Tag Archives: Local Ingredients

Eden: “Fresh. Local. Smart.”

January 2013

After the countdown and the ball drop, attention often turns to weight loss. Gyms and yoga classes fill to the brim. About two weeks later, the ellipticals are free, the yoga classes offer breathing room again, and old habits resume. A more positive approach may be a resolution to be healthier, but without a concrete strategy, the resolve to be healthier can quickly dissolve. If you live in Pittsburgh, there is one concrete step you can add to your health routine for a more successful outcome. Welcome to Eden

Eden Exterior

In their own words…

Eden is Pittsburgh’s premier restaurant for clean and healthy eating. We specialize in offering raw, vegan entrees, local produce and chicken, and Sunday brunch. Eden is a BYOB establishment and is located in Pittsburgh’s beautiful Shadyside neighborhood. Your health is very important to us, as is the health of our local farms and cooperatives. We want to do good for you, and do good for our community.”

Eden Interior

Based on the clean, vibrant design of the website and Eden’s mission, I had high hopes for a highly designed cafe and a healthy brunch. Unfortunately, the design of the interior did not match the caliber of the website. The space suffers from its basement level location, but lacking natural light aside, the space calls for brighter lights, brighter colors and more modern, streamlined furniture. As for the food…

Whole wheat waffles

Since I have a juicer, I skipped the many fresh juice options on the menu, but for those looking for a really fresh and wholesome way to start the morning, Eden has you covered. For those looking for a caffeine boost, Eden never leaves your brunch mug empty. In the spirit of sharing, my brunch friend and I split the Farm House Waffles and the Vegetable Omelette.

What makes Eden’s waffles stand out is their ingredients. They are made with local, free-range eggs, whole-wheat flour, housemade rice milk and brown sugar, served with real butter and local maple syrup.  For the gluten intolerant, there is also a gluten-free option.

Waffles for Sharing

The whole-wheat waffle and honey butter had me sold, but the “pile high” options ($1 each) were a little lackluster. With such a commitment to local foods, I was expecting the apple topping to burst with the sweet flavor local apples deliver, but these little chunks tasted more like the red delicious apples of grocery store ubiquity. I was also expecting the apples would be lightly caramelized, but they arrived raw, which I am willing to accept from the perspective of preserving the raw fruit’s nutrients.

Eden Omelette and Salad

The Eden omelette offers fresh vegetables, creamy local goat cheese and the assurance of knowing it was prepared with pure olive oil and sea salt.

All in All…

Design disappointment and minor preparation complaints aside, I appreciate eating at a restaurant that prioritizes health in all its details. I’d like to give Eden a second chance and try the more challenging and unique raw menu options, and specifically, I’d like to end my next visit with the Hazelnut Mexican Cacao Torte! I’d also love to redesign that interior! As always…will design for food! Let’s talk!

Giveaway: Farm to Table Tasting Event!

November 2012

In 2009, the word locavore was added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, meaning one who eats foods grown locally whenever possible. Titling one’s eating habits can often be tricky or even pedantic, but tasting the difference between a locally grown tomato and the perfectly round, conventional grocery store variety is easy. Whether or not you’re into the politics or just purely into the quality of taste, there is a Pittsburgh event rapidly approaching which you should attend, and you could possibly attend for FREE!

Farm to Table Pittsburgh, creators of the popular annual Farm to Table Conference, are hosting the first ever Farm to Table Harvest Tasting on November 10th, 2012 at Bakery Square. The family-friendly, all ages event will feature tastings and samples from fifty local vendors. Farm to Table Pittsburgh provides Local Food Programs for schools, employers, senior residences and community groups. Their goal is to bridge the gap between consumers and local food producers by teaching how locally grown food benefits both physical health and local economic health.

The Giveaway

I have a pair of Harvest Tasting tickets to give to a lucky reader! Just leave a comment telling me why you support local foods, and on the morning of Friday, November 9th, I will randomly select a winner to attend the event and taste the local bounty!

Winner, winner, local foods dinner!

Congrats to Sean Michael! I hope he gets to eat something made with local corn flour! Thanks for all the comments and local foods support!

