Guest Post! SOJ Chef Demo 07.28.12

This week’s market chef demo post comes from Adrienne, who blogs over at Hippie Itch. Adrienne agreed to assist Chef Sam Baker at the South of the James farmers’ market this week while I was out of town. Read her recap below, then check out more at hippieitch.wordpress.com.

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Hi Vegology readers!

I have to tell you, I’ve got a thing for the show Chopped on the Food Network. It amazes me how quickly these Chefs can come up with a delicious, creative dish. They’re artists. They’re amazing.

This past Saturday Lauren gave me the chance to be her substitute at the SOJ Chef Demo. I watched a real-life episode of Chopped and smiled up a storm while I soaked it all in.

I learned SO much from Chef Sam Baker while watching him do his thing. While he cooked on the fly, he taught the visitors (and me) all they wanted to know about the dishes.

The morning started off with a summer salad. He began by collecting a variety of overly ripe tomatoes. He told me that these tomatoes are sweeter because of their ripeness and would work well with his other main ingredient.

Which was yellow and red watermelon.

Have you ever seen a twofer? This red watermelon was pretty funny looking. We got a kick out of it and so did the customers.

In a flash he chopped up the fruits and moved onto the sauce.

The sauce couldn’t have been better. It included: honey, blackberry fruit spread and FROG jam. The final touch was a few leaves of chopped up basil. The basil really helped tie the whole dish together.

In what felt like seconds, he finished the first dish then started the next. Juice from the first salad was poured into a pot and heated up along with more blackberry fruit spread and a couple pieces of cantaloupe. The sauce was cooked low and slow into a reduction.

He ladled the reduction over a couple of gluten-free butternut rice dumplings made by Roscabon’s Valley Delights and then plopped a fresh cube of cantaloupe on top. Voila! An appetizer.

It was said a couple times that the cantaloupe reduction would also be delicious over vanilla ice cream. I couldn’t agree more!

Did I mention that so far everything is Vegan? An added bonus.

With Chef Sam moving so fast through the dishes, I completely forgot to take any of the third dish! I’m so very sorry.

BUT it was quite similar to the first with only the dressing being the difference. It was a great example of how you can add variety into your cooking. If you have some leftover ingredients, you don’t have to make the same dish! This is totally something I needed to see. I often make the same favorites over and over and then I get tired of them.

So again, the main part of the salad included watermelon, cantaloupe and tomatoes. He then squeezed fresh lemon juice and poured it, as well as a little red wine vinegar, over the fruit. That’s it! The acidity from the lemon juice and vinegar toned down the sweetness from the fruit and as a result made a lovely, semi-sweet salad.

He started on the last and final dish by heating up a spinach version of the rice dumplings. After dumping them onto a plate he said he had changed his mind and threw them back in the pan. Another bout of creativity had hit him!

While the dumplings kept cooking, he stripped the skin from a very, very ripe orange tomato. Then he diced the remains and tossed them into a pot along with salt, pepper, yellow tomato, fresh basil, and a sweet pepper from Amy’s Garden that he ran over to get at the last second.

Phew!

It was a fun and very tasty morning. It’s just so amazing what we can do with a couple of fresh ingredients and a little inspiration. Now that I’m thinking about it, I’ve also seen Lauren cook up a super tasty meal in a flash with no recipe, no direction. I’m so jealous of these two!

I’m not sure how much longer the SOJ Farmer’s Market will be open (I’m new to the area) but I hope to watch them in action a couple more times to learn as much as I can.

Thank you to:
Alfredo’s Beehive
Amy’s Garden
Empress Farm
Norma’s Produce
Pleitez Produce
Roscabon’s Valley Delights
Tomten Farm
Walnut Hill Farm

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The South of the James Farmers’ Market is open every Saturday from 8 to noon, in Forest Hill Park, through December 1, 2012. Read more Chef Demo posts in the Market Chef section of Veg:ology.

SOJ Chef Demo 07.21.12

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This Saturday at the South of the James market, little pops of flavor and color were everywhere.

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Chef Sam Baker used the bountiful produce at the market this week to create small bites of local flavor, including some familiar combinations as well as some fresh ideas.

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The Chef started out with a creative sauce to get people thinking about how to combine the flavors of the season into a cohesive dish. The sweetness of the simmering peach and sweet pepper reduction drew a small crowd early on.

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This sauce is made with fresh diced Drumheller’s Orchard peaches, sweet peppers, red wine vinegar and raw honey from Alfredo’s Beehive. The peach and sweet pepper reduction was served over herb seared tuna from Barham Seafood and a slice of Norma’s yellow watermelon with lemon basil.

