Posts tagged locavore

Farmers’ Market Tips

It’s been a blast teaching Shop Like a Pro at a Farmers’ Market this year. I’m hosting a class this weekend, and then will take a break until autumn. If you can’t attend, I’d love your help in spreading the word on Facebook or Twitter. Use this link:

At my class, I walk through the basics of local food including what’s in season, how to choose the best products (and keep them fresh when you get home), and simple recipes that anyone can prepare.

Here are some basic tips for your next trip to the market:

First thing to do is take a lap around the market to scope out the scene. Notice what’s popular, which stand has the best goods, and compare prices.

Enjoy yourself. Farmers markets are like little state fairs, so take your time if you can.

Bring your own reusable bags. Stuffing glorious fresh produce into plastic bags just feels wrong.

Try something new. Your average grocery store carries a soul-crushingly meager variety of produce. Try a purple heirloom tomato, or a pint of ground cherries. A daikon radish, or a duck breast.

Ask questions and seek advice. “How are these two eggplants different?” “How long will this last in my refrigerator?” “What do you feed the cows?” I’ve only met one produce stand worker who was standoffish. I gave him another chance the next week, and now I simply shop at a different stand.

Unless you are buying in bulk, don’t be a jerk about the price of the produce, which can sometimes be slightly higher than at your supermarket. These farmers are working harder than you can even imagine. Consider yourself lucky to have a direct pipeline to real food that supports the local economy.

If you buy only one thing, make it a dozen farm fresh eggs with those fiery-orange yolks. Trust me on this one.

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Roasted Asparagus with Rhubarb Sauce

There comes a moment in late April when the earth seems to rustle from a cold, white winter. A pair of my favorite spring signals—asparagus and rhubarb—recently appeared at the farmers market. Here is one way to marry them in a dish, served with warm cornbread.

Roasted Asparagus with Rhubarb Sauce

Inspired by a handful of sources
Serves 4 and costs about $6

1 pound or so of asparagus, trimmed
1 tablespoon olive oil
2-3 tablespoons butter
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tablespoon of grated ginger
4-5 stalks of rhubarb, diced
1 tablespoon of local honey

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place asparagus in an even layer in tin foil and coat with olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Wrap the foil around the asparagus, creating a tent with a small opening in the top if you’d like. Roast on a cookie sheet for 15 minutes.

As asparagus roasts, melt butter in skillet over medium heat until it caramelizes. Add garlic, ginger, and rhubarb, cover pan and cook for about 5 minutes. Stir in honey and lower heat.

Remove asparagus from oven and divide stalks on plates. Spoon rhubarb sauce over asparagus, and add a dash of salt or pepper, if you’d like.

Rhubarb stalks may be red or green, and frequently somewhere in between.

Skillet Corn Bread
Adapted from Beekman 1802 Heirloom Cookbook
Makes one skillet and costs about $5

1 1/2 cups cornmeal
1 tablespoon organic sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon local honey
2 eggs
1 stick of butter

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place 10-inch cast iron skillet in oven while preparing the batter. (Do this step first if making with asparagus recipe.) Whisk together all dry ingredients in large bowl. Combine wet ingredients (including honey) in a small bowl.

Remove skillet from oven and add butter. Add sizzling butter to wet ingredients. Combine wet and dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Scrape the batter into the hot skillet and bake for 20-25 minutes.

Oven mates: roasted asparagus and skillet cornbread.

I’ve read that asparagus is costly because it must be harvested by hand. Conjures a handsome image of farmers stepping lightly near hedgerows. After you’ve purchased your bundle of asparagus, eat it quickly, as its flavor begins to flatten immediately.

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Savory Carrot Soup

The base of this soup holds carrots and sweet potatoes, but you can add other root vegetables—like parsnip and turnip—to your liking. Touches of turmeric and ginger summon the fragrances that I imagine curl through the Dubai Spice Souk.

Savory Carrot Soup
Serves 8 people and costs about $5

1 turnip
1 parsnip
2 big carrots
2-3 sweet potatoes
4 cloves of peeled garlic
1/2 peeled onion
1 bunch of bok choy
Ginger, turmeric, and other spices to your liking
Olive oil

Scrub and chop vegetables, but do not peel. Heat 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil in soup kettle over medium-high heat and add all ingredients except for bok choy. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10-12 minutes. Add 5 cups of water and bring to a boil. Decrease heat, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes. Transfer vegetables, in batches, to a blender and gently process to your desired consistency. Return to soup kettle and heat through. Remove stems from bok choy (or other greens) and chop. Add to soup and stir. Adjust seasonings to taste.

Serve in oven-warmed bowls.

Add bok choy or other greens, and root vegetables like turnips and parsnips.

Coarsely chop the leafy greens.

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My So-Called Corn Bread Muffins

It’s August 1994, and my aunt invited me over for dinner. Two big things happened that night: my first taste of corn bread, and the debut of My So-Called Life. Ever since, whenever I taste corn bread I can’t help but dream of Angela, Rickie, Rayanne, and Jordan Catalano trafficking the halls of teen angst and flannel.

My So-Called Corn Muffins
12 muffins for about $4

1 cup of corn meal
3/4 cup of flour
2 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
1/2 cup of sugar
1/2 cup of brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tablespoon of maple syrup
1 cup of milk
3 tablespoons of butter
Honey or maple syrup for drizzling (optional)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a bowl, whisk together corn meal, flour, baking powder, and sugars. Add eggs, syrup, milk, and butter. Add batter to greased muffin pans and bake for 20 minutes. Drizzle with honey or maple syrup.