First Annual Pepper Farm Festival (Pittsburgh, PA)

October 2012

There once was a Sunday that stretched lazily in the sun like a cat who knows no schedule. It was a Sunday filled with beauty, with the slow meandering path of a tractor in a field, with pillowy clouds changing course, with laughter and clanking glasses. It was the Sunday of an Italian style BBQ, at White Oak Farm, and it was on that Sunday the owners told us about an upcoming Chile Pepper Festival.

The First Annual Chile Pepper Festival was a chance to celebrate bursts of flavor and bursts of fall colors. It was a chance to see the farm filled with vendors and visitors. It was a chance to see the trees filled with colors. The owners of Reyna Foods, Pittsburgh’s premier Latin American grocer, created the event to celebrate the food they love on the farm they love.

Since my introduction to the farm, the barn had been transformed. More of the vintage farm equipment had been restored, and the barn felt more like a museum dedicated to old farming practices than the stumbled upon, nearly forgotten collection it felt like previously. Meanwhile, the outdoor area was a brand new set up of food and craft vendors.

Grilled corn + a slather of melted butter!

A grilled chile pepper (sweet) stuffed with cream cheese and wrapped in bacon

Somehow the bacon-pepper came out looking like a sea creature?!?

A Hoboken Gourmet sausage sandwich topped with HOT peppers! The peppers were so hot, we had to buy a Mexican Coke to de-spice our palates.

I’ve mentally planned so many events in that beautiful barn space.

Reyna’s isn’t exaggerating when they call themselves the “premier Latin American grocer.” The store is in constant motion, with fresh corn tortillas riding up and down and around little conveyor belts. Meanwhile, one finds Pittsburgh’s best, made-to-order tacos street side (I highly recommend the chorizo taco). The same taco expert responsible for Reyna’s sidewalk sales was sizzling meats at the festival as well, and this time Edgar the expert and his crew were selling lamb tacos! LAMB MEAT TACOS!

After finishing our tacos, it was time for a wander…

Sometimes it’s difficult to appreciate autumn and give the season the praise it deserves without complaining about the cold that is to come. Sometimes I just dread winter too much to enjoy the last warm breezes, but this day was the perfect way to appreciate fall in all its glory.

“Autumn…the year’s last, loveliest smile.”
-William Cullen Bryant

An Ode To A Cabin In Autumn: A Fall Flavored Lasagna

September 2012

“Is not this a true autumn day? Just the still melancholy that I love – that makes life and nature harmonise. The birds are consulting about their migrations, the trees are putting on the hectic or the pallid hues of decay, and begin to strew the ground, that one’s very footsteps may not disturb the repose of earth and air, while they give us a scent that is a perfect anodyne to the restless spirit. Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.” -George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans)

I do find autumn to be quite delicious, especially when fall’s flavors are layered between noodles and cheese! The original Bon Appétit recipe called for broccoli rabe, which I replaced with brussels sprouts. Firstly, I associate those mini cabbages with fall more than broccoli rabe, and secondly, that’s what was available at my grocery store. I also used a brown rice noodle for the health and flavor merits, and this recipe could easily become a gluten free staple if you use an alternative flour (I only had whole-wheat pastry on hand). Extra dashes of red pepper flakes, added to the squash roasting stage, made for a kick of spice, contrasted by hints of cinnamon and nutmeg in the béchamel sauce.  Enjoy with hot cider or hard cider before your migration to successive autumns!

Squash and Brussels Lasagna

Adapted from my food publication deity, Bon Appétit.



1 local butternut squash, peeled, halved, seeded, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
3 tablespoons olive oil plus more
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Crushed red pepper flakes

Fresh brussels sprouts (the typical grocery store sized bundle), rinsed, stalk removed and pulled apart into leaves

8oz fresh mozzarella, chopped
1/2 lb whole-milk ricotta
1 cup coarsely grated Parmesan
coarsely grated lemon zest from 1 lemon
1 Tablespoon minced fresh sage
1 Tablespoon minced fresh rosemary


For the Filling

Preheat oven to 400°.

Place squash and 3 tablespoons oil in a large bowl; season generously with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Toss to coat squash evenly.

Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet, spreading out in a single layer, overlapping slightly.

Roast until tender but not mushy, about 15 minutes. Let cool.

Mix mozzarella and next 5 ingredients in a large bowl; season with salt and pepper.

*DO AHEAD Squash and cheese mixture can be made 1 day ahead. Cover separately and chill.