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Pan seared zephyr squash provided a vegetable accompaniment that felt grilled, but without the hassle.

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Present at all of the market stalls this week were tomatoes, in every size, shape and color. These tomatoes from the Village Garden are called banana legs tomatoes.

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There were so many different varieties of tomatoes at the market that I decided to make them the Veg of the Week. I was excited to share some facts about tomatoes, and absolutely thrilled to use tomato-shaped bullet points on my white board. Sometimes, it’s the little things.

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After a brief downpour around 10:00, we started up the small plates again with a melon caprese salad. Pictured here is a summery dish of sliced tomatoes, sliced seasonal melon, and Goats R Us pineapple walnut chevre, topped with fresh lemon basil and the peach sweet pepper reduction.

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Tomatoes were certainly abundant, but the Drumheller’s Orchard white and yellow peaches were the true stars of the show this week.  In addition to the fresh sweet and tart peaches, the catches of the day from Barham Seafood were prominent. It was very cool to see their soft-shell crabs change color in the pan.

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Soft-shell crabs are loved by many, but I’m not personally sold on them. Which is fine since I do not eat seafood anyway. But I can appreciate a nice plating, and the next dish offered a visually intriguing small plate. I could tell from the looks on market goers’ faces when they tasted this one that it was a hit.

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Chef Sam served the soft-shell crab, seasoned with cumin and black pepper, over a sliced heirloom tomato, and topped with a slice of pan seared peach, a dollop of pineapple walnut chevre, and some Empress Farm FROG jam. In case you didn’t know, FROG jam contains Fig, Raspberry, Orange and Ginger.

While it rained on and off for the whole market this past weekend, several shoppers stopped by the Chef Demo Tent for free samples and cooking tips. Like the scattered thunderstorms we had that day, the small plates featured in this week’s demo were seasonal, interesting, and sometimes completely unpredictable.

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Thank you to Amy’s Garden, Barham Seafood, Cabbage Hill Farm, Drumheller’s Orchard, Empress Farm, Goats R Us, Norma’s Produce, Victory Farms, Village Garden, Walnut Hill Farm Produce, and all of the other featured market vendors for producing this week’s fresh and tasty ingredients.

Farmers’ Market 7.14 and Canning Party

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I have been giving Kyle a less comprehensive shopping list lately for the market, and I think he has really enjoyed winging it. I have noticed an increase in Mexican style cooking in our house, since Kyle routinely picks up hot peppers, tomatoes and tomatillos at the market. I’m not complaining! Spicy food and cold beer is a great combination for cooking in a heat wave.

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This week’s loot:

  • Zucchini (green and golden)
  • Yellow squash
  • Lemon basil
  • Heirloom tomatoes
  • Bell peppers
  • Jalapenos
  • Eggplant
  • Tomatillos

While Kyle shopped for our weekly groceries, I helped out with the Chef Demo. I greeted some familiar faces at the demo tent this week, as some of my favorite bloggers stopped by. Two such bloggers were Liz from I Heart Vegetables and  Brittany from Eating Bird Food. They were shopping for ingredients for our canning party later that day.

On Saturday afternoon, Liz and Brittany hosted a Can It Forward party with the help of Ball jars. We used Ball’s salsa seasoning mix and fresh local tomatoes to can jars of salsa to take home as make-your-own-party-favors. It was so much fun!

Liz jumped in to help mix the salsa like a pro.

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The salsa smelled amazing as it cooked on the stove.

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Brittany expertly used the jar lifter when none of us wanted to get too close to the steaming water bath.

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You could hardly tell that most of us had limited canning experience. The directions on the home canning discovery kit from Ball made everything so easy!

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In the end, we had several jars of salsa to take home.

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I was so happy I got invited to participate, since canning was on my to do list for this year. With life being so crazy lately, I don’t know that I would have gone through with a canning adventure on my own. It definitely helped to have extra hands in the kitchen. A big thank you Brittany for putting together the party and to Liz for letting us use her kitchen!

Gabby somehow escaped my camera lens, but believe me, she was there and she was super helpful. Having canned her own wedding favors last year, Gabby knew all the tips and tricks to make sure we were doing everything right! I had such a great time with these girls and I hope to do another canning adventure sometime soon. Now I just need my own home canning set and I’ll be good to go!

SOJ Chef Demo 07.14.12

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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.

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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.

