Posts tagged farmers’ markets

A Weekend in the Finger Lakes

I know, I know. Every time I get on a roll updating the blog, I suddenly disappear again. Believe me, I’m as tired of the excuses as you are. But this month I endured a series of seemingly endless travels for work (Florence and Singapore, again) and family reasons (Pittsburgh), and I am only now starting to catch my breath. (In fact, I am currently home ailing with a sore throat. I think all this jet setting has finally caught up to me. Cough, cough.)

haybales

But in the midst of all these crazy journeys, at the beginning of the month Jim and I escaped to New York’s Finger Lakes for a weekend. The sparkling lakes and waterfalls, gorgeous green hills, and quiet country roads—along with the local wine, farmers’ markets, and amazing restaurants—were just what we needed before summer said its farewell and autumn appeared at our door.

winery

Let’s start with the wine. There are more than 100 wineries clustered around the region’s eleven lakes. Winemaking has been a tradition here for over 150 years, with most of the well-known wineries situated around the three largest, oblong lakes: Seneca, Cayuga, and Keuka. With a climate that has often been compared to Germany’s Rhine region, the Finger Lakes are primarily known for cool-weather whites such as Riesling and Gewürztraminer; however, we found that the reds were surprisingly deep and sophisticated. As Jim and I visited the wineries around Seneca Lake, we picked up bottles of Riesling and Cabernet from Standing Stone vineyards, as well as Viridescens and Cabernet Franc from Red Newt Cellars.  The Celsius iced wine from Atwater Estate vineyards was too sweet to resist, and we ended our tour with a few bottles added to the backseat of the car.

danos

We revived our weary palettes with some delicious dinners around Seneca Lake. Our favorite meal by far was at Dano’s Heuriger, a modern, glass-encased, Viennese-style restaurant right on the lake. We started with some of the unique spreads, all of which were visible in the glass counter near the entrance. The liptauer, a tangy Austrian cheese-based specialty, and the hotel sacher, made from capers, mustard seed, and anchovy paste, were incredibly intense, while the pumkinseed oil spread from my German-themed bento box blew me away with its smooth texture and flavors. As you can tell from the photograph below, the bento box gave me a small taste of everything the heuriger had to offer: fresh, vinegar-laced salads and potatoes, as well as various forms of juicy pork. Jim declared the wiener schnitzel the best he had ever tasted, and we immediately started to wonder if we could justify coming back for lunch the next day.

danos2

Another food-related highlight of the weekend was the Ithaca Farmers’ Market on Cayuga Lake. Here I need to thank Amy Maltzan of the wonderful blog Eggs on Sunday, first for her posts inspiring us to visit her local market, and also for the personal dining suggestions she provided for our getaway weekend. Amy, your farmers’ market didn’t disappoint. I was amazed by the sheer number of small local farmers selling their fruits and vegetables in the wood-beamed hallways of the market.

market

From one end to the other, down the side halls and in between, I browsed through piles of garlic, berries, cherry tomatoes, greens, and beans. Jim enjoyed a local cider tasting, and we bought some ham from a cute little butcher called the Piggery, as well as bread and cheese for snacking between wine tastings. I was a little surprised by the absence of fish mongers, and the relatively small number of cheese and meat vendors, but I loved how local crafts such as pottery and wood furniture were included in the market.

shopping

In addition to all this eating, drinking, and shopping, we visited some beautiful natural sights around the Finger Lakes. If you plan to head up there anytime soon, must-sees include the waterfall at Taughannock State Park, and the incredible rock formations in Watkins Glen State Park. The Corning Museum of Glass also deserves a lengthy stop. As you can tell from this post, you certainly won’t go hungry or thirsty during your travels.

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Farmers’ Market Find: Mushrooms from Madura Farms

A few weeks ago I sent Jim to the Carroll Gardens farmers’ market by himself. I don’t remember why I didn’t go with him; I was probably busy cleaning the apartment or getting ready to run somewhere else that Sunday morning. In any case, when Jim returned to the apartment, laden down with various bags and packages, he had quite a surprise for me. Take a look:

mushrooms

He had picked up two gorgeous and ruffled mushroom pom-poms—oyster at the left side of the photo and maitake at the right, to be exact—from the new Madura Farms mushroom stand at the market. Together they cost about $13. I had wanted to write about them earlier this month, but it took me until this past weekend to stroll by the market and chat with the vendors myself. Within a few minutes, I learned that Madura Farms cultivates these mushrooms on their farm in Goshen, New York, and sells many other varieties such as button, shiitake, and portobello. Afterwards I wanted to kick myself for not specifically asking how Madura’s mushrooms are grown, but Under the BQE describes how the farm raises its various fungi in mushroom “houses,” and that they are farmed in tune with organic practices. At least someone around here is doing their research!

