This week’s South of the James Market cooking demo featured a variety of ripe, juicy fruits paired with savory complements. The raspberries and blackberries are peaking right now, as the figs are just starting to ripen. This week was about celebrating local fruits right as they are bursting with flavor.
First, Chef Sam made a berry, basil and mint reduction with a few spritzes of fresh lime juice. The raspberries and blackberries came from Agriberry and Pleitez Produce. The vibrant colors cooked down to a brilliant sweet sauce for the first dish.
Figs from Amy’s Garden played a starring role when the butane torch came out and a small crowd began to gather around the demo tent.
The figs were sliced most of the way through into quarters, but Chef Sam left them partially intact on the bottom to form little fresh fig flowers. The caramelized figs were perched atop Tater Dave’s jalapeno chili bread crostini, stuffed with Sullivan Pond Farm grapevine ash chevre, and topped with the berry, basil and mint reduction and a sliver of seared sweet pepper (say that ten times fast!).
The vibrant color and sweet juicy taste of the berry reduction inspired us to make summer berries the Veg of the Week. Did you know that blueberries and blackberries are a great source of Vitamin K? Most veggie lovers associate Vitamin K with green leafy vegetables like kale and spinach, but it turns out that you can get a good dose of it from a handful or two of fresh berries.
The second dish that Chef Sam prepared was an Empress Farm turkey roulade, stuffed with sautéed squash, goat cheese, and the berry sauce. He prepared full roll ups as well as bite size servings for market goers, and he used two different types of goat cheese. Half were made with the grapevine ash chevre from Sullivan Pond Farm and half were made with roasted red pepper chevre from Goats R Us.
After serving the elegant poultry dish, the Chef prepared a vegetarian dish for those of us who lean more towards the Tofurky end of the spectrum than the turkey end. The creative use of blackberries in this last dish was quite impressive. Chef Sam made a tomato sauce with yellow-orange tomatoes, red onion, Grayhaven Winery White Sangiovese, roasted red pepper chevre, basil, black pepper, salt and. . . blackberries.
As the sauce simmered, the Chef explained how the blackberries did double duty in this recipe. Most people add a little sugar to their tomato based pasta sauces. Blackberries substituted for the sugar in this case, to add sweetness with a greater depth of flavor that echoed the familiar smell and taste of mid-summer in central Virginia. In addition to sweetness, the blackberries added a deep red color to the sauce which helped it appear just as rich as it tasted.
The blackberries in this sauce subtly hit all your senses, in a way that was barely noticeable if you hadn’t seen the whole demonstration, yet unmistakable if you knew they were there. The tomato sauce was served over Bombolini black pepper penne and sautéed patty pan squash and Revolution sweet peppers.
By the time this dish went out it was pretty hot outside to eat a steaming plate of food, but we had no trouble finding takers for the free samples. The feedback was all positive. Chef Sam had served Summer on a plate, which had people coming back for seconds.
I wouldn’t be surprised if a few market shoppers tried out this sauce at home. I was so intrigued by the concept, that I know I will be experimenting with double duty ingredients like these blackberries soon.
Thank you to Agriberry, Amy’s Garden, Bombolini Pasta, Empress Farm, Goats R Us, Grayhaven Winery, Norma’s Produce, Pleitez Produce, Rocking F Farms, Root Force Collective, Sullivan Pond Farm, Tater Dave’s, Victory Farms, Walnut Hill Produce, and all of the other featured vendors for producing this week’s fresh and tasty ingredients!