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Accompanying the rabbit were some amFOG oyster mushrooms.

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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.

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Here is a look at the inside and outside of the green striped cushaw.

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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!”

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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.

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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.

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There was also a very popular fresh herbed stuffing made with Tater Dave’s rosemary potato bread, onions, mushrooms, oil and spices.

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Market goers lined up to get sample plates of a farm fresh Sunday dinner on Saturday morning.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Farmers’ Market 07.09

When did it become July?!

I guess I missed it while I was working my butt off last week! Thanks for your patience and for your nice, encouraging comments here and on Twitter. In case you missed the update, I ended up getting called into work on Saturday the 30th and then I disappeared for a little while as I focused solely on my job responsibilities during a bit of a week-long emergency. I missed the South of the James farmers’ market, so no cooking or shopping recap for last week. But I did hit the farmers’ market this past weekend, as temperatures rose to 100 degrees, and I picked up some seasonal produce while I was there. It was pretty hot, but I felt like I had missed out on my market time, so I made the trek over there with Kyle and bought a few things before the sun melted me completely.

Here’s this week’s loot!

  • Zucchini (Victory Farms)
  • Carrots (Victory Farms)
  • Cucumbers (Walnut Hill)
  • Heirloom tomato (Pleitez Produce)
  • Poblano peppers (Pleitez Produce)
  • Bok choy (Manakintowne Specialty Growers… I think?)
  • Tat soi (Manakintowne Specialty Growers… I think?)

The tat soi is supposed to be similar to bok choy, but less bitter. I’m planning to do a little taste testing experiment later this week. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Another thing I missed last week was the 4th of July. I heard some fireworks while I was on the computer one night but didn’t really see anything. I made up for it the following weekend with a little impromptu cookout with friends, so it was all good. I did make a little 4th of July holiday gift to you, but didn’t get a chance to post it so here it is, albeit a little late!

My red, white and blue roasted potatoes turned out a little more pink, white and purple than I intended, but they were super delicious. I simply cut red, white and purple potatoes into quarters, then tossed them in olive oil and salt, and roasted them in the oven. And I didn’t use just plain old salt. Almost as American as apple pie is this Applewood Smoked Salt from the Spice Diva.

This week will probably have a bit of a catching up theme, as I have a lot of things to share with you that are all a little belated.

Vegology turned two years old while I was living under a rock last week, so I have that post for you.

I also have a few simple recipes up my sleeve that I need to write up, so I’ll pick one out of a hat and post it this week as well.

If I’m feeling really ambitious, I might show you some updated photos of my vegetable garden. Spoiler alert: there are no vegetables. Thank God for farmers!

Super Veggie Saturday

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Last week, I was lucky enough to have a three day weekend. Day 1 – beach trip. Day 2 – veggie palooza! Day 3 – errands and chores. We’ll focus on the middle, because chances are, you are all too familiar yourselves with the activities of days 1 and 2.

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My super veggie Saturday began at the South of the James farmers’ market, as usual. The stars of these gorgeous photos are carrots from Walnut Hill Farm, flowers from Amy’s Garden, and berries from Pleitez Produce.

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Kyle took a few more risks this week and brought home some versatile, seasonal ingredients along with a few fresh surprises.

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This week’s loot:

  • Purple kale
  • Collard greens
  • Carrots
  • Summer squash
  • Assorted peppers
  • Purple potatoes
  • Tomatillos

This purple and green kale from Pleitez Produce is so vibrant. I can’t wait to see if it holds this color when steamed or sautéed.

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While Kyle shopped, I helped out with the cooking demo. You may read my recaps of all of this season’s demonstrations by clicking on the Market Chef link at the top of the page. The posts are in chronological order, which makes catching up easy.

After the farmers’ market, I went to the Richmond Vegetarian Festival in Bryan Park. There was so much vegan and vegetarian food there; it was definitely the best food festival I have been to in Richmond. One of the highlights was the Meatless Gourmet vegan “Iron Chef” competition.

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Three chefs battled for the title of Meatless Gourmet Champion while highlighting this year’s secret ingredient, corn.

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The first contestant was Greg Johnson of The Citizen. His restaurant is my favorite lunch spot downtown, and I wrote a post last year explaining why. The food is always fantastic and I appreciate the consistent quality. The banter between Greg and his staff is also entertaining, and there was no shortage of that during the competition.

