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!

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?

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! 🙂

SOJ Chef Demo 06.09.12

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This week at the South of the James farmers’ market, the sun was shining and there was a smorgasbord of fresh produce just waiting to be be chopped, cooked and served to market shoppers. I had to feature this gorgeous purple cauliflower as the opening photo. I love the gradient of the supporting leaves, with their dark purple edges and lavender stems. The shading highlights the beautiful Gothic cathedral-esque architecture of the vegetable in a way that simple white couldn’t. Please excuse me for the poetic vibe, but it’s inspiring to be around such great local veggies!

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At the market demo tent last Saturday morning, Chef Sam Baker gathered his ingredients and set to work on the three featured dishes of the day.

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There was a lot of colorful cauliflower at the market this week, so the Vegology Veg of the Week board displayed some facts about this often overlooked vegetable. Cauliflower has made several appearances on this blog in the past, so I offered some ideas for preparation in addition to those featured in the Chef’s demonstration.

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Cauliflower on Vegology:

Cauliflower Steaks with Chimichurri Sauce

Spicy Cauliflower Po’boys

Cauliflower Tacos with Sunchoke Hash

Vegetarian “Shrimp” and Grits

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The Chef featured prepared food vendors too this week. Vendors like Simply Savory and Empress Farm sell jams, salsas, condiments, and canned goods that make eating local at home quicker, easier, and much more flavorful. We often see them sitting side by side at the market, but we don’t always know how to combine the prepackaged goods with the fresh-from-the-farm produce to create a delicious meal. The Chef showed shoppers how to do just that, as he served Tuckahoe lamb in a Simply Savory fig jam marinade and Barham Seafood shrimp in an Empress Farm strawberry jalapeno BBQ sauce.

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Chef Sam’s food samples never last long, but occasionally he can grab a few bites to share with the great, hardworking people who bring all these fresh ingredients to market.

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After passing around some BBQ shrimp samples and giving the lamb plenty of time to marinate, the Chef revealed his plan for the other ingredients on the table.

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The first main dish was a marinated lamb chop, served with patty pan squash and cauliflower. The Tuckahoe lamb was marinated in fig jam, a little water, garlic, mint, basil and crushed red pepper.

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Omnivores enjoyed the whole dish, while vegetarians snacked on the brightly colored summer veggies. The Chef fielded a lot of questions about the purple cauliflower from Norma’s Produce, the orange cauliflower from Pleitez Produce, and the patty pan squash from Rocking F Farms. It was evident that the market goers were not at all shy about asking questions about what was on their plates. The habit of asking questions about your food has its benefits, and we were happy to answer all of the inquiries that came our way.

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The final main course item was a “kitchen sink” dish, a meal with which I am very familiar! We make kitchen sink pasta, salads, curry and stew at my house every once in awhile. The main premise is that you throw in “everything but the kitchen sink.” Cavanna spinach and cheese ravioli was tossed with just about everything else the Chef had picked up that day, and together with the vegetable medley, the ravioli delivered delicious Cavanna vodka sauce. This is a great way to use up vegetables at the end of the week or any time you are trying to clean out the refrigerator. The tender pasta pillows had just enough flavor to stand alone, but they were simple enough to work well with other vegetables.

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Thanks to Barham Seafood, Cavanna Pasta, Empress Farm, Haas Mushrooms, Norma’s Produce, Pleitez Produce, Rocking F Farms, Simply Savory, Tuckahoe Lamb and Cattle Co., 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!

SOJ Chef Demo 06.02.12

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This week at the South of the James Farmers’ Market, Chef Sam Baker featured the same dish done two ways: one with meat and one entirely meatless, because, as he said, “vegetarians are people too.”

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The Chef prepared two almost identical marinades, consisting of Malbec wine from Lazy Days Winery, Viognier Vinegar from Bombolini Pasta (cut with some water), olive oil, fresh cilantro, onion, garlic, sea salt and black pepper. To one bowl he added Worcestershire sauce (non-vegetarian) and London broil from Deer Run Farm. To the other, he added Portobello mushrooms from HaaShrooms. After marinating the steak and ‘shrooms, the Chef added them to two hot pans. The aroma was incredible.

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It was evident that the summer squash had really come in this week, so it earned its place as the Veg of the Week. There were so many varieties to choose from at this market this week, including zucchini, yellow crookneck squash, and golden zucchini, along with a light green oblong variety that we couldn’t name but we enjoyed nonetheless.

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The Chef even cooked some unique squash that has made it on Vegology in the past. Remember Patty Pan Squash and Eight Ball Zucchini?

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The demonstration featured a summer squash, onion and mushroom medley to go with the steak and Portobellos. We were so lucky to have a great deal of beautiful mushrooms from HaaShrooms this week and, true to form, the mushrooms just crept into everything without us really noticing how prevalent they were until the end of the day.

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We were also pleased to use Bonnyclabber goat cheese from Sullivan Pond Farm. The particular variety we used was coated in grape leaf ash. The Chef stuffed steamed button mushrooms with the cheese, then sautéed the mushrooms and topped them with fresh cilantro.

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Thank you to HaaShrooms, Deer Run Farm, Walnut Hill Farm Produce, Bonnyclabber Cheese, Lazy Days Winery, Norma’s Produce, Victory Farms, Broadfork Farm, Bombolini Pasta, and all of the other featured market vendors for producing this week’s fresh and tasty ingredients.

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Visit the Market Chef page to see other SOJ Market cooking demo recaps.