Béchamel and Assembly

1/8 cup organic unsalted butter
1/8 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
2 1/2 cups (or more) organic half-and-half
Dash of freshly grated nutmeg and cinnamon
1 fresh bay leaf
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper

10 oz Brown Rice Lasagna Noodles (Tinkyada)
3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan

Béchamel and Assembly

Melt butter in a large heavy saucepan over medium heat.

Add flour; stir until slightly thickened (do not allow mixture to turn brown), 2–3 minutes. Increase heat slightly.

Slowly whisk in 2 1/2 cups half-and-half, 1/2-cupful at a time, allowing béchamel to thicken between additions (adding half-and-half gradually will help to prevent lumps from forming).

Add 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg and cinnamon and bay leaf.

Reduce heat to low and cook, thinning with more half-and-half if too thick, until sauce is a milkshake–like consistency, about 10 minutes longer.

Cook lasagna noodles in a pot of well-salted boiling water until still quite al dente, 8–9 minutes. Transfer immediately to a large bowl of ice water to cool. Drain; spread out noodles on a kitchen towel or baking sheets lined with parchment paper, placing a kitchen towel or parchment between layers.

Ladle about 1/4 cup béchamel into a 11x9x2-inch baking dish; spread evenly over bottom. Line dish with a single layer of noodles, cutting as needed to fit (use large scraps in subsequent layers).

Layer 1/3 of squash over.

Scatter brussels sprouts leaves over the previous layer.

Dollop 1/3 of ricotta mixture randomly over greens.

Drizzle 1/2 cup béchamel evenly over ricotta mixture.

Repeat process 2 more times for a Total of 3 layers, finishing with a layer of noodles. Spread remaining béchamel over; top with Parmesan. Leftover noodles can be used for a freeform version with any leftover components.

*DO AHEAD Lasagna can be assembled 1 day ahead. Cover and chill. Return to room temperature before continuing.

Preheat oven to 375°. Bake lasagna uncovered until bubbly and starting to brown, about 45 minutes.

Turn oven to broil. Cook until browned and golden, 4–7 minutes.

Let rest for 20–30 minutes before serving.

No man can taste the fruits of autumn while he is delighting his scent with the flowers of spring. 
-Samuel Johnson

May you taste the fruits of delicious autumn! Bon appétit!

Ushering in Autumn: Chocolate Chip Kuri Squash Cake

September 2012

Behold the Cucurbita maxima!

Aliases: Japanese SquashOrange Hokkaido SquashBaby Red Hubbard Squash, Uchiki Kuri Squash or simply Red Kuri Squash (I like the “Hubbard” option because it makes me think Old Mother Hubbard lived in a squash).

This brightly colored squash boasts a bold, sweet, nutty flavor. Unlike its more famed Jack-o-Lantern relation, which requires an arsenal of spices to accent its flavor, you can take a delicious bite of red kuri squash right after roasting (with a smidgeon of butter of course). With such a strong flavor, red kuri squash makes a great addition to autumnal recipes at both the sweet and savory ends of the spectrum.   Since my tooth swings sweet, my first kuri squash recipe of the season happened to be a cake for the sake of brunch. Since I could eat maple syrup everyday and have an affinity for bourbon, those elements conveniently found their way into the recipe as well.

Note: This cake will not last long! Even when my sole mission was to take a picture of the cake, I found myself slicing a piece and enjoying it with a cup of tea.

Chocolate Chip Kuri Cake
w/ Maple Glaze & Bourbon Whipped Cream


2 cups organic whole-wheat pastry flour
1 cup organic brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 Tablespoon fresh grated ginger

2 cups organic kuri squash, roasted and puréed
3 eggs (local/free-range)
2 Tablespoons organic molasses
1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 cup pecans, chopped
3/4 cup organic chocolate chips

For the Cake

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Oil the bottom and sides of an 8-inch springform pan (or use a similar sized square or round pan).

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, sea salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger.

In a large bowl, mix squash, eggs, olive oil, and molasses until well blended. Add the dry ingredients and mix just until thoroughly combined.

Stir in the pecans and chocolate chips.

Transfer the batter into prepared pan and bake for 50-55 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before using a knife to loosen the sides of the pan, then removing it.


