Farmers’ Market 05.28.11

I finally made it! The South of the James Market!

This Saturday morning tradition is my favorite farmers’ market in Richmond. Due to a crazy weekend travel schedule, I have not been able to make it there since its season opening in early May. It is always busting at the seams with people, strollers, dogs, and delicious food. This week, vegology added one more eager shopper to the mix and I was so excited to be there. So excited that I nearly stripped naked with delight. But we’ll get to that.

Let’s have the loot first, and the story second.

  • Arugula (CSA)
  • Shelling peas (CSA) *first time!
  • Summer squash (CSA)
  • Beets (CSA) *first time!
  • Carrots (CSA)
  • Cucumber (CSA)
  • Fennel (Pleitez Produce) *first time!
  • Pumpkin cinnamon whole wheat bread (Norwood Cottage)

My CSA share is with Victory Farms. As you can see, I have a lot of cooking to do. It has been awhile since I have highlighted a weird ingredient, and I am looking forward to hitting the books to research what I can do with the fennel. I also have never cooked with beets – can you believe that? And I have never purchased my peas in the shell.

Kyle and I sat on the balcony and shelled the peas when I got home.

Then I told him the story of how I involuntarily joined the ranks of the local entertainment at the market this morning.

It all started with a Crossroads’ bagel with the works.

Paired with an iced coffee, this is the perfect farmers’ market breakfast. I chose a table in direct sunlight, right in front of the Crossroads truck. About 30 people mingled around me, some waiting in line to order, others fixing their coffees with cream and sugar, and still others catching up with friends and family, as human and canine children ran circles around the cafe tables.

Immediately I was a spectacle. I noticed people pointing at my plate and saying, “oh I need to get one of those” and “isn’t that gorgeous” and “excuse me, miss, what is that you are eating?” The Works was a big hit and I was showcasing it to the crowd. Self-conscious about the possibility of cream cheese on my nose and tomato juice running down my chin, I decided I needed to get a napkin to make sure I didn’t look like a sloppy fool in front of the gaggle of onlookers. Only when I took a few steps toward the napkin dispenser and felt the warm breeze on my left cheek did I realize that my sundress had gotten bunched up and caught in my minimal undergarments. Yes, that cheek. I had mooned the farmers’ market.

I readjusted, grabbed my napkin, and scurried back to my seat, my face as red as the thick tomato slices on my bagel. I received no tips, hollers or applause. I thought, perhaps I need to hit the gym a little more often? Although I heard no gasps or groans of disgust so I suppose the yoga routine has been working. Just a local food blogger, enjoying local food, and demonstrating the power of lunges to the good people of RVA.

 

First Market of the Season

Has your local farmers’ market opened yet?

Today marks the first day of the South of the James Market 2011 season, and this week was the first that I could start debiting from my CSA share with Victory Farms. Unfortunately, I missed opening day at the market because I was at the beach this morning. However, I made up for it earlier this week when I visited the Byrd House Market in Richmond’s Oregon Hill. Victory Farms visits two markets a week: Byrd House and South of the James. Tuesday was the first day of CSA share debiting, so I biked over the market after work.

As a matter of fact, I biked to work that morning and then hit up the market on my way home. See my cool new basket? It’s perfect for carrying groceries home.

Although I felt pretty weighed down on the ride home, I successfully biked about 6 miles that day and felt great at the end! I think the added weight from my fresh fruits and vegetables in the basket and my work laptop on my back made things a little more difficult. Regardless, I plan to bike commute as much as possible before it gets dreadfully hot and humid here.

Check out my loot!

  • Black pepper linguine from Bombolini Pasta
  • Cucumber
  • Tomatoes (greenhouse I assume)
  • Asparagus
  • Leeks (CSA)
  • Broccoli rabe (CSA)
  • Arugula (CSA)

Happy Market Day!

Spa Salad

This weekend I got together with some ladies for a DIY-at-home spa night and it was so relaxing and fun! I was asked to bring an appetizer and I knew I wanted to do something fresh and light to fit the theme. The salad I created tasted citrusy and peppery, like the feeling you have after an invigorating facial, and it was filled with superfoods that were good for our bodies. And it was green like our mud masks!

credit: Susan and Carissa Schmidt

If you’re like me and have a freezer full of pomegranate seeds, or if you just want a light and zesty accompaniment to your meal, try this super easy salad!

Spa Salad

Credit: Carissa Schmidt

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch of salad greens (I used Victory Farms salad mix)
  • 2 avocados
  • 2 limes
  • 1 cup pomegranate seeds
  • 2-3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil (to taste)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

  1. Fill a large bowl with salad greens.
  2. Slice the avocados and spritz with the juice of 1/2 of a lime to preserve color.
  3. Squeeze the rest of the lime juice into the salad bowl and add olive oil, salt, and pepper to taste.
  4. Add the avocado slices and pomegranate seeds to the bowl.
  5. Toss and serve immediately. Serves 4-6.

