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.

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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!

Curried Pearl Couscous Salad

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Recently, a very fortunate set of circumstances resulted in the creation of my new favorite summer salad dish.

  • I wanted to make something at the beginning of the week to pack for lunches for the rest of the week.
  • I needed to make sure I had protein, veggies and some carbs in my lunches.
  • I had made my dinner plan for the week and I had an abundance of fresh vegetables leftover, with no plan for how to use them.

The veggies in question were half of a head of orange cauliflower from Pleitez Produce, and a bunch of green beans from Walnut Hill Farm. The lunch setting: lunchtime in the break room. The weather: outside, warm all week with a slight chance of thunderstorms; inside, temperature could range from “balmy” to “beginning of the next ice age.” The goal: build a lunch that fills me up but doesn’t make me feel like I’m reversing all the health karma points I have racked up this week in my workouts.

Based on the temperature, I knew I wanted a cold dish, but with a little kick to keep me warm just in case my office felt like a meat locker this week. I decided to combine my old favorite, Whole Foods’ cracklin’ cauliflower, with a pasta salad to give it a little more oomph. I chose pearl couscous (or Israeli couscous) because I love the texture, but you could substitute the grain or pasta of your choice. Quinoa would be my second choice for its superfood nutrition benefits. I used roasted cauliflower, blanched green beans, fresh tomatoes and roasted chickpeas for the mix-ins, then dressed it all in a curry vinaigrette. You could throw in whatever veggies you have on hand.

I have definitely found my new favorite pasta salad! I can’t get enough of this stuff. I think the dressing is what really makes this salad special. The roasted chickpeas don’t hurt. Mmmm. And (bonus!) this is vegetarian and vegan friendly. Just in time for summer barbecue season.

Scroll past the recipe for a Gardenology update!

Curried Pearl Couscous Salad (serves 4-6 as a meal, 8-10 as a side dish)

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Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of pearl couscous (uncooked)
  • 1 Tbsp oil (olive, coconut, or vegetable)
  • 1 small head of cauliflower, or half of a large one, cut into florets
  • 1 15-oz. can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 2 handfuls of green beans, snapped and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 cup of grape tomatoes, sliced into halves
  • 1 Tbsp curry powder
  • 3 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Preparation:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Toss the cauliflower and chickpeas together with the 1 Tbsp of oil, spread in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet, and roast at 400 degrees for 25 minutes. Let cool.
  3. Cook the couscous according to package instructions. I added my 1 cup of couscous to 2-1/4 cups of boiling water, then reduced heat, covered, and cooked for 10-12 minutes. Pour out of pan and into a large bowl. Let cool.
  4. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add green beans and cook for 2 minutes. Then remove green beans from hot water and plunge them into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process.
  5. While everything cools, prepare the vinaigrette. Whisk together curry powder, red wine vinegar, dijon mustard, and olive oil until combined.
  6. To the large bowl of couscous, add cauliflower, chickpeas, and green beans. Toss with the dressing. Add halved tomatoes and stir until combined.
  7. Add salt and pepper to taste. Chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour.

 

In other news, I have some green beans in my garden! Here are some gardenology progress photos:

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The first harvest was nine green beans. If I don’t get another thing out of this garden all summer, at least I can be proud of the nine green beans I grew from seeds. Never mind that that achievement probably requires the skill of a third grader. I am a remedial gardening student, okay?! It’s the little things.

For more BYOBB (bring your own brown bag) lunch ideas, type BYOBB into the search bar.

Farmers Market 09.24.11

This week I had the opportunity to volunteer at my local farmers’ market. I have written before about my CSA membership with Victory Farms and how I aim to visit their stand at the South of the James market or Byrd House market weekly. This Saturday was the first time I was able to experience the farm stand from the other side of the table and I loved it!

It was a dreary, rainy Saturday morning but a lot of people came out to get their fresh, local produce. It was crazy to see how quickly everything flew off the tables and into people’s baskets. It really reinforced for me the importance of getting to those markets bright and early to get the best of the bounty. My favorite part about working the market stand was answering food preparation questions. So many people asked how to prepare the veggies we were selling and I was delighted to offer suggestions and tell stories about my experiences. . . go figure! I was also able to go shopping during a lull in the action and I brought home a great selection of fresh food.

  • Basil
  • Salad mix
  • Poblano peppers
  • Heirloom tomatoes
  • Arugula
  • Watermelon radishes
  • Lacinato kale

How awesome are these watermelon radishes? They are seriously so pretty, inside and out.

I also picked up this one eggplant because I simply had to. I buy Chinese eggplants often, but I have never seen anything like this.

We have had a lot of rain here lately and on one rainy night last week I decided to rent the movie Monsoon Wedding per the suggestion of a close friend of mine, Rachael Ray. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, I highly recommend that you pick it up. It was wonderful. If you have seen it, then you are probably familiar with a certain wedding planner who has an affinity for marigolds. This character is stringing marigold garlands throughout the film, and he has an odd habit of spontaneously chomping down on a single delicate marigold flower and slowly chewing it while he thinks. I noticed a similar occurrence when I glanced over at a Victory Farms employee who was staring into the rainy distance and eating a whole bright red Carmen pepper, biting from bottom to stem. I love how much these people enjoy their veggies. It’s fantastic!

After making suggestions to market-goers all morning on Saturday, I find myself in a bit of a quandary of my own. I bought a bushel of apples last weekend to split with two coworkers and I can’t decide what to do with my share.