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The second contestant was Jenna Sneed of Fresca on Addison. I have to imagine this girl gets sick of always being introduced as Chef Jimmy Sneed’s daughter. Although she is descended from Richmond restaurant royalty, I think Jenna has proven with Fresca that she can stand on her own as a Chef and restaurateur, regardless of her pedigree. Fresca is a place I need to visit more often, but I’ll never forget the vegetarian-friendly Cobb salad I had the first time I went there, or the comforting bowl of soup I had once when I visited with a head cold. I have a lot of respect for a Chef who can make a good soup.

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The third contestant was Jen Mindell, of Rooster Cart and formerly of Café Gutenberg. I have heard great things about Rooster Cart, yet I had not found the opportunity to try their food until the festival on Saturday. The Presidente and the tofu banh mi were both delicious. Before it closed, Café Gutenberg was my favorite place for vegetarian food in Richmond. Jen’s dishes are always very creative and the flavor combinations are out of this world.

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What a surprise it was to have Gina Collins, formerly of Victory Farms, pop up during the cooking hour to talk about growing corn from a farmers’ perspective. Gina is an extremely talented speaker, and she always makes me excited about produce. It was her seminar on Discovering Greens at Ellwood Thompson’s last year that got me to try using chard, arugula, and broccolini in my kitchen for regularly. It also got me to sign up for my first CSA.

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After judging and a little more impromptu entertainment from the Chefs and our host, Jason Guard, the winner was announced.

Jen Mindell for the win!

It’s amazing to see what Jen has done over the last year, and based on her innovative dishes in the Meatless Goumet competition, she has a lot more up her sleeve. Richmond is lucky to have her and all the Chefs featured in the competition.

After a Saturday like that, you might think I was veggied out. However, rather than being burned out on veggies, I feel even more energized to come up with some creative dishes in my own kitchen. It should be an interesting week!

SOJ Chef Demo 06.23.12

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This week the South of the James market saw the beginning of another seasonal change. We are just starting to see more of the vegetables that most people associate with summer. On the farmers’ tables this week, I saw the first piles of corn, a greater variety of peppers, and some green tomatoes with a few red ones mixed in. I feel that we are about to turn a corner, and around that corner is an abundance of tomatoes, eggplant, corn, and zucchini.

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However, the weekly cooking demo is all about appreciating what we have now, rather than what we have to look forward to in the future. What can we do this week with the produce we have now? How do we resist the temptation to pick up next month’s Virginia produce a few weeks early – produce that was grown by a farmer located 3,000 miles away, and shipped to our neighborhood grocery store?

We learn to love green tomatoes, crisp cucumbers and fresh herbs. That’s what we do.

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Inspired by the season, Chef Sam “Rude Boy” Baker created a green tomato salad made with gorgeous green tomatoes from Norma’s Produce, cucumber, purple carrots, lemon basil, garlic, herbs de Provence, sea salt and black pepper, and dressed with apple cider vinegar. These ingredients are delicious and easy to love.

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Alongside the green tomato salad, Chef Sam served pan seared dry scallops from Barham Seafood. The Chef explained to the audience why dry scallops are worth the extra cash, as he seasoned the scallops with sea salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. He prepared seared eggplant the same way, for the vegetarians in the house. I had never seen eggplant as a vegetarian stand-in for scallops before, but it seemed to work.

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The Veg of the Week was eggplant, a vegetable that started popping up at several farmers’ stalls this week. I think that most people associate eggplant with Eggplant Parmigiana or Ratatouille. The Chef set out to show people that there are plenty of things you can do with eggplant and basil before the tomatoes ripen.

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Eggplant from Norma’s Produce and Amy’s Garden played well with Tuscan kale and lemon basil from Victory Farms in many of the dishes this week.

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For the second round of the demonstration, the Chef did a stir fry two ways: one vegetarian version and one with scallops and fish sauce. He fried some kale chiffonade in a pan with oil and fish sauce and sampled the kale to curious passersby. Most people had not used fish sauce in their homes so Chef Sam answered a lot of questions about this mysterious ingredient.

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The spicy stir fry included purple and white eggplant, white onion, mushrooms, green tomatoes, sweet peppers, Thai chili peppers, Tuscan kale, sorrel and basil. The second version differed from the first by the addition of seared scallops and fish sauce for flavor. The Chef explained that a stir fry can be made with whatever vegetables you have on hand, during any season, and he urged home cooks to get creative in the kitchen with their favorite vegetables.

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Then came the curve ball.

