Drink Local Ohio: Yellow Springs

My father, who fits in remarkably well in Yellow Springs

My father, whose long white hair is a kind of camouflage in Yellow Springs, Ohio

Spring has finally arrived in Ohio. I’m sitting in my bookstore with the door and windows open wide. Aretha plays on the stereo. Tiny white petals float in on the breeze and polka-dot the welcome mat. I can hear the voices of under-dressed Ohioans who walk down the street and fan themselves in the 60-degree heatwave. All this scene needs is a cold Ohio beer in my hand!

Recently I’ve decided to apply my big talk about buying local to my beer drinking and to take this hobby of mine more seriously. Time to really explore craft beers in my area. My little heart-shaped state is tiny, but Ohio has at least 109 craft breweries, which ought to keep me busy for a while.

On a recent brilliant blue day I drove down to Yellow Springs, Ohio, which is where Antioch College is, which is code for Warning: high hippy concentration (any way you read it). This blue dot in Ohio’s sea of red is packed with little shops — clothing, jewelry, and every form of currently trending anachronistic media (which is, of course, where I spent most of my time). All the stores had cats.

In the air is the smell of locally grown everything wafting from the cozy restaurants, freshly bloomed spring flowers, and patchouli. Creative, empowering graffiti covers any surface not painted in murals or pasted over with creative, empowering bumper stickers. Continue reading

Earliest Spring Vegetables: Let’s Get Excited

The first day of spring brought a few inches of snow to the Big Apple, and the real apples at the farmer’s market this weekend were looking a little tired. But take heart, ye well-wintered and weary-hearted: yesterday I noticed the first new buds on a tree. Spring is coming. Taking its own sweet time to get here, maybe, but it’s coming. So in celebration, let’s take a look at the first few superstar vegetables that should be hitting your local markets any day now, along with some ideas about how to use them. Those with green thumbs should also think about getting these same plants in the ground as soon as you think you’ve weathered the last frost. (And to inspire you gardeners, I’m using images from the Hudson Valley Seed Library, a favorite of ours, as well as one from Everwilde Farms.)

hudson arugula Arugula: Honestly, it took me a while to warm to arugula. It still seems to me an adult taste, like sitting through an opera or reading a Henry James novel. But warm to it I did, and at no time is it better than in the early spring, when the leaves taste perky rather than too bitter or spicy. Try them in a salad with a nice mustardy dressing (olive oil, mustard, white wine vinegar, salt and pepper), or use them in a sandwich to give it a little more kick than regular lettuce.

everwilde rhubarbRhubarb: I’m not sure I realized that you could make something with rhubarb and without strawberries until I was fully grown. But particularly if you like sour tastes like citrus (and I do), rhubarb is a natural choice. Stew it with some sugar and a little water, and you’ve got one heck of a topping for pancakes. And yes, strawberries or any other kind of berries you can get your hands on are great thrown in, as well. Continue reading

The Seduction of Spring: A Seed Catalog Puzzle

Renee's GardenI woke up this morning feeling, in light of last weekend’s sidewalk thaw, that it might be a good morning for a run. Then I realized it was 14 degrees outside, and my enthusiasm waned considerably. I like winter (I do!), but this is the time of year when gardeners and cooks alike begin to itch for warm weather and the promise of fresh local produce.

Reading through seed catalogs on a morning like this feels illicit, full of sensual but very distant pleasures. This is at least in part due to the descriptions themselves, which are colorful, exuberant and (at least to my cold-addled brain) a touch erotic. Below, I’ve pulled some names and descriptions from the online seed catalog for Renee’s Garden. Can you guess what kind of vegetable is being described in each case? If you can identify all twelve, you’ve got it bad for spring.

1) Chelsea Prize: Elegantly slender, thin-skinned English with absolutely delicious, crispy sweet flesh. Easy to digest. Self-pollinating, vigorous vines.

2) Circus Circus: Our trio of cool colors includes creamy white, bright orange and a deep, dark purple with orange centers. All 3 well-bred Dutch varieties are sweet tasting, crisp and smooth.

3) Garden Babies: These babies have softly folded leaves, a lovely buttery texture and outstanding sweet taste. Ideal for containers, Garden Babies are slow bolting, heat tolerant, and make compact 6-inch heads at maturity.

4) Mandarin Cross: Golden-orange fruits with wonderful creamy texture and a mouthwatering sweet, even flavor finish These gorgeous fruit are borne in abundance and ripen like jewels on strong indeterminate vines.

