The Food Column: Shop for the best CSA for you


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Spring is almost here, and local fruits and vegetables won't be far behind.

You can make plans for your family to enjoy fresh produce all season long at this Saturday's CSA Fair at the Children's Museum on the North Side.

CSA stands for community-supported agriculture. Customers pay in advance to receive periodic boxes of fresh fruits and vegetables throughout the growing season.

However, each farm does it just a bit differently. Some farms have eggs as well as produce. Some farms work cooperatively to offer meats and cheeses, too. Some deliver to your door; many have pick-up locations. Many offer their boxes of goodies once a week, but some work on different schedules.

The benefit of the CSA Fair is that you can comparison shop -- investigate pricing, pick-up locations and schedules.

The Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA), the event organizer, expects at least a dozen farmers to be on hand. The farms serve not only Allegheny County but also Westmoreland, Washington, Beaver and Butler counties.

In addition to CSAs, local nonprofit organizations will have display tables, and children will be able to make hand-dipped beeswax candles and "seed bombs" -- little balls of clay, soil and seeds that eventually will flower.

Last year, a CSA Fair was held at Pittsburgh Public Market. But the market is in the process of moving to a new location, and a new site seemed like a good choice anyhow because "the whole idea is to reach people who don't know about CSAs yet," said Alisa Matthews, PASA program assistant. They figured the Children's Museum would be a great place to reach families from all over the region who might want to learn more about healthy, local food.

The farmers will likely be spread out between the cafe and the basement level of the museum, but those are public areas that do not require museum admission. The CSA Fair is free; families wanting to visit the museum must pay separate admission.

For details, go to pasafarming.org.

Classes/demos

Inspire Speakers Series: Lectures by Stephen Ritz, a Bronx teacher who grows enough produce to feed his 450 students healthy meals, and Alice Julier, program director for Food Studies at Chatham University. 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. today at Phipps Conservatory in Oakland. $45 ($25 for Green Building Alliance members). go-gba.org.

Farm to Table Lunch & Learn: Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan of Sweet Tooth Communications discusses her book, "My Food Notebook," which teaches kids to try new foods and remember what they liked. 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday at Pittsburgh Public Market, Strip District. Free admission and free lunch. Registration is required; e-mail ehart@american-healthcare.net.

Foraging: The Italian Garden Project's Mary Menniti will discuss foraging traditions in Italy and Pennsylvania, including dandelions, winter cress and sheep's head mushrooms. 11:30 a.m. Saturday at Pittsburgh Public Market. Free; includes recipes. pittsburghpublicmarket.org.

Taste of Home Cooking School: Two hours of demos by the staff of Taste of Home and its sister magazines, plus local vendors, gift bags, $5,000 worth of door prizes and the chance to win the dishes prepared on stage. 7 p.m. Wednesday at Butler Intermediate High School. $10. insidebutlercounty.com.

Bobby Deen: The host of the Cooking Channel's "Not My Mama's Meals" ("Mama" being Paula Deen) conducts cooking demonstrations. Two shows on March 23 at Giant Eagle Market District stores -- 11:30 a.m. in Bethel Park and 3 p.m. in Pine. Free, but register ahead: marketdistrict.com.

History of Gin: Learn the amazing true history of gin, walk through the production process and sip a couple. 6:30 p.m. March 27 at Wigle Whiskey in the Strip District. $30. wiglewhiskey.com.

Charity

Pittsburgh Party for a Purpose: Live music, photo booth, local food tastings, artwork and raffle prize giveaways to benefit the Lawrenceville Farmers Market. 9 p.m. March 22 at Remedy Restaurant and Lounge. Donation: $10.

Sous Chefs Cook for a Cause: Sous chefs from Notion, Kaya, Casbah, Cure, Stagioni, Salt of the Earth, Dinette and Legume will each prepare one course; includes paired wines. 5 to 7 p.m. for cocktails and cheese tasting ($40); 5 to 10 p.m. for cocktails and dinner ($100) March 24 at Legume in Oakland. Benefits Slow Food Pittsburgh's scholarships for local cheesemakers. For an invitation to the event, e-mail vredpath@aol.com. To apply for a scholarship, local professional cheesemakers should e-mail 500 to 700 words on "Better Cheese for Pittsburgh: Train Me and I Can Help" to stbarclay13@verizon.net by April 10.

Day of Giving: Visit a Pittsburgh-area Jersey Mike's Subs restaurant on March 27; 100 percent of sales will be donated to the Mario Lemieux Foundation for cancer research and development of playrooms in medical facilities.



Luck O' the Irish Cheddar Scones

These won't be part of Crate Kitchenware & Cooking School's beer event, but they could be a good snack at the St. Patrick's Parade.

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour

  • 2 tablespoons baking powder

  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1 stick ( 1/2 cup) cold unsalted butter

  • 6 ounces coarsely grated extra-sharp Irish cheddar (about 1 1/2 cups)

  • 1 cup whole milk

  • 2/3 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

Into a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Cut butter into small bits with your fingertips or a pastry blender. Blend into flour mixture until mixture resembles coarse meal. With a fork, stir in cheddar. Add milk and cream, stirring until just combined. Transfer mixture to a floured surface, and with floured hands, knead until it forms a dough. Roll out dough into a 12-inch round (about 1/2 inch thick). Using a 2-inch fluted round cutter, cut out scones and arrange about 1/2 inch apart on baking sheet. Gather and gently reroll scraps. Cut out more scones and arrange on baking sheet.

Bake scones in middle of oven until pale golden, about 12 minutes, and transfer to a rack to cool. Scones may be made 1 day ahead and kept in an airtight container at cool room temperature. Makes 24.

-- Crate

recipes - foodcolumn

Rebecca Sodergren: pgfoodevents@hotmail.com or on Twitter @pgfoodevents. First Published March 14, 2013 4:00 AM


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