I beg your pardon, what did you say? Did you say you needed an extra special spa cocktail to wash down your salad? Well I’m glad you asked because I happen to have something that pairs well with the salad and would be perfect for the occasion. Bonus Recipe!

Vegology Citrus Splash

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz light rum
  • 4 oz 100% grapefruit juice
  • 2 tsp lime juice
  • 2 tsp agave nectar (more or less to taste)

Preparation:

To serve one, combine all ingredients and pour into a tall glass over crushed ice. To serve a small crowd, multiply all quantities by four or six and combine in a glass pitcher.

Cheers!

It’s CSA Time

It’s that time of year again, and I almost missed it! I just submitted my application for our CSA share with Victory Farms. Kyle and I have been discussing our CSA options over the last few weeks with friends, and I thought I had settled on getting a half share for just the two of us. But that seemed like a whole lot of vegetables, so I wasn’t quite sure.

About a week ago I attended Gina Collins’ class at Ellwood Thompson’s called Discovering Greens and learned a ton of different ways to incorporate some new ingredients into my diet. Gina, who is Vice President and co-owner of Victory Farms, also taught us a lot about the farm and the CSA program. I already knew I wanted to purchase a share with Victory Farms this year but I didn’t realize how quickly I was running out of time! Now with the application finished and the check in the outgoing mail, I feel a little more secure about our fresh vegetable future.

In case I am carrying on about something you don’t understand at all, you can read about CSA, or community supported agriculture, here. You can learn more about the Victory Farms CSA here.

Why I like the Victory Farms CSA:

  • VF is a Certified Naturally Grown farm
  • The VF CSA is a debit system, so I can choose the items I want each week and not get stuck with a box of beets if I don’t feel like rocking fuschia fingers all week. Also I can miss a week or double up a week and debit from my prepaid account as I go.
  • The VF CSA members do fun activities like canning parties and gleaning parties, where you can harvest your own food for your own consumption and to donate to the CVFB
  • I can get to know my local farmer, which is so important to me since I have gotten more interested in educating myself about the sources of my food.

I also just learned that Victory Farms has a really informative and extensive Recipes section on their website. You might notice that a certain Richmond food blogger ::cough::vegology::cough:: contributed the Recipe of the Week this week! If my pizza recipe stops just one person from scratching her head about what to do with escarole, then I think I’ve done my job here, folks.

Are you joining a CSA this year? Where is your favorite place to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables?

Patty Pan Squash

I have had great luck with squash from Walnut Hill Farm this summer. Remember these eight ball zucchini that I ended up having to cook in the microwave? They were from Walnut Hill and so are these.

I have been intrigued by these flying saucer shaped squash for a long time. They have been calling my name all summer, but this week I guess they called a little louder. My only regret in fixing this meal is that I couldn’t find the time to swing by Blockbuster and pick up a B movie sci-fi flick to pop in for dinner and a movie. I was quite eager to celebrate this ingredient’s quirky shape in as many ways as possible.

The delectable patty pan squash. Pairs well with alien guts.

These squash come in white, yellow, and green varieties. According to my research, they are best when they are 2-3″ in diameter. The squash that I picked up were about 3-4″ diameter but still tasty. This is a low calorie vegetable that is a great source of vitamins C and A, magnesium, and iron. I was familiar with which squash types were summer varieties and which were winter varieties, but while digging for some info on these gourds, I learned the criteria for classification. The main difference between the two varieties is that summer squash may be eaten in their entirety (seeds, rind, and all), while winter squash are often seeded and peeled before cooking.

I read that they are sometimes nutty in flavor and I thought, what better way to bring out their nuttiness than roasting? I made up this dish on the fly and it was very satisfying. The roasted patty pan squash held up well in the sustained high heat and it came out slightly sweet, dense and almost meaty. We loved the texture, color, and flavor of the roasted vegetables. Maybe it’s a stretch, but I think this dish could be considered a vegetarian’s “meat and potatoes” kind of meal.

Roasted Patty Pan Squash with Red Potatoes

Ingredients

3 medium-sized patty pan squash

10-12 small red bliss potatoes

1/2 medium onion

Olive oil

Dried oregano*

Fresh basil*

Coarse salt*

Black pepper*

*I don’t usually measure herbs and spices – I just wing it. I apologize if that makes this a hard recipe to follow. But if I wanted to be precise (and if I didn’t have a talent for burning cookies), I’d be a baker!

Preparation

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Cut the onion into large chunks and slice the patty pan squash into wedges.

3. Place the squash, onion, and potatoes on a large deep baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil.

4. Finely chop some fresh basil. I usually do a quick chiffonade by stacking and rolling the leaves into a little cigar shape and then slicing the roll from end to end. See a helpful demonstration of this method here.