5) Neon Glow: Color combo of vivid Magenta Sunset and Golden Sunrise stalks that contrast beautifully with green savoyed leaves for bright color and great eating. Eye-catching, productive, and striking in both vegetable and flowerbeds.

6) Profuma di Genova: Our fine Italian import is bred for pure bright flavor without minty/clove overtones, a compact shape and excellent disease resistance.

7) Raven: Dark green, smooth-skinned, cylindrical fruits are glossy and especially tender-fleshed. Delicious flavor picked as babies or at larger sizes. Abundant fruits are born high up on bush style plants that don’t sprawl.

8) Slenderette: The sleek rounded pods of gourmet-quality Slenderette are particularly tender, juicy, and sweet tasting with no tough tips or fiber. Vigorous, productive plants bear delectable, bright green, 5 inch pods early in the season.

9) Striped Chioggia: Italian heirloom with bright, candy-red exteriors & interior flesh beautifully marked in alternating rings of cherry red and white. Delicious sweet flavor & fine texture. Great tasting leafy tops.

10) Sugar Daddy: High yielding bush vines that load up early with double pods, plump and nutty-sweet, at each plant node. Hard to resist eating right on the spot.

11) Sunset: Beautiful heirloom mix yields huge, elongated tapering fruits with thick, meaty flesh that mature to rich red, yellow or orange. Perfect for snacking, salads, sauté, or roasting.

12) Wyatt’s Wonder: Gorgeous, globe-shaped, deeply lobed, rich orange giants. Developed especially for impressive size and beauty.

Don’t click Continue until you’re ready for the answers… Continue reading

Crunchy Spring Feast

About six weeks ago we visited Shannon’s parents in Ohio.  Dwight, her dad, has a garden, and the green onions had just come up.  He eagerly informed me of the existence of Onion and Butter Sandwiches.

Neither Shannon nor her mom were interested in enjoying one of these sandwiches, but one was made for my benefit.  I don’t know what I was expecting.  Something in which the whole transcended the individual parts, I guess.  It pretty much just tasted like onion and butter on a piece of bread.  I suppose it tasted like Spring, crunchy and green and all with the smooth glide of butter to add a farmhouse touch.  It was good.  That’s all I’ve got.

The Asparagus Cometh: Asparagus Salad with Mustard Dressing

asparagus saladHark! What is that glimpse of green that is once again appearing in the produce aisle? It is asparagus, those elegantly slender and vibrant stalks, one of the first vegetal signs that spring is on its way.

“But, lo!” you are probably saying. “What’s with the pee thing?”

It has been noted by many trustworthy sources that asparagus has some unusual after-effects. In 1702, the author of Treatise of All Sorts of Food noticed that the stalks “cause a filthy and disagreeable smell in the urine.” Most who have experienced this phenomenon seem to agree with him about the off-putting nature of the smell, though Proust (always hell-bent on being an outlier) said that asparagus “transforms my chamber-pot into a flask of perfume.”

I would like nothing more, dear readers, than to offer my own opinion on this matter, but I just don’t smell it. (And before you offer, no, I do not want to smell your pee.) I always assumed that there was some difference in the way people processed this vegetable resulting in my unremarkable urine, but a groundbreaking study in 2010 opened up the possibility that I (along with about 78% of the population) might just lack the olfactory receptors necessary to detect the asparagus odor. (So even if I did consent to smell your pee, I might not be able to tell the difference.)

Regardless, I think this is a small price to pay for some delicious asparagus. To me, it tastes like a plate full of spring. Here’s an easy recipe to kick off your asparagus season: Continue reading

Three Ingredient Challenge!

We want you to put on your most creative apron and help us with a new little Pitchknives tradition called the three ingredient challenge. We’ll give you three seasonal delights and you tell us how you’d put them together in a dish or cohesive meal. (You can, of course, use other tasty items at your disposal to bring it all together). Ready? This week’s ingredients are (drum roll please….)

The kale, of course, has a long growing season, but this was some of the finest local kale we’ve seen so far this year. The scapes look a little like scallions, but are in fact the green shoots from a garlic bulb and have a more subtle taste than the more familiar clove. And who can resist a spring strawberry?

Share your recipe ideas with us at submissions@pitchknives.com. We’ll show you how we combined these ingredients at this time next week. Until then, happy cooking!