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MY FRIDAY MORNING RITUAL is to visit my neighborhood farmers’ market on West 97th Street, often with one friend or another who lives nearby. Today—because it was pouring rain of course—I decided to switch things up a bit and make the trek down to Union Square Greenmarket. I have to say the sights just made me feel like singin’ in the rain.
I was early enough to bump into (be run over by) chefs foraging for the day’s ingredients. You can learn a lot from how they eye the produce and then hone in on, say, the romano beans and buy four big bags of them. Plus perfect bunches of dandelion greens. You look at what they choose and see that, yes, it is at its peak of perfection that day, at that farm stand. (And as Mario Batali once pointed out—in encouraging people on all sorts of budgets to shop at farmers’ markets—when you buy a particular crop at its season’s peak, it’ll also be at its cheapest.)
One hyperfocused chef/cook (maybe he was running late and worried he’d miss out on a crucial ingredient) rushed into the Migliorelli Farm stand and said, “I want all your Tuscan kale, all of it. I’ll take all you have.” Now this is not a small farm stand, so that’s a big load of kale! Tuscan kale soup? Sautéed Tuscan kale? Maybe the menu will reveal all.
As usual, I bought enough beans and tomatoes and potatoes and greens to feed an army and give me a good upper body workout at the same time. With a lovely piece of Yellowfin Tuna from Mermaid’s Garden in my fridge, I have all the makings of a Salade Niçoise Royale, as Nancy Harmon Jenkins refers to the new-fangled version of this dish that includes tuna. In The New Mediterranean Diet Cookbook, she reminds us that traditionalists don’t include tuna, or even potatoes. I guess in this case I’m not a traditionalist.
On the way home, I stopped by Eataly to refuel with a latte and apricot croissant. It was just after opening hour and the place was amazingly calm. I relaxed for a while and then strolled through the store, spotting the frisée (above) I needed and hadn’t found at the market. That will be for a salad with golden beets. But more about that another day.
ABUNDANCE! I GO TO THE FARMERS’ MARKET year-round, but there’s nothing like the pleasure of seeing pristine summer crops piled up one after the other. Since I don’t have a family of eight, I try to be reasonable in my purchases but it’s hard to resist.
What do you get for $16 at the market?
A Renaissance painting.
Cherry (tomato) candies.
A riff on the Italian flag.
Peaches so juicy you have to eat them over the kitchen sink.
LATE IN THE AFTERNOON on the last day of winter, there were definite signs that the season was changing. The 70º temperature was an obvious hint.
And the blossoms everywhere. Down at Union Square Greenmarket, bunches of pussy willows and forsythia were for sale.
And even at 4 o’clock, I found enough fresh greens for a spring market supper—or two.
Kale of all sorts...
ONE VENDOR WAS GIVING OUT tastings of baby bok choy sautéed in garlic butter. I knew I had asparagus at home already. That inspired the idea of a simple pasta and sautéed greens for a Meatless Monday dinner. Perfect for a lazy Mediterraneanista.
After removing the tough bottoms of the asparagus, I chopped the stems in three-inch pieces. I blanched the stems first for 3 minutes, then added the tips for another 2, for a total of 5 minutes. I chopped the bok choy stems in thirds, pretty little yellow flowers and all.
RECIPE: Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add 2 minced garlic cloves for about a minute (don’t brown). Add asparagus and bok choy, a good pinch of salt, black pepper, and sauté until bok choy is tender. Serve over pasta—I used pennette— with another drizzle of oil. Top with coarse fresh bread crumbs that have been toasted golden brown in a skillet with a little olive oil. Add grated parmesan to the plate if you like. (I do.)
A half pound of pasta, a pound of asparagus and a bunch of bok choy made enough for dinner for two with leftovers for a couple of lunches. All for about $7 or $8. Farm to table rocks!
Next up: something with swiss chard. Any favorite recipes you’d like to share? The bunches I brought home are pretty enough to be a bouquet.
