Friday, September 3, 2010

Signs of Autumn

Market Day: September 1
At this week's market: tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, raspberries, peaches, nectarines, apples, pears, all kinds of leafy greens, winter squashes


On a very hot day at the Davis Square Farmers' Market, I saw the first signs of fall. While the temperature was about 95 degrees, the calendar had turned to September, and it brought squash with it: I saw butternuts, red kuris, delicatas, acorn squash, and spaghetti squash.

Of course, despite these harbingers of winter, the market was still full of summer vegetables: Kimball Fruit Farm's tomatoes are still out in force, as are their raspberries and peaches. Enterprise Farm has a number of different kinds of melons, perfect for summer evenings. And Hanson Farm's zucchini are still petite and glowing. So there's still time to make some ratatouille and caponata as the summer winds down. And if the heat has you unable even to think of cooking, just slice up an heirloom tomato and sprinkle it with salt, or cut up a cantaloupe and serve it with ham. Before school starts and the temperature drops enough that those acorn squash look appealing, make sure to savor the last tastes of summer.
Chef Sam shares a recipe below that's perfect for the transition from summer to fall. Mushrooms are starting to appear in your local market, and this recipe makes a great vegetarian main dish from them. The recipe involves a little bit of resting time for the batter and some fancy cooking terms, so read it through before you try it. When you're done, you can impress all your friends with your tales of julienning fennel, sweating onions, and deglazing pans. Happy almost fall!

Recipe: Wild Mushroom and Fennel Crepe

Ingredients:
Crepe Batter (makes 8-12)
1 cup flour
1 cup milk
2 eggs
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp sugar

Crepe Filling (fills 8-12)
2 heads fennel
8 cups mushrooms, cut in half
4 small white onions
2-4 tsp chopped garlic
6 cups arugula or spinach
2/3 cup madeira
salt and pepper to taste

Technique
Crepe Batter:
Mix salt, sugar, and flour together and set aside.
Mix the eggs and milk together. Add this to the flour mixture, then gently fold in the clarified butter. Let this mixture rest for an hour or so to relax the gluten in the flour. Heat a saute pan over medium-high heat, and pour about 1/4 cup of batter onto the pan in a thin sheet, then cook through, about 1 minute per side. Set aside on parchment paper.

Filling:
Core the fennel and reserve the fronds.
Julienne the onion and the fennel bulb.
Roughly chop the fronds of the fennel and reserve them.
Cut the mushrooms in half, but leave the small ones whole.
Finely chop the garlic.

Heat a tablespoon of butter in a large saute pan, then add the onions, fennel, salt and pepper, and sweat the onions and fennel. Add the garlic and mushrooms and gently saute them until they are just tender. Add the fennel fronds to the pan, and then deglaze the pan with the madeira. Add the arugula and spinach, toss them briefly, then remove the pan from the heat. Stuff the crepes with the filling, and serve topped with herbed creme fraiche.


Friday, August 27, 2010

Farmer Al, a Dreary Day, and Peaches

Market Day: August 25
At this week's market: peaches, apples, pears, plums, blueberries, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers (hot and sweet), zucchini, summer squash, and all sorts of greens


It was rainy and chilly at this week's Davis Square Farmers' Market; the summery piles of peaches and eggplants looked incongruous in the weather. The market had actually flooded, earlier in the day, and while the water had gone down by the time I got there, everyone seemed a little beleaguered. The chill had me planning a hearty soup, and I was drawn to the piles of squash on Farmer Al's table.

I've been curious about Farmer Al for a while now; usually, he oversees his stand next to a cheerfully-painted sign that reads "The Calaloo Man." I introduced myself, and asked about his squash. "It's buttercup," he said, in his lilting accent. "Buttercup, buttercup, where have you been? I've been to London to look at the queen." He also had some shiny red peppers which came to a point; I asked them if they were sweet, and he said "Yes! They are delectable and delicious." All of his produce is organically grown, and the peppers and yellow tomatoes I bought were indeed delectable and delicious. Before I left, I asked him if I could take his picture. He looked dubious. His face, he told me, had a problem with cameras; it broke them. I didn't believe him, and he very kindly obliged me by taking off his orange hat, putting on his baseball cap, and smiling. Here he is in the rain.

