Eating Local in Phoenix

September 26, 2011, 12:21 am
Filed under: dinner, recipe | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Fall orange against a summer sunsetTonight it is cool outside. Things are changing: the sidewalks are no longer blistering to bare feet, the sun no longer holds the same intensity, pumpkins have appeared at grocery stores and I suddenly crave rich foods.

This is the beginning of a new season.

I have a tendency to measure the seasons by my orange tree. As the green orbs begin to gain color I know the cooler weather is coming. They aren’t quite there yet – but I’ve decided to pretend they are. I have to. I’m out of summer recipe ideas.

Fall is a decidedly melancholy season. A season of settling down, of putting the land to rest (but not in Phoenix), an expectation of cooler weather. But more than anything, it’s a season of waiting. Waiting for the cold, waiting for the winter, waiting for the holidays and, this year, waiting for graduation.

This is a fall I’ve looked forward to. This is a fall for celebrating.

So, to start it off, I’m bringing back my stuffed pumpkin recipe – a favorite from last fall and one perfect for celebrations.

Stuffed Pumpkin

This year, I’m not making the same mistake and will be stocking up on any and all local orange beauties so I can enjoy this dish more than once.

Adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Around my French Table
Serves 6 (this will vary based on pumpkin size, the following is for a 6 pound pumpkin)


1 pumpkin, about 6 pounds
1/2 pound nine grain bread, sliced thinly and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/4 pound cheddar cheese, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/4 pound Monterey Jack cheese, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
6 small slices ham, cooked and chopped into 1/4 inch pieces
2 Tbsp fresh chives, chopped
2 Tbsp mild onions or scallions, chopped
1 Tbsp thyme
2/3 cup heavy cream
pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or you can use a dutch oven or casserole dish.  The pumpkin will retain its shape regardless of what you cook in it, however if you plan to serve it in slices it’s best to use the baking sheet.

Cut a cap out of the top of the pumpkin and clean out the guts.  Generously pepper the inside of the pumpkin and set in on the baking sheet or dish.

Toss the bread, cheese, ham, garlic and herbs together in a large bowl.   Add the nutmeg and some salt and pepper to the cream (go easy on the salt, however, as the cheese and ham are quite salty).  Pour the cream mixture over the combined ingredients and toss well.  You want the bread to be moist, but not swimming in cream.

Using your hands – or a spoon – stuff the ingredients into the pumpkin.  You may have too much or too little – every pumpkin is different – adjust as necessary.  Place the cap on back on the pumpkin and bake for 2 hours.  Check the pumpkin after 1 1/2 hours.  For the last twenty minutes of cooking time remove the cap so the ingredients can brown and any residual liquid bakes off.  The pumpkin is done when the ingredients are bubbling and the flesh of the pumpkin can be easily pierced with a knife.

You can serve this in slices or, if you prefer, scrape the pumpkin meat away from the sides and mix in with the stuffing.


Bratwurst with Braised Cabbage
October 11, 2010, 11:36 pm
Filed under: challenge, dinner, local, phoenix, recipe | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

October brings a lot of things to the Valley – pumpkin patches, haunted houses, the Race for the Cure – but it also serves as a temporary home to a traditional German festival. Red Cabbage I’m talking about Oktoberfest – the beer guzzling, bratwurst eating, lederhosen wearing celebration that lasts for over two weeks in Bavaria.  While I may not have publicly participated in any festivities this year, that fact didn’t stop me from having my own culinary celebration.  Oktoberfest may have ended over a week ago but there’s still plenty of October left to enjoy a german inspired meal.  I went for the classic brats and cabbage.  It’s easy to make, tastes amazing and is a perfect barbecue recipe for the cooler days ahead.

My trip to the market this week was pretty straight forward.  This recipe doesn’t call for a whole lot of ingredients which gave me plenty of time to wander and take in some of the weather induced changes.  The cooler temperatures this week really brought the market to life.   This week saw a lot of new shoppers, a handful of new vendors and even some tables and chairs for visitors to stop and soak up the atmosphere.  There were two big highlights for me this week, both involving meat.  This week's plunder

As you may have noticed, a lot of my recipes use meat as a part of the dish, but not as the main ingredient.  This week was a notable exception – you really can’t have local brats without meat – but for the most part I try to use meat as a component of a meal and not as the starring feature.  Why? Well, to be honest, the local, humanely treated, responsibly raised meat options had largely been limited to pork and some more expensive cuts of beef (which, as a grad student aren’t really in my budget).  This week, however, I spotted a guy selling a very exciting new option.  Chicken!  Normally, I don’t get overly excited about chicken, but this means that I can expand my meat options!  He didn’t have any for sale but it was possible to order it in advance – so now I can start dreaming up some chicken recipes to share.

The other exciting discovery was the local, sun-cured beef jerky for sale.  I love beef jerky.  It’s spicy, it’s chewy and it’s a great protein filled snack.  The jerky available Brat and Braised Cabbagethis week was a little different from other types I’ve had – it was crispy like a chip, full of beef flavor and had just enough pepper to give it some spice.  Made from grass-fed Arizona cows and naturally cured it made the concerned consumer in me smile.  I’ll be buying more of this stuff in the future.

