From the Market: Week 4

Veggies, veggies, and more veggies from the Ringwood Farmers’ Market … and I actually didn’t include everything in the picture above. Of everything I picked up, I was most excited to get my hands on some golden beets from Bialas Farms, as it’s been almost a year since I last had them.

Instead of torturing the beets in an over-the-top recipe (as I’ve been known to do), I treated them simply, roasting in a medium oven until cooked through, tossing with freshly shelled peas, and lovely lettuce and dill from Nina’s Red Barn Farm, then lightly dressing it all with a sherry-shallot vinaigrette. When food is this abundant and delicious, it makes sense to savor the flavors as nature intended.

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Another dish I’ve been looking forward to since this time last year was this light and tasty chilled soup, which gets its fresh color from an unlikely source — pea pods:

What a great way to recycle. Because if you’re going to go to all the trouble of shelling a bunch of peas, why throw away the pods until you’ve wrung every last bit of usefulness from them? I got the idea/recipe from the innovative Clotilde of Chocolate & Zucchini, making only one change to the recipe by deleting the nutmeg because I simply don’t care for it. The peas were shelled in two batches with the pods from last week spending some time in the freezer until I could make up the difference with this week’s haul. This soup is the very essence of a warm spring day and the most refreshing lunch you can imagine. Do give it a try the next time you’re up to your elbows in peas; you won’t regret it.

From the Market: Week 3

Week 3 at the Ringwood Farmers’ Market was all about dogs and berries for us. It took almost an hour to make a full circuit as we stopped to play with other dogs, chat with their owners and meet fellow dog lovers who happened to be without canine companions at the time. One of the best things about heading out there every Saturday is getting to chat with the people in our neighborhood we’d never see otherwise.

And the berries – oh, my, those berries. See, I’ve always loved the idea of strawberry pie or tart more than the actuality of it. Reason consistently took a back seat to desire whenever I’d see those plump, glistening berries perched atop a golden crust until I took my first bite and found … nothing. No satisfaction, certainly, but not even much in the way of flavor. Too often, those strawberries bore a striking resemblance to supermarket tomatoes — beautiful, and about as tasty as plastic. With that disappointing history, I put the thought of a strawberry tart out of my mind until I realized the Orchards of Concklin‘s berries are so juicy and luscious that any dessert featuring them must be just as spectacular.

To up the ante on the tart, I decided to go with a butter/lard crust instead of a regular all-butter one. To be honest, I chose to use lard as much for its reported baking benefits as for the cracklins that come as a by-product of the rendering process:


Cracklins and a quart of lard. Is it just me, or are you looking at that Mason jar and thinking, “This cow got into an onion patch,” too?

As far as I can tell, our local market doesn’t carry leaf lard, so I ordered a couple of pounds from two sources — Flying Pigs Farm and Bobolink Dairy. It’s important to me to get quality animal products from reputable sources; factory farms have horrible reputations for animal welfare and antibiotic use, so I just avoid them and (admittedly) buy more expensive meat, but eat much less of it than I used to.

The rendering process wasn’t as difficult as I’d imagined nor as smelly as its reputation. In fact, if a person is willing to eat lard at all, I don’t understand how they wouldn’t want their house to smell the way mine did while the lard was on the stovetop, bubbling away. If you’re looking to render your own lard, I found this to be an invaluable resource.

Despite the deep color of the lard when it came off the burner, the tart crust didn’t have a porky flavor in the slightest, but instead was slightly nutty with a rich and decadent feel. I chose an Emeril Lagasse recipe mainly because it came up first in my search and called for pastry cream instead of berries glazed with a sugary syrup; pastry cream is one of those things that just makes my toes curl. Instead of the crust in the recipe, I tried a gluten-free version, but wasn’t happy with the combination of flours I used. I’ll continue to experiment and will give you something that really works…soon, I hope. But for now, we’ll just enjoy the penultimate tart we have, instead of crying over missed perfection:

Later on, I glazed the berries with some of the raspberry-plum jam I’d happened to pick up from B&B Jams. It added a much stronger flavor than plain apricot jam would’ve without overpowering the fresh berries; in fact, I think it complemented them very, very well.

