Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Saturday Morning at the Market

Thanks so much to every one who stopped by to visit me this past Saturday at the South Shore Farmer's Market.  We had a beautiful (albeit) early morning in the park.  I am not a morning person, so the fact that I got there before some of the farmers were done setting up is something I am equal parts proud of and depressed by.

Having been an avid farmer's market shopper for three years now, I'm starting to get into the hang of what is going to be there when.  It's also helpful that I get an email from my CSA farmers around Tuesday of the week, and what they've got is a good indication of what's going to be available at the market.  Of course, none of that can account for the fact that - I suspect just to throw me off my game - nobody had garlic at the market this past Saturday.

I think that cooking at the farmer's market really exemplifies what's at the heart of locavore cooking.  It's nothing fancy, nothing flashy, nothing rehearsed.  I like to think of my cooking a lot like I think of my dancing.  For those of you who only know me from my blogging, I am also an American Tribal Style Belly Dancer (South Shore Market regulars: those are the belly dancers you see a few times a year!).  The thing that drew me to ATS Belly Dance was the fact that it is improvisational group dancing.  We always dance in groups, and nothing is choreographed.  You practice a lot with the women you dance with, you know your music well, and you learn the "vocabulary" of the dance, but when push comes to shove you just don't know what exactly is going to go down.  This, to me, is the joy of the dance.  You are in the moment, and 90% of the time you need to give that control away.  You know what should happen, and you can even influence it a little, but in the end you need to give that control away.  You are not in charge.  You have to trust those around you to take care of you, and you are responsible for taking care of them.  And when something goes wrong, you smile, forgive, and move on.  And you learn something new for next time.  And maybe, if you're really lucky, you get to create a new move!

This is how I feel about locavore cooking.  You learn the ingredients.  You learn how they should work.  You learn when they should be there.  But in the end, you need to work with what you have.  And maybe things don't turn out exactly how you want, but maybe they turn out better.  And maybe you end up with something even better than what you had intended.  In the end, that is what locavore cooking is about.  You need to let go and work with whatever is at the market.  In today's well stocked grocery store, you can get whatever you want whenever you want it.  That's great, but there's nothing to push you outside of your bubble.

I'm not saying I necessarily got pushed outside of my comfort zone at the market this past weekend.  While not having garlic is fairly traumatic to anyone of marginally Italian descent, "just leaving it out" probably isn't getting pushed outside of your bubble.  But I'm not talking about me right now, am I?  No.  I'm talking about you.  I'm saying that you should allow yourself to get pushed out of your bubble.  Because it's fun.  Because I promise that the bag of weird looking mushrooms that you pick up at the market is going to taste way better than whatever you "just have" to run to the grocery store for.  Because I bet you wouldn't have believed me before that peaches and corn make a good salad.  And because cooking (like dancing) should be fun.  

The recipes came out well.  My helpers Denise and Missie were amazing.  The plants that I strategically placed throughout the audience asked all the right questions at all the right times.  Okay, the gazpacho was a bit spicy, but I cooled everyone down with a little maple bacon ice cream so they have to forgive me, right?  Right.

Thanks again for coming out to see me.  And if you didn't, you can make it up to me next time!  I'll be dancing at the market this coming Saturday...

Corn and Peach Salad

  • 4 cobs corn
  • 1 lb peaches
  • 1 small red onion
  • mixed greens (preferably with edible flowers for decoration)
  • 1 lime
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 jalapeno? 
Grill the corn for about 5 minutes on each side.  You're looking to get it charred and a little smokey, but you don't want to overcook the corn.  Meanwhile, slice or cube the peaches into bite sized chunks, and finely dice the red onion.  Once the corn is grilled, cut it off of the cob and combine with the peaches, onion, and mixed greens in a large bowl.  (Larger than the one I used!)  In a separate bowl, whisk together the juice of one lime, the olive oil,  and salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.  (You can also add a minced jalapeno into the dressing, but I accidentally threw this into the gazpacho - making it extra spicy!)  Pour the dressing over the salad, and toss gently again to combine.

This is a light, refreshing salad that would go well with any grilled meat in the summer.  You could also add some avocado, feta, or nuts (if you're into that sort of thing).  Another thing I thought of while walking the market after the demo was to flake some of the Rushing Waters smoked trout on top and make an entree salad. 

Grilled Vegetable "Gazpacho"

Yes, I know that gazpacho is made with raw vegetables.  Yes, I know gazpacho is traditionally thickened with bread.  This has neither of those things.  That's why it's "gazpacho."  Missie (who took the last of it home) named it "Ka-spacho." I don't care what you want to call it.  It's a refreshing summer meal or side, a good way to use up whatever vegetables you have lying around the house, and would make a damn fine Bloody Mary base.  

This is what I did at the market, but you can really feel free to throw in whatever other ingredients you have, or omit any that you don't.  (Garlic anyone?)

  • 1 large zucchini (about 1 to 1.5 lbs), cut into large cubes
  • 1 red onion,  quartered
  • 1 jalapeno (or two depending on how you're feeling)
  • 2 bell peppers - whatever color you're feeling
  • A large handful of fresh herbs (if you find yourself thinking - wait, I didn't notice this at the market, you are very perceptive.  And also shhh!)
  • 1 cucumber
  • 2 (ish) lbs tomatoes, halved or quartered, depending on the size
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper
Combine first five ingredients, along with any additional vegetables you may have lying around your kitchen.   Toss with a drizzling of olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste.  Grill until just charred, but not soft or mushy.  If you want, at this point, you can remove the skins from the peppers, and the seeds from the jalapenos.  If the peppers are nicely charred, the skins should slip right off, but this step is not necessary.