But back to this week’s recipe.  While I initially wanted to make my own sauerkraut to go with the local brats from the Meat Shop, I decided against it after learning it can take weeks to cure.  Since I didn’t plan that far ahead, I had to find a different cabbage topping to pair with the brats.  After some research, I stumbled across a recipe for braised cabbage and brats paired with a lemony sour cream sauce.  I made some changes-including adding in fresh apples and following a time-honored family recipe for cooking brats- and found that it’s just as good, if not better, than the bratwurst and sauerkraut of tradition.

This meal went great with Oak Creek Brewing’s Fruit Dessert Hefeweisen which, while not the typical beer to have with sausage, was full of flavor and rounded out the whole Oktoberfest feeling.  I finished the meal with a fruit and cheese platter to celebrate the last melon of the season and the new apple arrivals.  Start to finish, the whole thing took 30 minutes.

Grilled Bratwurst with Braised Cabbage

Adapted from Aaron McCargo Jr’s recipe.

Serves 4

Ingredients:Final Product - Brat and a beer


6 Bratwurst

1/2 onion, quartered

1 can beer (the cheap stuff is fine)

1 tsp mustard

1 tbsp fresh thyme

pinch salt and pepper


3 tbsp butter

1/2 red onion, diced

1/2 yellow onion, diced

1 small cabbage  (I mixed red and green), thinly sliced

1 apple, cut into matchsticks

Pinch chile powder

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup wine

1/4 cup chicken stock

salt and pepper to taste

Sour Cream Dressing:

1/2 cup sour cream

1 shallot minced

1/2 lemon, zested and juiced

1 tsp chile powder

2 tbsp chives, chopped

salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the grill to medium high heat. Fill a large pot with beer and water and bring to a boil.  While the water is heating prepare the vegetables.  Once the beer/water mixture is boiling, add in the mustard, onion, thyme and salt/pepper.  Add in the bratwurst and boil for 10 minutes.  In a large skillet over medium heat melt the butter.  Add the onions and cook until translucent, about 3 minutes.  Add the cabbage, apples, chile powder and salt/ pepper and cook until softened, about 4 minutes. By this point the brats should be done boiling, transfer them to the grill, turning frequently.  Add the sugar, wine and stock to the cabbage mixture, cook for 6 – 8 minutes until al dente.

While the brats and cabbage are cooking, prepare the sour cream dressing. Combine the ingredients into a bowl, give it a thorough stir and season to taste.

Once everything is ready, spread some dressing onto a bun, add the brat and a good amount of the cabbage mixture.  You can add more dressing on top, or finish with some diced onions or mustard.

Bon Appetit!

French Inspired Pear Tart
October 6, 2010, 9:00 am
Filed under: local, phoenix, recipe, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , ,

There are a lot of things to love about fall in Phoenix.  The weather finally cools down, the oranges start turning color and pumpkins start appearing around everycorner.  For me, fall means that my favorite color (orange) is suddenly everywhere and the apples that I love are finally ripe.  Apples are easily my favorite fruit and fall means that I get to engage in one of my favorite traditions: eating fresh, crisp apple recently plucked from the tree.

For the first few weeks of fall however, I like to celebrate pears.  Because pears aren’t nearly as hardy as apples and don’t last the winter, it’s important to eat them while they’re fresh.

This week at the market I stumbled across some beautiful bosc pears.  These are the pears with the brown skin that are sweet and savory and have just a little sharp note to them.  While they aren’t ideal pears to bake, I simply couldn’t resist turning them into a Jacques Pépin style tart.

“Maman’s Apple Tart” has become a favorite of mine over the last few years.  It’s not overly sweet and really lets the fruit shine through.  The strength of the recipe is its simplicity: The ingredients are mixed with a spoon and the crust is ready to go by the time the oven is preheated.  The most challenging aspect of the recipe is arranging the fruit slices, which takes all of 3 minutes.

The best part of using local ingredients for this recipe?  Exploring the butter and ice cream from Udder Delights.  I’m happy to report that the butter was creamy and tasted pure and simple.  I don’t usually make a habit of tasting butter, but I did taste this stuff and it tasted like, well, nothing but creaminess (which is what I imagine good butter is supposed to taste like).  I paired the tart with cinnamon ice cream from Udder Delights and it was a match made in heaven.

This is the ideal recipe to highlight the pears or apples of the season and makes a perfect dessert or, if you’re like me, weekend breakfast.

French Inspired Pear Tart

Adapted from Jacques Pépin

Makes 4-6 servings



1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 large egg, broken into a small bowl and beaten with a fork

6 tbsp unsalted butter, softened

pinch salt

1 tbsp sugar

1 tsp baking powder

2 tbsp hot milk


3 pears

3 tbsp sugar

2 tbsp cold butter, broken into bits

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Farenheit.  Combine all ingredients except milk in a bowl.  Stir well with a spoon until the mixture starts to combine.  Add the hot milk and stir until well mixed, be careful not to overwork. This is a very soft dough.  Place it into a greased pie plate and.  Dip your fingers into some flour to keep them from sticking and press the dough into the pan until it covers the bottom and sides.

Core the pears.  Cut them into 1/2 wedges.  Arrange the wedges on the dough in a spiral.  Sprinkle with the sugar and dot with the butter.

Bake for approximately 40 minutes to 1 hour until the crust is golden brown.

Bon Appetit!