Chef Sam Baker said while perusing the stalls at the South of the James market this weekend, “it’s like a whole different market!” He was referring to the diversity of produce available in the midst of summer in central Virginia. All of the colors and flavors have deepened to a rich, vibrant spectrum of fruits and vegetables. To celebrate the season’s bounty, the Chef prepared a full meal that felt like Thanksgiving in July.
Several people were interested in the Empress Farm rabbit, which was slowly cooking for most of the demonstration time and was finally stewed in Lazy Days Winery’s deep red Malbec.
Accompanying the rabbit were some amFOG oyster mushrooms.
The Chef cooked and mashed some green striped cushaw from Rocking F Farms on the side. This winter squash is available in the American South during this time of year. It was so odd to see a large fall/winter squash in the middle of the summer that we decided to feature it as the Veg of the Week.
Here is a look at the inside and outside of the green striped cushaw.
The rabbit was browned in a pan and then pulled for the stew. We heard from a lot of people who had eaten rabbit in their childhoods and had not tried it since. Chef Sam enthusiastically said, “I’m bringing it back!”
As a vegetarian, I was happy to see that, as usual, he made some very creative meatless sides to go along with the rabbit fricassee.
The not-so-secret ingredient in the squash was a generous splash of cinnamon whipped honey from Alfredo’s Beehive. It helped bring out the subtle, natural sweetness of the squash. I will definitely try that trick at home. In addition to the mashed cushaw, Chef Sam made a fresh tomato salad that featured an array of colorful tomatoes, eggplant and tomatillos from Walnut Hill Farm and Norma’s Produce.
There was also a very popular fresh herbed stuffing made with Tater Dave’s rosemary potato bread, onions, mushrooms, oil and spices.
Market goers lined up to get sample plates of a farm fresh Sunday dinner on Saturday morning.
For a sweet snack, the Chef made a refreshing salad of Rocking F Farms watermelon, Amy’s Garden tomatoes, Victory Farms lemon basil, and Root Force Collective mint. The simple salad offered a more composed alternative to the sliced watermelon that we are used to. The whole meal, for that matter, displayed a slightly more refined approach to seasonal cooking, and encouraged shoppers to think like a Farmer and cook like a Chef.
Also noteworthy was one vendor’s generous gift of a market bag for all of my Vegology shopping adventures. Made of beautiful yet tough kitchen cotton, this bag is soft and strong, fashionable and machine washable.
I expect to take this bag from the smallest roadside vegetable stand to the King of Greenmarkets: the NYC Union Square Farmers’ Market. Carolyn made it by hand in my favorite colors and it is even prettier in person. If you are interested in purchasing one yourself, you can pick one up at her booth at the South of the James market, or you can order a custom made market bag in your favorite colors too! Thank you Carolyn Fischetti for the beautiful bag!
And a special thank you to Alfredo’s Beehive, amFOG, Amy’s Garden, Empress Farm, Lazy Days Winery, Norma’s Produce, Root Force Collective, Tater Dave’s, Victory Farms, Walnut Hill Farm Produce, and all of the other featured market vendors for producing this week’s fresh and tasty ingredients.