Rub with oil, and place face down on an oiled pan. Roast for 45 minutes.
2. While the squash is roasting, prepare the eggplant. Keeping eggplants whole, rub the the skin with oil and place on another oiled pan. Once there are 25 minutes remaining for the squash, put the eggplant in the oven as well.
3. Remove both the squash and eggplant from oven once the flesh is very soft and the skin has begun to char. Let cool.
4. Once cooled, scoop out the flesh and put into the blender. Add the garlic, lemon juice, tahini, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Blend until smooth, adding water if necessary to thin out to desired consistency.
5. Transfer the baba ghanoush into a serving bowl and drizzle with additional tahini and olive oil.
6. Serve with pita, and ideally, some Israeli salad.

An Exciting Announcement

I’m a big fan of Philly Foodworks. You may have noticed, as I mention my CSA or its delicious contents in almost every post on here. So you can imagine my delight when a conversation with them went from “we’re out of doughnut peaches” to “would you like to work with us?”

I most definitely would. So it’s happening!

Philly Foodworks

As a part of a partnership with Philly Foodworks, I will be writing recipes each week featuring ingredients from my CSA share. This falls right in line with the content I am already posting, and will guarantee you all get a new recipe each week featuring the best local and seasonal products. There are several reasons I’m so excited about this partnership. For one, Philly Foodworks provides many of my favorite local products, including everything from peaches and sweet corn to Food & Ferments sauerkraut and gluten-free bagels. But even more impressive is the organization’s mission to “unite producers and consumers in order to increase access to good food for all Philadelphia residents while supporting the business of producers that care about their craft and the communities they work.” And they’re killing it, by doing things differently than any other CSA before them.

Their cover story in this month’s Grid Magazine explains, “The consumer still pays in advance, so it remains economically beneficial to the farmer, but they can choose what they want, when they want it, making it less rigid. Philly Foodworks currently offers food from more than 30 producers within a 150-miles radius of the Philadelphia area. But it isn’t all about consumer choice. Ultimately their goal is to strengthen the bond between the rural grower and the urban buyer. Philly Foodworks is also trying to create a marketplace for the fledgling specialty food producer. “

Philly Foodworks is going beyond the scope of a conventional CSA to make a serious impact on the community of Philadelphia. I’m proud to be working with their team. Not to mention, happy to reap the benefits of being a member and cooking up tasty recipes to share with you!

Easy Summer Gazpacho (eat those tomatoes before they’re gone)

To cope with summer coming to an end, I make the effort to eat as much summer produce as I possibly can. Tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, corn, peaches, melon, and whatever else comes my way. One of my favorite ways to do this is to make homemade gazpacho. I didn’t always love gazpacho, some I tasted were too tomato-saucey. However, once you make it yourself, you will realize that it is basically sunshine in a bowl. And it couldn’t be easier.

Below is my basic recipe, but the quantities and ratio of vegetables is entirely flexible. I encourage you to experiment with different vegetables and even add fruit. Gazpacho is an ideal way to use up what’s fresh and at hand. Add some avocado toast, and you’ve got the perfect lunch.

bowl

Easy Summer Gazpacho

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients
• 3 tomatoes
• 2 cucumbers, peeled
• 1 bell pepper
• 1/2 jalapeno
• 1/2 small onion
• 2 garlic cloves
• 2 tbsp red or white wine vinegar
• 2 tbsp olive oil
• 1 cup ice cold water
• 1 tbsp chopped herbs (basil, cilantro, oregano)
• salt and pepper to taste
• dash of hot sauce

Equipment
• blender

1. Roughly chop all vegetables and peel the garlic.
2. Add tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, onion, garlic, vinegar, oil, and water to blender.
3. Puree until well-combined but not completely smooth, about 30 seconds.
4. Add herbs, salt, pepper, and hot sauce to blender. Puree again until gazpacho reaches the desired consistency, about 10 – 30 seconds.

Serve immediately, or store covered in fridge for up to one day.

Non-Dairy Milk: A Guide to the Options

There’s been a lot of talk about milks these days. Cow’s milk, soy milk, almond milk, coconut milk, rice milk, hemp milk, oat milk. You name it, they’re milking it. This presents a lot of options, and a lot of controversy over how to make the healthiest choice.

The meaning of “healthy” can be subjective. Dairy milk is at the top when it comes to natural protein, calcium and vitamin D. If I could drink organic cow’s milk without feeling sick, I most certainly would. But for me, and others who choose not to drink dairy milk due to allergies, upset stomach, veganism or anything else, there are excellent alternatives I am grateful to have.

Non-Dairy Milk: You’ve Got Options, and They’re Not All Bad

Each of the options have pros and cons, so it’s important to be fully aware of what you’re purchasing (as always). Soy milk is condemned for its GMO contents, and almond milk for its preservatives. Dairy milk has its problems as well, with growth hormone being given to cows. By staying informed and carefully reading labels you can avoid these issues. Once you learn about the options, pick the one (or two, or three) that’s best for you.

Soy Milk
High in protein and smooth tasting, soy milk was once the most popular non-dairy milk option. With 8 grams of protein, soy milk has as much as dairy, but it does lack calcium and vitamin D. They are also even in calories (about 130 per cup), though soy milk has less saturated fat. However, soy is now being approached cautiously due to speculation of possible negative effects of naturally occurring hormones. Soy is also notoriously associated with GMOs, with upwards of 94% of the soybeans in the United States genetically modified (yikes). However, GMOs are easily avoided by purchasing organic or non-GMO labeled soy milk.

Recommended Brand: Westsoy Organic Unsweetened

Almond Milk
Almond milk is increasingly popular and widely available. It is much lower in calories than dairy or soy, with about 40 per cup, and is high in vitamin D and E. Lately, it has being marketed as a healthier option than soy and dairy, causing a problem with negative associations (as seen in the recent clickbait titled article that was hard to miss although misleading and narrow-minded). Organic almond milk is certainly good for you, but with very little protein (1 gram), almond milk being “healthier” is a debatable claim. Almond milk often comes in a carton with a long shelf life, which is super convenient but usually means added preservatives. For this reason, label reading is extremely important for almond milk. Look for organic, unsweetened, and watch for potentially harmful additives, including carrageenan. Fresh, homemade almond milk is most delicious and guaranteed to be preservative-free.

Recommended Brands: Wegmans Organic Unsweetened, Whole Foods Organic Unsweetened

Coconut Milk
Coconut milk, sold in a can or carton, is tasty but has a distinct and noticeable coconut flavor. It is low in protein, but is a key substitute for people with nut or soy allergies. It has high saturated fat content, therefore is higher in calories. The coconut oil craze touts these fats as hugely beneficial, but the jury is still out on whether it is in fact harmful or helpful. Cartons present the same preservative concerns as almond milk, although I have yet to find one without carrageenan. Overall, be aware of additives and look for unsweetened and organic options.

Hemp Milk
Hemp milk is a neutral tasting allergen-free option. It is higher in omegas than other non-dairy milks, but also higher in fat and does not offer significant protein. Also sold in cartons, watch for added preservatives.

Rice Milk
Rice milk is another allergen-free option with a mildly sweet flavor. It is relatively high in sugar, making it best used to make desserts or a quick horchata rather than a daily milk alternative. Again, watch for additives in cartons.

With so many options, my solution has been to keep several dairy alternatives in the house at all times. I vary what I use based on my nutritional or taste preference, or what I am using the milk for. How do you decide?