I found these mushrooms almost too beautiful to cook; I wanted to admire them for every angle, indefinitely. But we finally decided to break them apart, piece by piece. We sautéed them in olive oil with just a bit of salt and pepper, and added them to one of our famous homemade pizzas with some spicy sausage from Esposito’s. As predicted by the folks at the Madura farm stand, these massive mushrooms cooked down significantly, and we were left with just the right amount for our pie. 

pizza

The meaty texture and smoky flavors of the two mammoth shrooms paired well with the pie’s fiery sausage, creamy mozzarella, and slightly sweet, whole-wheat crust. With every bite, Jim and I tried to ferret out the mushrooms from the meat, enjoying each element on its own and then together. Jim determined that the maitake was his favorite of the two, as he enjoyed its nutty, full flavors more than the milder oyster mushroom.

In retrospect, I doubt I would have picked up those imposing mushrooms if I went to the market on my own; in many ways I am not as adventurous as my husband. Perhaps I should send him to the market alone more often. Who knows what he will bring home next?

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Farmers’ Market Find: Strawberries and Rhubarb

icecream

I know I’ve been absent from the blog lately, but it’s not entirely my fault. I blame last week’s never-ending rain for dampening my blogging enthusiasm. Luckily the sun finally emerged from behind the soggy clouds this weekend, and with one trip to the Park Slope farmers’ market, my excitement for spring—and cooking—returned in full force.

I wandered through the market on Saturday morning, canvas bag in hand, trying to decide what to buy. Piles of bright green spinach and asparagus beckoned from the fruit and vegetable stands. Long lines formed in front of the meat and fishmongers, while small children begged their parents to buy them breakfast pastries. I restrained myself from buying a bouquet of fresh wild flowers, and instead came home with a quart of strawberries and several stalks of rhubarb.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a plan for these seasonal wonder twins. It was time to banish those rainy days with the powerful duo of sweet, red strawberries and tart rhubarb. It was time for ice cream.

Making ice cream has turned into a new hobby for Jim and me. Actually, my husband has turned out to be quite the ice cream master. We joined forces on Valentine’s Day to make a lush blood orange sorbet, but in the past month Jim has experimented with French vanilla and fresh plum ice creams, all on his own. With his guidance on Saturday I churned out my pink-hued treat, asking him for advice on warming the milk and how many egg yolks were needed.

When we finally scooped the finished ice cream from the bowl, small flecks of red strawberries glowed against the frozen mixture of milk, cream, eggs, and rhubarb. A perfect mix of vibrantly sweet berries and tart, electric rhubarb, each creamy bite awakened my weary winter palate. The addition of crystallized ginger added a tingly current of heat to this cold dessert, further preparing me for the fresh flavors we have yet to enjoy this spring. What a way to celebrate the season. And just think, it only gets better from here.

Recipe for Strawberry Rhubarb Ice Cream (adapted from the blog Very Good Things)

  • 2 cups chopped rhubarb
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 cups finely chopped strawberries
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped crystallized ginger

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring the rhubarb and water to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes or until rhubarb is very soft. Pulse it through a food processor and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until bright yellow and blended. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan over low heat, bring the milk and cream to a simmer. Do not scald the milk and cream. Gradually whisk the milk and cream mixture into the egg mixture.

Return the entire mixture to the saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture is very thick. Do not let it boil. Strain it into a large bowl. Cool to room temperature.

Stir in the cooked rhubarb, strawberries, and ginger. Cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or overnight.

Transfer to an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions. I used my KitchenAid ice cream maker attachment, and I think I should have churned the ice cream in 2 separate batches. The amount of ice cream mixture was slightly too much to be churned in one batch. Anyway, this recipe serves 8. Enjoy!

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Rampless Risotto

risotto

What are the most obvious signs of spring? Some might say the flowering trees and plants; others celebrate the arrival of warmer temperatures and lighter jackets. But in the world of food blogs, spring means one thing: ramps.

Food bloggers love these mild spring onions. Once they are sighted at farmers’ markets, new posts about ramps fill my RSS reader, almost to the exclusion of anything else. Ramps in pasta, ramps on pizza, ramps, ramps, ramps. I’m sure there are many good reasons for this unabashed ramp love, but I don’t understand it—I’ve never tried a single ramp. I don’t know how I’ve survived in this rampless state until now, but I sure hope I don’t get banned from food blogging because of it. 

In fact, starting last weekend I did everything I could to cure my ramp-related ignorance. Jim had picked up a local flyer advertising that last week’s farmers’ market would be “all about ramps.” On Sunday morning, with my shopping bag slung over my shoulder, I bounded down my apartment steps and made my way to the Carroll Gardens market. I went straight to the W. Rogowski farm stand and searched earnestly between the piles of lettuce, spinach, and green onions.