I KNOW IT’S OFFICIALLY AUTUMN, but I’m not at all ready to say, ‘goodbye summer’ yet. Despite tropical storm Irene—and the date on the calendar—tomatoes are still showing up in New York City’s farmers’ market in a stunning mix of shapes and flavors. There are peppers of every shade—and peaches, too. And this weekend on a visit to the Hudson Valley, I ate the most delicious just-picked corn. Now what could be more summery than tomatoes and corn on the cob?
Repeat after me: Winter will never come, winter will never come....
WHOLE GRAINS, FLOURS, BREAD—it’s Greenmarket Grains Week—cauliflower, winter greens, squash and…Peter Hoffman, chef/owner of the restaurants Savoy and Back Forty, doing a cooking demo Friday at Union Square.
On my way out the north end of Union Square Market this afternoon, I saw a cooking demo and stopped to see what was up. Lucky I did: Peter Hoffman, chef/owner of Savoy and Back Forty, was demonstrating how to make Spelt and Mushroom Soup with Sage and Sheep Cheese Crostini, especially for Grains Week.
By some miracle, it wasn’t super-crowded so we got to stand around and ask questions. Did you cook the spelt beforehand?—Yes, because it takes quite a while. What kind of mushrooms are they?—Today I’m using oyster mushrooms, from right over there at Madura Farms, he explains, pointing to a stand down the way.
Then there was the tasting, of course, and the soup was just right for outdoor eating on this brisk sunny day—warm broth full of flavor, chewy grain. Yum. In fact, everyone seemed to like it, even those for whom spelt was something new. A few reaaaaallly liked it. Or maybe they were just hungry. (One serving, please. No, sorry, we can’t give you a third helping.)
Most of the ingredients came from farmers’ stands just steps away—the spelt, celery root, greens, sage—which was the point, after all: For two decades, Hoffman has crafted Savoy’s menus around produce of the season from local farmers whom he’s gotten to know over the years. “Savoy is as close as you’ll get to Chez Panisse in New York City,” one reviewer wrote. Hoffman has been shopping at, cooking from and supporting the Greenmarket for 30 years—including 15 years on its advisory board. Nice to run into him there.
The soup recipe is part of the Greenmarket Recipe Series; you should be able to find it at the market. Peter Hoffman is reportedly working on a book that will recount a year of shopping at the farmers’ market, with recipes and reflections. Can’t wait to read it. Meanwhile, here’s a summer tour of the market with him, from WNYC:
Look for more cooking demos with various chefs on Saturday, November 20 at Union Square Greenmarket.
And to close out Grains Week, don’t miss the Flapjack Breakfastat New Amsterdam Market this Sunday, November 21, 11-1, tickets $20. Sausage and maple syrup are part of the deal!
JUST LIKE HAVING KIDS makes you feel the years pass in a particularly poignant way, so do weekly visits to the farmers’ market. I was feeling downright sad last week as the tomatoes dwindled and I had to face it, summer was over. But this Saturday, a visit to Union Square Greenmarket reminded me that fall has its pleasures, too. Not only did I find a few pounds of nice end-of-season San Marzano plum tomatoes at Cherry Lane Farms, but the whole market was a riot of color and productiveness. Peppers sweet and hot, winter squash, glorious specimens of savoy cabbage, carrots, beets, kale and collard greens, broccoli. It was hard to know where to start—or stop.
MUCH AS I LOVE NEW YORK CITY’S GREENMARKETS, the farmers’ market closest to my heart will probably always be Montreal’s Jean-Talon Market, perhaps because it’s the first one I got to know as a grownup doing her own cooking. I’d learned the farmers’ market habit early from my parents: Most Saturday mornings we headed to the market in the small southern Ontario town where I grew up. When I lived in Montreal I don’t think I realized how special Jean-Talon Market was, although I loved shopping there.
Marché Jean-Talon is located in Montreal’s Little Italy. Perhaps that helps explain this.
Thanks to Bruce for passing this on. And to the Opéra de Montréal for the fine performances.
The market has been operating since 1933 and in summer it has some 300 vendors, mostly farmers from the surrounding country. But it’s open year-round, thanks to enclosed sheds, with shops selling cheeses, spices and all the beautiful products of the Québec terroir—fish from the Gaspé, organic meat and game, mushrooms, you name it. (The market has a long tradition of selling organic products.) Definitely worth a visit if you’re traveling that way.