Add batter to muffin pans.

Cool slightly in pans and serve warm. Drizzle with honey.

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Potato and Leek Soup

Hello December. Hello cold, dark nights. To be fair, we’ve had a pretty great autumn In New York. (Well, except for that freak nor’easter a few weeks back.) We’ve eclipsed the late season and have headed into the so-called extended season, which is all about prolonging the harvest. Much of the local food in winter was harvested at other times of the year. Canned goods like tomatoes and jams, frozen food like pesto, and dehyrdated snacks like apple rings are complemented by storage crops from farms like squashes, funky-looking root vegetables, and the versatile potato. This potato soup conjures a memory of sloshing into the house after a long day of building snow forts.

Local Me - Potato and Leek Soup
This picture was taken right before I dropped my camera/phone into the bowl. A word of caution to food bloggers everywhere…

Potato and Leek Soup

3-4 potatoes of your choosing
3-4 leeks or onions
4 cups of stock
2 cups of water
Seasonings to taste
1/2 cup of cream or milk

Wash and chop leeks (using some of the greens) and add to soup kettle with a tablespoon of olive oil. Saute a few minutes. Peel and chop potatoes.

Local Me - Potatoes

Add potatoes, seasonings, stock, and water to kettle. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 35-40 minutes.

Coarsely mash potatoes in kettle. Pour in cream or milk to taste. I recommend adding a shake of red pepper flakes and extra salt. Enjoy!

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Farmers’ Market Classes

Last summer, I began guiding small groups of people through New York City greenmarkets, helping them select great produce, and prepare recipes for a seasonal feast. The classes have been fun and I continue teaching about once a month. Join me this Saturday:

Shop Like a Pro at a Farmers’ Market
December 3, 2011
Buy $10 tickets at Skillshare or Gidsy

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Roasted Sprouts and Golden Beets

Somewhere along the way Brussels sprouts got a bad rap. My guess is it’s because too many folks boil them like a 1950’s homemaker. Those of us who crave them know that roasting the little leafy greens brings forth a sensation that is at once smoky and sweet. Draping them with balsamic vinegar evokes a caramel camp fire.

This recipe diverges from the norm a bit, and for good reason. The fennel and hint of apple cider mess around with the taste in a surprisingly delightful way.

Roasted Sprouts and Golden Beets
Serves 4 as a side (can be doubled) and costs about $4

10-12 Brussels sprouts, bottoms trimmed and cut in half
1 Fennel bulb, fronds and stalks removed and diced
8-10 golden beets, peeled and chopped
1-2 shallots, diced
2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 tablespoons of apple cider

Preheat oven to 500 degrees (or 485 if that freaks you out). Toss sprouts, fennel, beets, a bit of salt, and shallots in olive oil. Spread evenly on a baking tray and place in oven. After about 10 minutes, give the vegetables a toss, and cook 10-15 minutes more, until sprouts look charred. Remove from oven and drizzle with apple cider. Serve warm.

Curious about how to chop fennel? Check this out:

Spread vegetables evenly on a baking sheet.

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It’s easy to think of local food as a diversion for people with plenty of time and money — something that could never be a major source of food in a globalized world. But the number $4.8 billion might change that perception.
NPR: Local Food is No Small Potatoes. New insights on the local food industry.

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Baked Apple Cider Donuts

I spent the weekend dog-sitting Ari, a loveable pooch in Hells Kitchen. His owner, Drew, is a fantastic baker and has the best kitchen toys, like donut molds. This recipe is modified from the one over at The Kitchn. If you can, try to find local butter, eggs, honey, apple cider, yogurt, and even some of the dry ingredients.

Baked Apple Cider Donuts
Makes 12 donuts for about $9 (depending on what you have in stock)

2 cups of flour
1 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
2 egg whites
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 apple butter
Dash of vanilla
1/4 cup of local honey
1/2 cup of local apple cider
1/3 cup of local plain yogurt
2 tablespoons of olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and grease donut pan(s). In a large mixing bowl, toss together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. In a separate bowl, combine eggs, brown sugar, apple butter, vanilla, apple cider, yogurt, and olive oil. Pour the wet into the dry and whisk until blended.

Spoon batter into donut molds and bake for 10-12 minutes. Cool slightly, but eat warm.

My Sous-chef.

Slowly add wet ingredients to dry mix and whisk until blended.

The donuts pair well with hot coffee on a windy autumn morning.

Post-breakfast walk with Ari in Central Park. Magic.

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Apple, Beet, Fennel and Sunchoke Salad

Sunchokes look like witches from Disney movies. Their name doesn’t help their cause. Despite all that, they are well worth a shot. When you see them at farmers’ markets or your local grocer, they look similar to ginger and may be called Jerusalem artichoke. Once peeled and prepared, the high-iron root has a whispered nutty flavor, which pairs nicely with the licorice nip of fennel, and the smack of apple.

Apple, Beet, Fennel and Sunchoke Salad
Serves 4 as a side and costs about $7

10 sunchokes, peeled
1 fennel, stalks and fronds removed
6-8 golden beets, peeled
1-2 apples, cored
1/4 cup of olive oil
1 tablespoon of cider vinegar
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
Shake of salt and pepper

In a bowl, whisk olive oil, vinegar, and lemon juice. Thinly slice (mandolin recommended) the sunchokes, fennel, beets, and apple, and add to bowl. Throw a few shakes of salt and pepper on top and mix well. Decorate with fennel fronds if you’d like. Serve cold.

Golden beets add a leathery crunch.

Fancy fennel frond as a garnish.

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