In case you're worried, my camera doesn't appear to have broken yet. Perhaps it's a delayed effect.

Meanwhile, sunny summer has reappeared, and I'm no longer craving squash soup. Chef Robert offers a more seasonally-appropriate recipe, perfect for impressing your friends and savoring the summer peaches.


Recipe: Brule├ęd Kimball Fruit Farm Peach with Minted Whipped Cream and Sexy Aged Balsamic Vinegar
This is more of a parlor trick than a recipe. This time of the year, with the fresh ingredients arriving from the farm daily, less is more. The one piece of specialty equipment that you'll need is a blow torch. If you don't have one handy you can just grill the peaches on a hot grill, just enough to get a slight char on the outside.

Ingredients
2 Ripe Kimball Fruit Farm Peaches
4 tablespoons spoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 pint High Lawn Heavy Cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
1/3 cup aged balsamic vinegar (make sure to get some that is aged at least five years; you can find it at Russo's)

Technique
Cut the peaches in half lengthwise and remove the pit. Make a small cut on the skin side so that the peach sits flesh side up on a small dessert plate. Mix the sugar with the cinnamon and sprinkle an even layer on to the flesh of the peach. Brulee the top of the peach with the blow torch until dark brown (or grill it, flesh-side down, on a hot grill until it is dark brown.) Allow it to cool for a few minutes. Meanwhile, whip the very cold cream with a whisk to the consistency of whipped cream. Fold in the mint and vanilla, then put a generous scoop on top of each peach. Drizzle the balsamic on top of the peach and in a nice ring around the on the plate.


Sunday, August 22, 2010

Ratatouille Days

Market Day: August 18
At this week's market: tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, melons, blueberries, raspberries, plums, peaches, greens, sweet peppers, hot peppers.


The peppers are in! I've been wandering the Davis Square Farmers' Market like a wraith for weeks, waiting for bell peppers. The past f
ew weeks, hot peppers had begun to appear, and I'd spot them across the market, getting wildly excited when I saw the flash of green skin, only to find my hopes dashed upon closer inspection.

Why, you ask, did I want sweet peppers so badly? A reasonable question, as the lack of peppers was probably overshadowed in your mind by the presence of the peaches, and the corn, and the tomatoes, and the blueberries, and all the other lovely things the market's had to offer. And it wasn't that I didn't appreciate all this, it's just that I'd been waiting since last summer to make ratatouille, and to do that, you need peppers.
Luckily, this week, the gods smiled on me and peppers appeared. I scampered home and made ratatouille for dinner; I recommend you do the same.


Ratatouille
Adapted from Chez Panisse Cooking
A note: those who love ratatouille tend to have strong opinions on how to make it. These opinions fall into two main camps: the stew school of thought and the saute school of thought. The stew-lovers tend to cook all the vegetables together, with a long simmering time at the end. The saute fans tend to cook each vegetable separately and then combine everything at
the end. There are merits to both approaches, but I fall into the second camp: why would you collect all of summer's best vegetables and then cook them to death? The benefit of cooking all the vegetables separately, although it may seem fussy, is that each retains its own flavor; the short time cooking everything at the end means that the flavors meld without becoming indistinguishable.

Ingredients
Salt

Pepper
4 slim eggplants, skin left on, sliced into rounds 1/4 inch thick
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup water large yellow onion, sliced
4 bell peppers, cut into strips

2 tbsp red wine vinegar
4 mixed zucchini and summer squash, sliced into rounds 1/4 inch thick

4 medium tomatoes, seeded and diced
2 tbsp capers

4 tbsp pitted green olives, chopped

2 tsbp fresh Italian parsley, chopped
1 tbsp chopped fresh basil
2 cloves garlic, minced extra virgin olive oil

Technique

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Salt and pepper the eggplant lightly and toss with a few tablespoons of olive oil. Place in a baking dish with the water, then cover and bake for about half an hour, or until soft to the touch.
2. Meanwhile, saute the onions in a large saucepot in a few tablespoons of the remaining olive oil until it softens, then add the peppers and season with salt and pepper. Cook over high heat, stirring often, until both the peppers and onions are well browned. Add the vinegar and cook one minute more. Transfer the mixture to a bowl.