The final dish for the demonstration showed some real creativity, inspired by a shortage of forks at the demo tent following several rounds of samples. When we ran out of forks and were left with only skewers and toothpicks, the Chef had to come up with an interesting way to prepare the remaining pile of produce for his last challenge. I suggested that we sauté the veggies and roll them up in the kale leaves for a vegan and vegetarian finger food. Locally famous for his North Carolina Tamales, which utilize steamed collard greens in place of the traditional corn husk, The Chef agreed to give it a try.

These kale rollups featured eggplant, mushrooms, green tomatoes, lemon basil and Thai chilies, seasoned with rice wine vinegar and sea salt, wrapped in a steamed Tuscan kale leaf and pierced with a toothpick.

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In the ultimate challenge of working with what you have (and not with what you don’t have), he pulled off a healthy and delicious finger food that highlighted the flavors of the season.

Thanks to Amy’s Garden, Barham Seafood, HaaShrooms, Norma’s Produce, Phal Vong, Victory Farms, Village Garden, Walnut Hill Farm Produce and all of the other featured market vendors for producing this week’s fresh and tasty ingredients.

Farmers’ Market 06.16.12

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I know I have mentioned before how awesome my new route to the South of the James farmers’ market is.

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And it’s made even more beautiful by everything that is in bloom this time of year.

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I found out these giant ferns with pink wispy pom-pom blossoms are called Mimosa trees. No wonder I like them! I’m getting very comfortable with my routine of walking to the market with a Chobani Greek yogurt and a banana at 7:30 every Saturday morning. You have your mimosa brunch, I have my Mimosa walk.

Check out who else showed up at the market this weekend!

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The photo hardly conveys how adorable this baby monkey (ape? I never remember the difference…) was, crawling around in a little basket in a miniature diaper after the market closed down on Saturday.

While I played with local veggies and exotic animals, Kyle did a little shopping. Here is this week’s loot!

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  • Carrots
  • Onions
  • Summer squash
  • Red potatoes
  • Kale

Kyle said he almost got purple carrots, and he almost got tomatillos, but he chickened out. I told him it was okay to go a little wild and crazy and pick up something now; in fact, I prefer it that way! I saw bright yellow cucumbers and bright purple peppers at this week’s market too.

What “weird” produce do you think we should pick up next week? Have you tried anything new and crazy lately?

SOJ Chef Demo 06.16.12

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This week’s cooking demonstrations at the South of the James farmers’ market had an unplanned theme of fire and ice. It was another gorgeous day, and with the mercury gradually rising in Richmond, Chef Sam “Rude Boy” Baker showed us some ice cold summer salads along some hot and spicy entrees. Without explicitly stating the theme, the Chef finished hot dishes with cool relishes, and paired crisp, cold salads with warm, spicy accompaniments.

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The colorful fresh produce gathered from market vendors that morning was a big draw for market shoppers. A small crowd gathered at the demo tent early on, as the Chef talked about his ingredients and chopped a rainbow of peppers, onions, squash, and other seasonal ingredients. The purple peppers from Norma’s produce and the bright yellow lemon cucumbers from Victory Farms were big conversation starters at the cutting board. In an impressive feat, the Chef held the audience’s attention for about 45 minutes without ever heating a pan.

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It was evident that the Veg of the Week had to be these long awaited peppers. We have been dying to get our hands on some local peppers for the last few weeks and it was such a nice surprise to see them all come in this week in beautiful and varied shapes, sizes and colors.

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I highlighted some quick facts about peppers on the Veg of the Week board, but I wished I had more room to include all of the other things that I love about peppers. What a versatile and delicious vegetable! Did you know that the capsaicin in hot peppers does wonders for kickstarting your metabolism? How about this incredible fact: according to whfoods.com, one cup of bell peppers contains almost 200% of the recommended daily intake of Vitamin C!

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The Chef started with fresh salmon from Barham Seafood and an array of vegetables, including green beans, bell peppers, white onion, golden zucchini, eggplant, and jalapeno. While he prepared the ingredients, market goers enjoyed a cool cucumber salad that featured green cucumbers, lemon cucumbers, purple bell pepper, white onion, pickled okra, cilantro, basil, salt and pepper, dressed in the brine from the Empress Farms pickled okra.

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As market shoppers cooled off, the kitchen heated up. Several onlookers stuck around for the Chef’s Thai style noodle dish with salmon, basil, and fresh market veggies. He showed the crowd how to improvise with what they had. Lacking several key ingredients for Thai cooking, the Chef made do with taglierini from Cavanna Pasta instead of rice noodles, sweet basil instead of Thai basil, and fresh jalapeno instead of Thai chilies. And the dish was completely delicious. The message is that while you may slightly compromise authenticity, you do not have to sacrifice flavor while working with just what is available locally.