5. Add dried oregano (or fresh if you have it) and fresh basil to the vegetables in the pan. Sprinkle with coarse salt and black pepper. Toss to coat the ingredients in olive oil and seasoning.

6. Bake uncovered at 400 degrees for 35-40 minutes.

7. Serve with couscous, pasta, or rice.

I served mine with parmesan couscous and this chickpea salad that I adapted from a recipe in Better Homes and Gardens. Uh oh, do I sense a double recipe post? Oh yes I do.

Summer Chickpea Salad (see the original recipe here, which I have adapted)

Ingredients

2 cups chopped tomatoes

15 oz. can chickpeas

1/2 large cucumber, peeled, quartered, and sliced (about 1 cup chopped)

1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper

1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

1/4 cup finely chopped onion

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon coarse salt

1 clove garlic, minced

1/8 teaspoon honey

Preparation

1. In a large bowl, combine tomatoes, chickpeas, cucumber, bell pepper, cilantro, and onion.

2. In a separate bowl, combine olive oil, vinegar, salt, garlic, and honey. Mix well with a wire whisk.

3. Pour dressing over vegetable mixture, tossing to coat. Cover and chill for 4 hours or more.

I just love dinners outside in the summer. I think the lingering humidity in the air, the soft light as the sun sets behind the brick buildings that line my block, and the lively sounds of the neighborhood make the flavors of this season taste so much better.

Summer Weekend

The progression of my mood over the weekend has started to pique great interest from my friends, my boyfriend, and my cat. Lately I have rushed home on Friday night, still fully entrenched in work week mania: over-caffeinated, detail-obsessed, and plan-crazy, like the multitasker I am required to be in my work life. Routinely on Fridays I have indulged in pizza and a large ( seemingly ever-larger) glass of wine, and collapsed in bed before the clock strikes twelve. I dream about timely task completion, effective crisis response, customer satisfaction and, occasionally, world domination.

Saturdays the mania ensues, as I drag Kyle out of bed for coffee, breakfast, and an early AM trip to the farmers’ market. And then as I peruse the stalls, smelling local fruits, chuckling at oddly shaped vegetables, and chatting about social plans for the week ahead, I calm down and begin to enter weekend mode. By the time I toss my market loot in the back of my car, I am a little less concerned about sales reports and delayed shipments. I am more focused on preparing fresh tomato sandwiches, locating the recipe for homemade pesto that I had tucked into a binder or notebook at home, and popping ripe raspberries into my mouth as I enjoy a glass of chilled Prosecco on the balcony.

By Sunday morning I appear to be a different person than I am on Fridays. I make fresh coffee, cook a delicious breakfast, and make lists. On Sundays I do cleaning, errands, and cooking, but not with the fervor with which I approach my job Monday through Friday (or anything I tackle on Thursday or Friday evenings). I am much more relaxed because on Sundays I have countless moments to myself, and the feeling that I can do whatever I choose all day long, free of meetings, phone calls, or deadlines, except the self-imposed ones.

This morning I saw the bottom of the bag of this Virginia roasted coffee from Dark Hollow Roasters, purchased at Ellwood Thompson, my local grocery store. I guess it’s time to buy some new coffee.

Pardon the poor quality of this photo, taken with my Blackberry. I never claimed to be an excellent food photographer, just an excellent food enjoyer! I didn’t even take a picture of my breakfast this morning because it looked so good that I couldn’t wait to eat it. But I’m still going to talk about it because you can make this breakfast in 15 minutes or less and get a restaurant-quality brunch for minimal effort (and cash).

Fried Eggs Over Creamy Polenta, Melted Provolone and Fresh Heirloom Tomatoes

Ingredients

3 ounces prepared polenta

2 tablespoons milk (you could use cream for creamier polenta, but I went with 1%)

1 tablespoon butter

2 large brown eggs

1 ounce of provolone cheese (about 1 thick deli slice or 1.5 thin slices)

1 thick slice of heirloom tomato

Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation

1. Mix the milk into the polenta on a microwaveable plate and cook in the microwave for 1-2 minutes on high, until just heated through. Let sit in microwave one minute and then remove to counter to set up a bit.

2. Heat the butter in a pan over low-medium heat. When the butter is melted, crack two eggs, one at a time, into the pan.

3. Add salt and pepper to the polenta. Put the provolone on top of the polenta and let it get melty. Top with a slice of tomato.

4. Flip the eggs and cook to desired doneness. I like mine not hard but not runny (I know, I’m picky) so I break the yolk before flipping and then cook an additional minute or two until the yolk is set but not cooked through.

5. Put the eggs on top of the tomato and add salt and pepper to taste.

6. Dig in before you even get a chance to snap a photo for your food blog.

I’m off to recipe plan for this evening. Kyle works on Sundays and I always make a big dinner on Sunday night that we enjoy together before my hectic work week begins. It’s one of the highlights of my week!