There were 115 apples in this box, which left me with 38 apples for myself. I have eaten a few but I still have almost 15 pounds of apples in my fridge, waiting for inspiration to strike. Do I make pies, applesauce, apple juice, apple butter, or something else? I think I will freeze some for apple cinnamon smoothies but I still need suggestions on the best use of my huge stash. Please leave a comment if you have a good recipe or idea.

Summer Solstice Meal

It’s officially the first day of summer!

I celebrated last night with a delicious summery meal. I made corn on the cob for the first time this year, and if the season wasn’t blatantly obvious by the looks of the main plate, it certainly was evident in the accoutrements.

You can take the girl out of Maryland. . .

I served up a Thai mock chicken salad over a bed of arugula, corn on the cob, and raw sliced kohlrabi. Regarding the previous photo, it is my firm belief that the only way to have sweet corn is on the cob, with butter and Old Bay seasoning. And while you’re salivating over that, might I add how excited I am that it is a seasonally appropriate time for a nice crisp white ale?

This chicken salad was a hit. I planned on having leftovers for sandwiches – I didn’t. It turns out that Kyle is a Thai chicken salad fiend! He suggested, between mouthfuls, that we call this “Trickin’ Salad” because it’s like chicken but it’s a trick – as there is no real meat in this salad. Har har har.

I love it when an original recipe is a home run on the first try.

Thai “Chicken” (or Trickin’) (or Mighty Ass-Kickin’) Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 package (4 pieces) Quorn Naked Chik’n Cutlets
  • 2 stalks of celery
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1/2 cup veganaise
  • 1 Tbsp light sodium soy sauce
  • 1-1/2 tsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup lightly salted peanuts
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper or crushed red pepper to taste

Preparation

  1. Cook the Naked Chik’n cutlets according to package directions. I chose to microwave mine with a few tablespoons of water, covered, for about two minutes.
  2. While the cutlets are warming up, dice the celery and carrot.
  3. Chop the cutlets into small cubes, or tear them for a more rustic texture.This yields about 2 cups of “chicken”.
  4. Combine the “chicken,” celery and carrots in a medium sized bowl. Add the veganaise, soy sauce, and vinegar. Stir to combine.
  5. Pour the peanuts into a small zip-lock bag and crush them by pounding them repeatedly with the bottom of a can or jar until they are smashed into a crumbly texture. Add the peanuts to the salad.
  6. Stir in peanuts and pepper.
  7. Chill for about an hour before serving.

Serve the Thai “Chicken” Salad over arugula or spinach, in sandwiches or wraps, or rolled up in large leaves of romaine for a crunchy summer lettuce wrap. The possibilities are endless!

What will you do to celebrate the longest day of the year and the official kickoff to summer?

Farmers’ Market 6.11.11

When we left for the market this morning, it was about 75 degrees. When we got into the middle of the crowds and mobile kitchens at the market, I promise you it was about 90 degrees. It felt like midsummer today, as the morning heated up fairly quickly, and the air got thicker with each passing hour while the humidity increased. Eventually around 5:30 PM, the dense humid air was broken up with magnificent thunderstorms. They weren’t angry, windy, strong thunderstorms. They were the kind that we get only in the summer, with a steady, clean rain before a dynamic backdrop of booming thunder and dramatic lightning. It was quite refreshing after the intense heat we have had lately.

Before the fresh rain, we soaked up the sun at the South of the James Market.

By the way, thank you to the folks at the SOJ Market for featuring veg:ology on the local food links section of their website.

Here’s this week’s loot!

  • Carrots (CSA)
  • Eight ball zucchini (Walnut Hill Farm)
  • Golden beets (CSA)
  • Arugula (CSA)
  • Red potatoes (CSA)
  • Cracked black pepper chevre (Night Sky Farms)
  • Lemon pepper fettuccine (Bombolini Pasta)
  • Raspberries (Agriberry)

I actually went in with a meal plan and a grocery list this time, so I can’t wait to start cooking!

We Got the Beet

Among my finds at the farmers’ market last week were some beautiful beets. I have shied away from the beets at the market in the past, because I wasn’t sure what to do with them. Don’t get me wrong, I love beets in salads and on sandwiches. I’ve even had them sliced paper-thin in a playful vegetarian appetizer called “beet carpaccio” and I loved them. However, when it comes to preparing them at home, I simply have not played in that arena before.

I started out by washing and scrubbing the beets, and then I did a little research as they dried. Before hitting the books, all I knew about The Beets involved a fictitious musical group that performed songs like “Killer Tofu” that provided a soundtrack to my childhood.

It turns out that the kind of beet you get at the market is even better food for young minds and bodies. They are high in folate, manganese, potassium and fiber. In addition, beets provide a decent amount of vitamin C. They have also been found to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and immune health-boosting properties. In order to maintain the nutrients responsible for all of these health benefits, beets should be cooked lightly. The healthiest way to prepare them is to steam them for 15 minutes, while the most common method is to roast them.

I got right to work.

Caught red-handed!

I chose to roast the beets in their skins in a covered baking dish with a few tablespoons of water. I popped them in a 425 degree F oven for 45 minutes. When they were done cooling, the skins slid right off – no vegetable peeler required! I sliced a few for a salad, but you could dice them, grate them, or cut them into matchsticks.

The first thing I made with these beets was a fresh salad, which I served with barbecue tempeh tacos. This was a great meal for the hot weather we’ve been having lately.

 

Arugula and Beet Salad

Ingredients:

  • sliced beets
  • arugula
  • crumbled goat cheese
  • black walnut pieces
  • fresh mint, chiffonade
  • your favorite vinaigrette (I used raspberry)

Preparation:

Toss everything together in a large bowl and add freshly ground black pepper to taste. Split between plates and serve immediately at room temperature.