Oh, and the peonies we picked up a couple of weeks ago? Still beautiful, though decaying:

Next up: Vegetables of Insane Greatness.

From the Market: Week 1

Kofta with Spinach & Arugula Salad

The Ringwood Farmers’ Market opened this weekend, and not one minute too soon! I’ve been craving their fresh produce since the weekly market closed last November; winter market (new this year) only took place once a month, and the pickings were slim. It was winter, after all.

But now we’re back to greens, berries, honey and meats from small local farms, so let’s dive in.

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What I missed most about the early markets was the amazing spinach and arugula from Bialas Farms, not to mention the rest of the veggies and fresh herbs that always make up the bulk of my shopping experience on weekends. Because I was impatient to try the first haul, I made brunch as soon as we got home — a quick pesto with the spinach and arugula, some walnuts and grated locatelli, all smoothed out with a Ligurian olive oil. The pasta was a gluten-free selection from Fontanarosa’s, which I only visited for the first time this weekend. I now plan to shop there all summer long.

[About the gluten-free thing: I cut out the major sources of gluten about a month ago after reading The GenoType Diet. I’m highly suspicious of any diet at all (and definitely didn’t try this to lose weight — so don’t worry, those of you who know me), but thought I’d give this one a try since a lot of what the author said about my type rang true, given my experience. Anyway, I can honestly say that the mild-to-moderate joint pain I’ve had for the past few years has completely disappeared since I cut the out the gluten. (Other things I won’t go into here have cleared up as well.) Maybe it’s all unrelated, and I hope it is, but we’ll see how I feel when I re-introduce regular pastas and whole-grain bread into my meals.]

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Even though we were invited to a BBQ Sunday afternoon, I had to get in a little grilling of my own this weekend, so I threw together a quick-ish lunch. The appetizers were inspired by this post at Smitten Kitchen and I was thrilled with the way they turned out:

That’s a lot of good stuff packed into a couple of bites, and it came together with almost no effort on my part. I just grilled 1/2-inch-thick slices of homemade bread till they were toasted, smeared them with loads of truffle butter, some room-temperature robiola (one of my favorites, but you could try whatever you like here), and topped them off with ribbons of asparagus, crunchy fleur de sel and freshly ground pepper.

To make the ribbons, just grasp the tip of the spear and use a vegetable peeler to shave down the length of the asparagus.

Our main course was a kofta salad. The spinach and arugula made another appearance here, tossed with tzaziki sauce for the salad base. I had a few extra asparagus ribbons from the appetizers, so I threw them on as a garnish. But the real draw was the kofta made with ground lamb from Snoep Winkel Farm. I used the recipe that’s become my standard, substituting walnuts for pistachios since those were, um, about 18 months out of date. Oops.

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And then we went to a BBQ where I consumed lots of steak and delicious veggie skewers, so I was pretty meated- and veggied-out by Sunday morning and took it easy with a little goat’s milk yogurt with fresh strawberries, blueberries and honey. (Sadly, the blueberries were store-bought since they aren’t quite in season here, but the The Orchards of Concklin‘s strawberries are as perfect as ever, and their peonies aren’t half-bad either. I’ll bring my camera next time we go so I can show you just how popular Rufus and Otis are with the proprietor. The honey is local, too — from Nina’s Red Barn Farm, where we buy our fresh eggs and where I’m evidently known as Rufus’s mom.)

gluten-free

Hope everyone had a safe and relaxing Memorial Day Weekend.

Better late than never

I’m a week behind, so let’s hear it for Halloween pictures! We should celebrate with leftover candy (assuming it’s lasted this long).

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Rufus begged to wear his Halloween costume to the last farmers’ market of the season. How could we refuse? All I cared about was getting a few veggies and a nice chuck roast for beef bourguignon. As you can see, we both left happy.

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I combined the classic recipe from Julia Child with a couple of Anthony Bourdain’s modifications and tweaked a bit more based on ingredients we had at hand. To say this was the best beef stew I’ve had would be an understatement; I’m sure it was the overdose of demi-glace that did it, but that doesn’t demystify things at all.

recipe and more Ru pics after the jump

Continue reading “Better late than never”