3. Add a few more tablespoons of olive oil to the pan and saute the squashes until both sides are dark brown.

4. Remove the eggplant from the oven and discard any liquid left in the baking dish. Put the eggplant, along with all the other vegetables, back into the saucepot, and add the tomatoes. At this point, the vegetables should not be stirred any more than is necessary or they will break up and spoil the presentation. Bring to a simmer and cook over medium-high heat for two minutes. If the mixture is extremely juicy, pour the liquid into a saute pan and cook it until it thickens.

5. Remove the pot from the heat and let the ratatouille cool. Then add the capers, olive, parsley, basil, and garlic. Taste and add more vinegar, salt, or pepper, if necessary. Before serving, drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil over each portion.


Ratatouille is very good served cool or cold, and it is even better the next day. Serve it over rice on its own, or with fish or lamb.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Our Sources

The inimitable David Foote, who designs many of our print materials and is generally invaluable to Season to Taste, has just created a sourcemap for us using the very cool open-source interface at sourcemap.org, which even shows the carbon footprint of buying from each of our sources. You can see our map here.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Raspberry Fields Forever

Market Day: August 11
At this week's market: tomatoes, zucchini, summer squash, corn, eggplant, green peppers, herbs of all kinds, watermelon, cantaloupe, salad mix, mizuna, chard, kale, raspberries.


What I'd thought would be a long, lazy summer is flying by faster than I'd bargained for. Mid-August, already? Have you been to the beach yet? Gone berry-picking? Sat on a dock for a few hours? Seen Inception? Eaten enough tomatoes? I certainly haven't. As I walked through the market this week, I thought about how the strawberries and cherries were long over, and how I hadn't preserved a single jar of them, and how I didn't want to make the same mistake with the raspberries and the tomatoes I saw all around me. Granted, stirring a boiling pan of jam or tomato sauce may not be your idea of the best way to spend an August day, but imagine how happy you'll be to have the results, sometime around the middle of February.

Flush with resolution and dreams of preserves, I came into the kitchen to find that Chef Cobi had had a similar idea; I found her cooking up 40 pounds of raspberries into jam, which would be given away, in jewel-like 4-oz jars, as favors at a wedding this weekend. The raspberries had come from Kimball Fruit Farm and were large and ripe and perfumey. I ate a few; they tasted like summer.

Chef Cobi's Raspberry Jam
Makes about eight 8-ounce jars

Ingredients
4 cups raspberries
6 1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 (3-ounce) pouch liquid pectin

Technique
In an 8-quart pan, combine the raspberries, lemon juice and sugar.

Over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, heat the mixture until the sugar is completely dissolved. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a full rolling boil that can't be stirred down, stirring constantly. Stir in the entire contents of the pectin pouch. Return the mixture to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly. Boil, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat. Skim off any foam.

To prevent the jam from separating in the jars, allow the jam to cool 5 minutes before filling the jars. Gently stir the jam every minute or so to distribute the fruit. Ladle the jam into sterilized hot jars leaving 1/4 -inch head space. Wipe the jar rims and threads with a clean damp cloth. Cover with hot lids and apply screw rings. Process half-pint jars in a 200°F (93°C) water bath for 10 minutes, pint jars for 15 minutes.

After the water bath, carefully remove the jars from the water and set them on a flat surface covered with a clean dish cloth. Once they are completely cool, label them and place the in a cool dark place.

