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

Five Favorites: Holiday Treats

Some Southerners believe that eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day will bring good luck. Listening to the Black Eyed Peas, however, will bring you nothing but an earworm.

1. Pumpkin spice lattes. Catalina Café on Capital Circle Southeast serves an excellent one.

2. Shrimp pasta salad. My mom makes this old-school American classic for every major holiday, and now I do, too. My family’s recipe couldn’t be simpler: Boil, drain and chill a 1-pound box of elbow macaroni. To the pasta, add 3-4 cans of tiny pink shrimp (drained and rinsed), a couple of handfuls of diced celery and several big dollops of mayonnaise, then toss it all together. Season with salt and pepper to taste and let the salad sit in the fridge for a few hours so the flavors meld.

3. Latkes. This is the year I will learn to make these perfect little potato pancakes. For a carb fanatic like me, latkes are the ultimate cold-weather comfort food.

4. Homemade gingerbread cookies. Dressed in crunchy sugar crystals, please.

5. Hoppin’ John. My Georgia-born friend Elle Crash introduced me to the Southern tradition of greeting the New Year with a big bowl of black-eyed peas. This year I’m going to try Bryant Terry’s version of the dish, Creole Hoppin’-Jean, from the Vegan Soul Kitchen cookbook.

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!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Once upon a time, I was fortunate enough to work in an office that held a create-a-turkey competition each Thanksgiving.

However you choose to celebrate today — by cooking an autumnal feast, dining out at a restaurant, tossing an Amy’s Southern Dinner into the microwave or painstakingly constructing a turkey out of produce — we wish you and yours a wonderful holiday!

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!!

Best Bites: Almost Time for Turkey (and Tofurkey) Edition

Our weekly picks for the most enticing foodcentric events in the Tallahassee area.

In the movie “Mermaids,” Rachel Flax (played by Cher, left) served her daughters hors d’oeuvres for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

The Goodwood Museum and Gardens kicks off a new fall tradition this weekend with its 1st Annual Oyster Roast. Dine on all things oyster, including a raw bar, po’ boys and, of course, roasted oysters, accompanied by muffalettas, Brunswick stew, bread pudding and other dishes. The feast is set for 7-9 p.m. Friday, Nov. 18, at the museum, 1600 Miccosukee Rd. in Midtown. Cost is $30 per person. To RSVP, email ccampbell@goodwoodmuseum.org or call 877-4202 ext. 232.

Tallahassee’s vegan community will host another inaugural autumn event, the 1st Annual Vegan Thanksgiving Potluck. The gathering will be held at 6–9 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 19 at Bread and Roses Food Cooperative, 915-2 Railroad Ave. in All Saints. Bring a vegan dish (no meat, fowl, dairy, eggs, gelatin or honey ingredients) to share and your own plate, cup and utensils. Admission is free. For more information, email veganTLH@yahoo.com or call Jason at (215) 850-9152.

For some of us, hors d’oeuvres make an appetizing start to a meal. Others prefer the hors d’oeuvres to be the meal, a la Cher’s entrée-averse character in “Mermaids.” Whichever way you slice it, you can learn how to up your appetizer game at Pan-Handlers Kitchen’s Hors D’oeuvres class, 6:30-8 p.m.  Monday, Nov. 21 at the Pan-Handlers Kitchen cottage, 1635 N. Monroe St. in Lake Ella. Local chef Bec Kelly will teach participants how to make savory shrimp cheesecake bites, bacon-wrapped dates, hummus tapenade and other elegant starters. Cost is $35 per student, with a 10 percent discount if two people sign up together. To register or find out more, visit the Pan-Handlers Kitchen website or email rob@panhandlerskitchen.com.

Nosh News: It’s Finally Fall Edition

Why, yes, it is decorative gourd season.

Since moving to Tallahassee from the Midwest last year, I’ve had to revise my definition of autumn. Since the thermometer no longer climbs past 85 degrees (at least most days), I’ve decided that it’s officially fall. And that means it’s time to pull out one of my favorite lazy-girl kitchen tools, the slow cooker. Since I’m always on the hunt for great meatless recipes, I’ve put this new cookbook at the top of my must-buy list: “The Vegan Slow Cooker: Simply Set It and Go with 150 Recipes for Intensely Flavorful, Fuss-Free Fare Everyone (Vegan or Not!) Will Devour” by Kathy Hester.

Like many folks who celebrate Thanksgiving, I love the big dinner …  but I enjoy the leftovers even more. This week I’m seeking out fresh ways to use up all that extra turkey, stuffing, potatoes and cranberry sauce over the holiday weekend. Here’s a handful of recipes I want to try: Fetette’s Candied Yam Tartlettes, Three Cocktail Recipes That Use Leftover Cranberry Sauce from Mix Magazine —the Cranberry Jalapeño Margarita looks particularly enticing! — and Martha Stewart’s Turkey Banh Mi.

After you’ve made a visit to Dame Stewart’s corner of the Internet to check out that banh mi recipe, you may require an antidote to those maddeningly perfect visions of  gilded pumpkin placecard holders and crisply folded dinner napkins. (I know I do). Quick, read McSweeney’s deliciously irreverent take on seasonal decorating. (Caution: You might not want to click on this link if a small child or humorless coworker is looking over your shoulder).