“Excuse me, do you have ramps today?” I asked, a hint of worry creeping into my voice.

“No, I’m sorry, I didn’t have time to go down to the swamp to look for them this week,” responded a harried-looking Cheryl Rogowski. “But we do have watercress.”

Boo. Boo on watercress. I sighed and bought some asparagus, swiss chard, and green garlic instead.

But I wasn’t ready to give up on my ramps. On Monday morning I headed to the Union Square Farmers’ Market. At 8 am. Before work. In the rain. 

I walked around and around the market. I saw more asparagus, and I saw more watercress. I spied bread, greens, and flowers.

But no ramps. 

And then, my friends, I gave up. 

That evening at home, I took the spring risotto recipe that I had planned to make with ramps and shifted the ingredients around a bit. The original recipe called for a ramp and swiss chard pesto to be stirred into a risotto of asparagus, fava beans, and peas. Instead of using ramps in the pesto, I chopped some leeks with the swiss chard. I didn’t have any fava beans, and I hate peas, so I concentrated on the asparagus and green garlic that I had purchased the day before. And in the end, even without ramps, I created two beautiful and creamy plates of risotto. Each lemony forkful was full of fresh, green specks of seasonal goodness. I’m not giving up on ramps for good, but with them or without them, spring has definitely arrived. 

Recipe for Spring Risotto with Asparagus, Green Garlic, Swiss Chard, and Leeks (Adapted from the New York Times, April 23, 2008)

For the pesto:

  • 1 leek, cleaned and chopped
  • 3/4 cups packed swiss chard leaves
  • dash of salt
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil

For the risotto:

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon minced shallots
  • 3 sprigs of green garlic, minced
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • About 5 cups of chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 6 to 10 rods of asparagus, sliced into 2-inch pieces
  • Parmesan cheese

For the pesto: Place the chopped leeks, swiss chard leaves, and salt in a small food processor or hand blender. With the machine running, slowly add the olive oil. Season to taste. Set aside.

For the risotto: In a medium saucepan, bring your chicken or vegetable stock to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Add 1/2 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a large pot. Once the butter has melted, add the green garlic and the shallots. Cook garlic and shallots together until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the rice. Stir the rice for a minute or two, until the edges become translucent.

Add the white wine to the pot, and stir the rice until it has absorbed most of the wine. You know the liquid has been absorbed when you can scrape your spoon through the rice and it sticks to the sides of the pan a bit, showing the bottom of the pan. 

Add a few spoonfuls of stock to the rice. I usually work with a ladle, and add 1 full ladle of stock at a time. Stir the rice until the liquid is absorbed, and then add some more stock. Stir the rice continuously. (Taking a few small breaks is fine.) Continue to add stock and stir the rice in this manner until the rice is al dente and quite creamy, about 18 to 20 minutes.

When the rice is about halfway done (at the 10-12 minute mark) add the asparagus to the pot. Continue to stir.

When the rice is done, remove it from the heat. Stir in the pesto. Stir in 1/2 tablespoon of butter and about 1/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately, topped with grated Parmesan cheese. Serves 2. Enjoy!

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Artichoke Heart Hits It Big…But No One Knows It

Wednesday morning started like any other day. I arrived at work, struggling to balance my massive purse with my leaking cups of coffee and steel-cut oats. I settled into my desk, turned to my computer screen, and opened my RSS reader so that I could catch up on my favorite food blogs while eating breakfast.

I clicked on this New York Daily News link about five New York City Greenmarkets set to open this weekend. Oh good, I thought. Maybe the Carroll Gardens one will start soon. I can’t wait. I scrolled through the list, and there it was, right at the bottom: The Carroll Gardens Greenmarket would indeed begin this weekend.

But as I took a closer look at the short paragraph about the market, my eyes widened. Déjà vu. The blurb talked about how the market had recently expanded. Hmm. I once wrote about how the market had recently expanded. The article also mentioned several very familiar details: 

  1. A chocolate croissant from Amy’s Bread
  2. Spicy Angus sausages from Grazin’ Angus Acres
  3. Pasture-raised eggs
  4. The occasional local honey stand

Double hmm. It read suspiciously like my post about the Carroll Gardens Farmers’ market that I wrote back in November. As I pulled up my post and compared the two links, I had little personal doubt. The specific details listed above mirrored my market experience and were even presented in the same order that I had written them. Even more interesting, the Daily News offered little additional information besides these familiar observations.

There seem to be two camps on this: Some people say I should be flattered, while others insist that I should be upset. I am just unsure and confused. Readers, what do you think?

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