For more information on step-by-step canning procedures, including how to sterilize jars, go to www.pickyourown.org/jam

Friday, August 6, 2010


Market Day: August 4
Highlights of this week's market: Field Tomatoes, Heirloom Tomatoes, Fennel, Bell Peppers, Eggplant, Summer Squash, Watermelons, Cantaloupes, Corn, Cucumbers, Nectarines, Peaches, Yellow Beans, Amaranth, Green Beans, Pumpkin Vine, Fresh Herbs

This Week's News:
You can't tell from these photos, which feature the other delicious things available at market this week-- early apples, red onions, rhubarb-- but the big news at market is that melons have appeared: watermelons, cantaloupes, and honeydew, to name just a few. Tomatoes and peaches get most of the attention this time of year, but the melons you'll find at market are just as luscious and sweet as either of those. They're perfect to eat as they are, but when I talked to Chef Tal about the piles of melons I'd seen at Davis Square, he started talking about savory treatments: throwing together watermelons, mint, feta, and lime juice, or wrapping cantaloupe with prosciutto. The melon-and-ham idea, while delicious, is a little bit obvious: of course everything is better when you wrap it in ham. You can wrap melons, you can wrap figs, you can blanch zucchini and use it to wrap mozzarella and then wrap that. (If everything is better when you wrap it in ham, everything wrapped in ham is better when you add cheese. As long as you're not afraid of overkill.)


The watermelon salad idea, however, was a little more seductive because a little more unusual. It's the kind of thing that's starting to show up on restaurant menus, or at high-end salad bars, but if you brought it to a barbeque other guests might be pleasantly surprised. The salad is light but substantial, ideal for a long summer afternoon. Or as Tal said, "easy breezy lemon-squeezy." He could have said "lime-squeezy," I guess, but that wouldn't have quite the same ring to it.

Chef Tal's Watermelon, Feta, and Mint Salad
Ingredients
1 small watermelon (yields 8 cups chopped)
3oz feta
1 bunch mint (or 1 1/2 cups chiffonade)
1/4 cup lime juice (about 8 limes)
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt to taste

Technique
Cut up the watermelon into pieces of one-inch or so. Cut the feta into slightly smaller pieces. Chiffonade the mint. Pile everything into a big mixing bowl, then pour over the lime juice and the olive oil and toss to coat. Add a pinch or two of salt. Taste and add more lime juice or salt as needed.




Friday, July 30, 2010

Market Day: July 28
Highlights of this week's market: tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes...
and eggplant, zucchini, cucumbers, eggplant, summer squash, new potatoes, greens of all kinds (kale, chard, amaranth, salad greens), herbs, berries, plums, peaches.

This Week's News
This week I'm going to take shelter under the old adage that a picture is worth a thousand words; there was so much summer bounty available at the market that I can only express it through photos. Although I will say that Kimball Fruit Farm alone had over fifteen different kinds of heirloom tomatoes, so make sure that you get to market to try at least a few of them.

Scroll down to find a recipe from Chef Robert for a fingerling potato salad; this is the perfect way to use the small new potatoes that you see at the market this time of year.


Recipe: Fresh Dug Roasted Fingerling Potato, Caramelized Onion, Confit Garlic, and Fresh Herb Salad


Ingredients

2 lbs Fingerling Potatoes

1 Large Vidialia Onion, thinly sliced

1 Cup of Peeled Garlic Cloves

½ Cup Basil

¼ Cup Finely Chopped Thyme

1 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 Lemon


Technique

Submerge the garlic cloves in the olive oil in a small sauce pot and cook on very low heat for 30-45 minutes or until the garlic is very soft (but not falling apart) Strain and reserve the oil.

Cut the fingerling potatoes lengthwise and toss in a bowl with a splash of olive oil and salt and pepper. Place the potatoes flesh side down on aluminum foil-lined cookie sheet. Roast in a 425 degree oven for 20-30 minutes until the flesh easily gives when poked.

Cook the onions over low heat in a well-oiled saucepan until they are soft and very browned; this will take about 45 minutes.

While the potatoes, onions, and garlic are still warm, toss in a bowl with the fresh herbs. Season to Taste, and squeeze the lemon over the top right before serving