Some imported produce is sold at the market, too. (Those winters get long.)
When you go, don’t overlook the neighborhood’s Italian coffee bars and shops. And be sure to book dinner at Kitchen Galerie, a tiny and very special restaurant overlooking the market, whose chefs prepare the meal from what they’ve found at the market that day, doing all the shopping, cooking and serving themselves. Délicieux! (Sorry, no pictures—I was too busy eating.)
7070 Henri-Julien Street, between Saint-Denis and Saint-Laurent
60 Rue Jean Talon Est
When you grow cherry tomatoes in the garden, very few ever seem to make it into the kitchen for a meal, so tempting are they to eat straight from the bush. Somehow, though, when I buy them at the farmers’ market, I have a little better luck, and so I’ve been enjoying some great meals with cherry tomatoes as the star.
One favorite dish is a cherry tomato salad that doubles as an uncooked “sauce” for pasta. I put sauce in quotes because this really is more salad than fluid sauce. I like adding wild arugula, too, Puglia style. Puglia is the region of Italy in the heel of the boot, where traditionally wild greens have been used extensively in everyday cooking. Wild arugula is peppery, with deep-cut leaves, and it’s now possible to buy cultivated wild arugula (a bit of a strange concept I admit). I especially like a local organic one from Satur Farms, grown on the North Fork of Long Island by Paulette Satur and her husband Eberhard Müller, former chef of Le Bernardin and Lutèce. (I buy it at Whole Foods or FreshDirect.)
I will be eating a plate of this summer pasta tonight, in preparation for tomorrow’s NYC Century Bike Ride—at least that’s my excuse. Too bad the ride isn’t through Puglia, where we could pick our own arugula and learn to make homemade pasta along the way. (Yes, such a cycling tour exists!)
I WAS SORRY TO HAVE MISSED NEW AMSTERDAM MARKET in NYC this Sunday. The only consolation was that I was actually in farm country enjoying the harvest firsthand.
A visit to Millbrook Market in Dutchess County is always a great way to while away a Saturday morning, tasting and chatting and filling your bags. This week, we found lots of heirloom tomatoes and had a great talk about them (and Italy) with grower Gino Ianucci. Breezy Hill Orchard (coincidentally, also a vendor at New Amsterdam Market) had perfect white and yellow peaches, and there were lovely small round watermelons (and more tomatoes) from Sol Flower Farm.
We also managed to nab the last peach tart from Art of the Tart—made with fabulously buttery puff pastry in true French rustic style. I’d made the mistake once before of circling the market before buying one of these confections. This time I knew to take immediate decisive action the minute I set eyes on it.
Most of what we bought was devoured in recipe-free eating—tomato slices on prosciutto sandwiches, peaches any time we wanted. But I’d been hearing about watermelon and tomato salad for a while, and now I had the ideal fresh-picked ingredients. So I decided to make one.
When I first heard about the pairing I thought it sounded unlikely. All summer when I was growing up, we ate watermelon just chopped off in lovely half rounds, which would get you soaked up to the ears. (Preferably, it was eaten outdoors so you could shoot the seeds off “to plant another watermelon” or bop your brother.)
But the more I thought about the textures and tastes of tomatoes and watermelons, the more I liked the sound of it. The taste didn’t disappoint—sweet and tart, crisp and juicy, all combined to make a delicious salad. Here’s how I made it. I didn’t have any feta around, but next time I’d crumble it over the salad for a nice salty zest.
Watermelon and Tomato Salad1 cup watermelon chunks3 medium tomatoes, cut into similar size chunks2 tbs olive oil1 tsp balsamic or red wine vinegarsalt to taste
Combine the watermelon and tomato chunks.
Whisk together 2 tbs olive oil and 1 tsp balsamic or red wine vinegar. Pour dressing over watermelon and tomatoes. Toss lightly. Salt to taste. Crumble feta cheese over salad.
Happy Meatless Monday!