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The salmon’s next starring role was over organic mixed salad greens. The Chef prepared herb crusted salmon (herbs de Provence to be exact) and showed interested market goers how to remove the pan from the heat when the salmon was just underdone. The fish continued to cook in the hot pan so that it was perfectly cooked by the time of plating.

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The warm salmon over the cold, crisp greens was well received by the crowd and the vendors who generously donated the ingredients for the presentation.

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The icy component of this salmon dish was a relish made with Korean melon, cucumber, peppers and fresh herbs. The Korean melon from Amy’s Garden was cool and sweet, and it was just what the later market group needed as the temperature rose. Of the two melons used, one was ripe and sweet, and the other was slightly underripe and a bit tangy. This relish was great on its own and people loved it on the salmon. I bet it would be great on tacos too.

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Finally, the Chef demonstrated the difference between cold cabbage and wilted cabbage by creating a raw, cold slaw and then sauteeing half of it in some hot oil. The “market slaw” contained cabbage and fennel from Tomten Farm, bell pepper, jalapeno, Korean melon, golden zucchini, white onion, flat leaf parsley, and the juice from some pickled okra. When asked about the pickled okra brine as dressing, the Chef explained, “it’s all in there – you’ve got your vinegar, your spices, all your flavor – you don’t need anything else.”

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The flavor differences between the cold slaw and the hot were incredible. I couldn’t believe I was eating the same ingredients, with the only difference being heat and a little oil. Chef Sam Baker asked market goers which they preferred and no one could commit. We heard the same thing over and over, “they’re both just so different… and so good.”

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I preferred the hot, pictured below. I thought the heat brought out the flavors a bit more.

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But then again, I wasn’t standing in the hot sun. If I had been at a backyard barbecue in the peak of Richmond summer, I might have gone for cold. I suppose that’s why it’s important to have options. And that’s probably why the best dishes have a little of both.

Thanks to Amy’s Garden, Barham Seafood, Cavanna Pasta, Empress Farm, Norma’s Produce, Tomten Farm, Victory Farms, Walnut Hill Farm Produce, and all of the other featured market vendors for producing this week’s fresh and tasty ingredients.

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Have a question for Chef Sam Baker? Send me an email at vegologyblog [at] gmail [dot] com or put it in the comments. We’ll get you an answer AND your question may be included in an upcoming Vegology Ask the Chef post!

Farmers’ Market 06.09.12 and Colorful Weekend

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This weekend I spent a warm Saturday morning at the South of the James market. Kyle took care of the shopping while I helped out with the cooking demo.

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This week’s loot:

  • Carrots
  • Easter egg radishes
  • Basil
  • Peaches
  • Spinach
  • Elephant garlic (not pictured)

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I featured cauliflower as the Veg of the Week at this weekend’s cooking demo, due to the abundance of colorful cauliflower at the market stalls. Read my recap here!

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After watching people stroll past the demo booth over the last few weeks with this awesome elephant garlic in hand, I finally picked some up this week. It’s almost as tall as me! Can I do anything with the stalk or flower? I don’t know!

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The bulb is what you would expect, but the long, skinny, bright green stalk and the fluffy purple cluster of flowers look like something out of a Dr. Seuss book, as one of my friends pointed out. It has a very strong smell; even the flowers on top smell like fresh garlic!

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The bag of spinach was truly a steal. Kyle picked this overstuffed bag of spinach up from Walnut Hill Farm Produce for just 4 dollars. Check out how much green you can get at the market for less than the cost of a Starbucks latte! I’m not giving up my coffee habit yet, but I can’t deny that that is quite a deal for a much more nutritious source of energy!

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I took it easy on Sunday, catching up on some chores around the house, reading, and converting our produce into deliciousness. I tried my hand at (electric) grilling peaches for a peach salsa.

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I made “quick pickles” for the first time, using the Easter egg radishes and fresh dill from the market. I haven’t cracked open the jar yet, so whether it worked out is still a mystery!

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I got a sampler pack of IPA’s for my wonderful fiancé Kyle, which we enjoyed on the back porch during the last few hours of a beautiful weekend. I did not complete my to do list (or even come close to it), but I felt relaxed and rejuvenated by Sunday evening, so I’m calling this weekend a success!

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P.S. Mini Gardenology Update – I think I might be harvesting green beans within a week! 🙂