Maple Glaze


1 cup pure maple syrup


While the cake is cooling, cook 1 cup maple syrup over heat for 7-8 minutes, or until it thickens/reduces slightly. Let it cool slightly, then drizzle over the cake. Serve warm or at room temperature (the maple glaze will harden as it cools).


Bourbon Whipped Cream


1 cup organic heavy cream
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons pure maple syrup
2-3 Tablespoons bourbon

For the Whipped Cream

Combine all the ingredients except the bourbon in a chilled bowl. Use an electric mixer to whip until peaks form. Add the bourbon and mix to incorporate. Keep chilled until ready to serve.

Ushering in Autumn: Harvest Nests

September 2012

When I was a college lass in the architecture program, I designed a home that had to respond to a steep grade, a wooded landscape and the phases of a couple’s life from the first child to retirement. My initial concept was a series of connected nests representing isolated aspects of daily life- eating, sleeping, resting, etc. Whether or not I was too obsessed with bird metaphors (lovebirds, keeping the nest warm, planning for a nest egg, etc), the design veered through the course of the  semester. However, my fascination with nature-inspired design led me to discover a branch of architecture called Biomimicry.

A Thought Project…

Biomimicry’s prophet is Michael Pawlyn, who elaborates on the concept in his TED talk. Pawylyn asks, “How can architects build a new world of sustainable beauty?” His answer and the mission of biomimicry is to use nature as a design tool to radically increase resource efficiency, use waste from one organism as a nutrient for another organism, and move from a fossil fuel economy to a solar one. What does that look like?

Maybe like a nest?

A Play Project…

Inspiring architects and designers (and more importantly, the people with the money) to shift their paradigm will take time. In the meantime, one can’t truly debate the issues and innovations of the world without a proper breakfast. Call me old fashioned! Why not have a little fun channeling nature for your breakfast or brunch spread? Here I go with nests again…

Though these nests might not mimic the more intricate systems of a real nest, they do channel elements of sustainability via local and organic ingredients. They also fueled the movers and shakers who attended this brunch to usher in autumn. These nests are blank canvases, so use what’s in season and flavorful and have fun!

Harvest Nests Recipe


12 slices organic honey wheat sandwich bread
3 tablespoons organic unsalted butter (melted)
1 ear of local corn
1 small local squash, roasted, cut into chunks
Fresh local sage, chopped
12 large eggs (local/free-range)
Salt & Pepper, to taste


Preheat oven to 375° F.

Lightly butter 12 standard-size muffin cups.

Flatten each bread slice with a rolling pin.

Insert flattened bread slices into muffin cups so they fit snuggly.

Brush melted butter over each bread cup.

Add a chunk or 2-3 small chunks of squash, a few kernels of corn and a few pieces of sage to each cup.

Crack one egg into each cup.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until egg white is set (be careful not to overbake it).

Remove from muffin pan and serve!

From Decor to Dinner: A Happy Harvest Tale

September 2012

There once was an occasion that called for a celebration, and that celebration became a dream. The harmonies of a violin and an accordeon filled the air. Candles flickered by a little stream. A lantern illuminated a docked rowboat. Fabrics fluttered in the breeze. Mingling created a pleasant hum. Plates of tiny delicacies were passed, and a little boxcar became a cafe with fancy cappuccinos and little desserts. It was a party I planned with a friend, and it was unlike anything we had ever created before.

The theme was a saltwater soiree, but the backdrop was the changing colors of fall. In a nod to the season, little squashes and gourds adorned the tables. The intention was for guests to add the fall offerings to their own gardens and tables, but some of the squashes were neglected in the end. As the seasons progressed toward winter, the squashes and gourds were set aside, ignored while they sat sadly in a corner of the yard. When the frost finally cleared, the little squashes were still standing, and one green-thumbed girl had a stroke of inspiration. She threw the neglected squashes into the dirt.

The days grew longer, and the sunlight stronger until summer was in full swing.

That’s when the abandoned decor became a happy harvest tale. The squashes emerged as a beautiful example of resilience.

Those sunny summer days began to change once again. It was time to think about roasting and pureeing and pie making.

The rest of this happy tale continued in various homes, where the colleagues each used the squashes to their liking. The sweet, little sun golds, however, never made it past the garden. They were too sweet and delicious to resist!

The end!

ps: Party photos by Adam Milliron.