While the first set of veggies is grilling, blend the cucumber until it is fully liquified.  Add the grilled vegetables, and blend again until thick.  The zucchini has a nice viscosity to it, and will thicken up the soup nicely, while the cucumber and the tomato thin it out.  In this case, the zucchini takes the place of the bread.

Toss the tomatoes in olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.  Grill for about 10 minutes, tossing occasionally.  You want the tomatoes to start to dry up slightly, and get a little charred on the outside, without drying up.

Once the tomatoes are warm and getting a little caramelized,  transfer them into the blender and puree. 

At this point, I like to combine the green portion and the tomato portion artistically.  You can stir them together, but I like how the layers look.  Depends on how fancy you're feeling that day.

Quark and Beet Dip

Easiest. Recipe. Ever.

Roast off 1.5 lbs of beets (the color's up to you) and allow to cool.  Put into a food processor, and process until smooth.  Combine with 1 8 oz container of quark from the Clock Shadow Creamery (your choice of flavor... try the maple, it's award winning!)  Add a dash of any spices you feel appropriate (cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, cayenne...?  Preferably not all four.), or maybe a bit of lemon zest, and stir to combine.  Serve as a dip with crusty bread, carrot or celery sticks, or crackers.

Maple Bacon Ice Cream
(Hahahahaha.  Nope.)

Send me a message to place your order ;)

Next up - what to do with the pile of zucchini and cherry tomatoes building up on my kitchen counter.  Got any tips for me, or anything you'd like to see me try?  Leave them in the comments.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Jam! Rhymes with D@!n

Or something like that...  I figure that the title of my post shouldn't be cursy.

So I would like to send a thanks and shout out to all the handsome young men at the Hack Family Farm stand at the South Shore Farmer's Market.  They saved eight quarts of strawberries for me last.  And saved is really an understatement.  I mean, between the time they gave them to me, and the time that I spent jibber-jaberring about Star Trek or Wars or Gate or something related - FOUR PEOPLE TRIED TO BUY MY STRAWBERRIES OUT FROM UNDER ME.  I only got to the market an hour and a half late, which is pretty late for me, but I'm fairly certain they were the last strawberries at the market.  Possibly for the whole year.  I probably should have sold them.  Instead, I tried to make jam.

I suck at jam.

I don't think that I have ever successfully made a batch of jam.  I follow the directions exactly.  I have tried multiple recipes from multiple books, and NEVER do I ever get jam.  I get ice cream topping.  Seriously.  The recipe says to cook for 30 minutes or until it sets - I cook it for two hours and it never sets.  If I based my self esteem on my ability to make jam, I would be in a lot of trouble right now.

Anyway, I ended up with 6 half pints each of strawberry and strawberry rhubarb ice cream topping. I also like to use it with some Greek yogurt.  If anyone wants to teach me how to make jam, I would pay you back with pickles.  I'm really good at pickles!

If you are interested in shopping where I shop, and hanging out with my farmers, please come check me out at the South Shore Farmer's Market on Saturday, August 17th.  I will be giving a cooking demo at 9:00 am.  I don't know what I'm going to make (it depends on what will be there that day), but there will be samples!  The after party, like last year, will be at the the Great Lakes Distillery.  The Tasting Room opens at 11:00, and the first tour is at 1:00.

Kate's Strawberry Ice Cream Topping:
(This recipe originally comes from my Put 'em Up book where it is called Classic Strawberry Jam.  Which I guess I'm assuming means it's really safe for canning - even if it isn't safe for jam.)

(Makes about 3 pints)

  • 3 cups strawberries, hulled and halved if large
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup bottled lemon juice
Toss the strawberries and sugar in a large bowl and macerate overnight.

Transfer the mixture to a large nonreactive saucepan.  Bring to a boil, stirring and crushing the fruit regularly.  Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the jam reaches the desired gel, about 20 minutes.  (Alternately, cook for 2 hours while cursing at it to be jam already, then give up, can as is, and tell your friends and blog readers that it's ice cream topping and that you meant it to be that way.)

If you are canning using the boiling water method, process in half pint jars for 10 minutes, then turn off the heat, remove the cover, and allow the jars to sit in the water for 10 minutes.  And, while you may hope it does, this process does not make the contents of your jars any jammier. 

Strawberry Rhubarb "Jam" like liquid
(Originally called Strawberry Rhubarb Jam, from The Joy of Jams, Jellies, and other Sweet Preserves)

(Makes about 3 pints)

  • 1 large lemon
  • 2 pounds strawberries, hulled
  • 3/4 lbs rhubarb stalks, cut into approximately 3/8 inch cubes
  • 4 1/4 cups sugar
 Squeeze the juice from the lemon.  Put the seeds into a spice bag, and put the bag and juice into a preserving pan (looked this up on the internet.  It's basically what we common folk call a "pan.")  Add the strawberries, and slice or mash them if they are large and firm.  Add the rhubarb.  Over low heat, simmer the contents until the rhubarb is tender, about 30 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and add the sugar.  Stir the mixture over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved.  Raise the heat to medium-high and boil the jam, stirring and skimming off the foam, until a drop mounds on a chilled dish, or until you are crazy tired and can't remember why you even bothered to do this.  It's not like you like jam that much anyway!

Fish the bag of seeds out of the sticky mess, and wonder why the F you put them in there.  They clearly didn't do anything.  This would also be a good time to reflect on the wisdom of choosing these two recipes that didn't have any store-bought pectin in them, when you've never had a jam or jelly set in your life.

Ladle the jam into pint or half pint mason jars.  Add lids and rings and process the jars for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath.