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.

Farmers’ Market Haul 05.26.12

Although I got to walk around a bit at the farmers’ market this week, Kyle did most of the shopping again. I was too busy shopping for the SOJ Market Chef Demo to pick up everything we needed at home. Check out recaps of the demonstrations on my Market Chef page. We jam-packed this week’s demo time with a ton of dishes and samples! Richmond market shoppers really benefited from the abundance of colorful, delicious produce this week. I chatted with visitors to the demo tent and even met a blog reader who stopped by to say hello (hi Alex!). While I socialized and helped out, Kyle got some great loot this week. I think he’s really getting the hang of this!

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This week at the market and into my kitchen:

  • Kale
  • Zucchini
  • Yellow squash
  • Beets
  • Asparagus
  • Red potatoes
  • Red spring onions
  • Bombolini black pepper linguine

I used the kale and onions that very night when we hosted Adrienne from hippie itch and her husband for dinner. On the menu: dragon bowls! I set up a create-your-own-bowl bar, just like a salad bar or burrito bar, and I think it worked out pretty well.

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We had so many ingredients and toppings to choose from:

  • steamed brown rice
  • baked five spice tofu
  • braised kale with rice wine vinegar, sautéed onions and fresh ginger
  • stir fried broccoli slaw and baby carrots
  • toasted sesame seeds
  • crushed wasabi peas
  • tiger sauce
  • sriracha
  • hoisin sauce
  • soy sauce
  • fresh cilantro

We ate outside on the back porch and enjoyed a few craft beers while we chatted. It was the perfect way to relax after running around at the market and on errands all day. Saturday Success!

SOJ Chef Demo 05.26.12

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This week at the South of the James Farmers’ Market, there was a rainbow of fresh produce among the stalls. It was evident that everything is really starting to come in, and we can now enjoy the end of the spring harvest and the beginning of the summer. With the holiday weekend in mind, Chef Sam Baker showcased the colors and flavors of this season with a parade of salads and sides that were fit for shoppers’ cookouts, picnics and dinner tables.

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First up was a kohlrabi slaw made with Norma’s kohlrabi, parsley, dill and onions, plus Amy’s organic tri-color carrots. The matchstick sliced vegetables were tossed with sea salt, black pepper, olive oil, vinegar and herbs for a refreshing seasonal salad. Next, the Chef made chips from thinly sliced beets and potatoes from Walnut Hill Farm Produce.

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There was also a sautéed vegetable medley made with Amy’s organic yellow squash and tri-color carrots, Walnut Hill beets with sautéed beet greens, and a medley of sautéed beet greens and Victory Farms Swiss Chard with Ault’s Spanish chorizo.

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This week marked the debut of the Vegology Veg of the Week board, which features fun facts about a particular market item each week. In case you hadn’t noticed, I’ll spell it out for you: the star of this week was beets.

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The Veg of the Week board also features an excessive amount of exclamation points. Apparently I can’t contain my excitement about fresh local produce. Walnut Hill Farm had gorgeous red beets and Touchstone gold beets for the feature. A lot of market shoppers hopped on the beet train for the first time this week, and I hope they have luck cooking them at home. You can learn more about beets in these past Vegology posts: We Got the Beet and (Almost) Free Greens.

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Later in the morning, the Chef got fresh duck eggs from Empress Farm, which inspired a breakfast dish. Later shoppers were treated to samples of brunch food made with fresh, local ingredients. Prepared in about 15 minutes, these dishes would make an easy Sunday morning meal at home.

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The Chef made French toast with Empress Farm duck eggs, Montana Gold Challah bread and Alfredo’s local honey. On the side were red and white potatoes cooked into home fries and topped with a duck egg Hollandaise sauce.

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We have seen so much green at the market throughout the spring, and it was really exciting to see some bright new colors pop up on the tables this week. Who knows what next week will bring!

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Thanks to Alfredo’s Honey, Amy’s Organic Garden, Ault’s Family Farm, Empress Farm, Montana Gold Bread Company, Norma’s Produce, Victory Farms, Walnut Hill Farm Produce, and all of the other featured market vendors for producing this week’s fresh and tasty ingredients.

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

(Almost) Free Greens

If you love greens as much as I do, you probably pick them up weekly at the grocery store or farmers’ market. I usually get at least one or two bunches a week of kale, spinach, chard, or other greens. Today I want to let you in on a little secret that you may not have discovered for yourself yet. When you buy root vegetables with the greens on, do you discard the greens?

Did you realize that every time you buy beets or turnips at the farmers’ market, you essentially get two vegetables in one? I almost always cook the greens in addition to the root, which reduces waste and saves me money. I have found that while some greens work better with certain flavors than others, I can usually swap the greens called for in a recipe for whatever I have on hand.

Turnip greens are surprisingly delicious, and beet greens are both tasty and attractive on the plate. As with all leafy greens, these taste great simply sauteed in oil with fresh garlic, salt and pepper. A little vinegar added to the pan toward the end of cooking helps cut the bitterness of most greens.

Next time you are at the market, select produce with bright, crisp greens and you will enjoy two vegetable side dishes for the price of one. If you need ideas for preparation, here are a few of my favorite greens recipes. It is okay to substitute root vegetable greens for all of these recipes, and they should still turn out fantastic.

Vegetarian Collard Greens

Mediterranean Braised Chard (sub capers for anchovies)

Beer-Braised Turnip Greens

Swiss Chard with Garbanzo Beans & Tomatoes

What is your favorite way to prepare greens?

Farmers’ Market 05.19.12

This week I changed it up and sent Kyle to find our farmers’ market haul. I was helping out with the SOJ Market Chef Demonstration , so I was unavailable for grocery shopping that morning. I did manage to get a break or two to wander around the market, but Kyle had to do the deal hunting and produce gathering this week. I gave him a few guidelines and he did an awesome job! He even remembered where he got everything so I could share the grower info here as usual.

Read my recap of this week’s Chef Demo here. Chef Sam showed us a wasabi sesame crusted swordfish recipe that I bet would be great with Twin Oaks tofu for those of us who pass on the fresh fish. Also check out Kyle’s farmers’ market loot right here:

In this week’s haul. . .

  •  Mixed greens (Victory Farms)
  • Mint (Victory Farms)
  • Turnips (Victory Farms)
  • One HUGE bag of spinach (Walnut Hill)
  • Asparagus (Walnut Hill)
  • Carrots (Walnut Hill)
  • Strawberries (Agriberry)

On one of my breaks from the demo tent, I picked up this Legend brown ale mustard from Simply Savory. I can’t wait to try it out in my Engagement Tofu recipe soon!

 

The Local Difference

 I have been meaning to share this for a week or so. For those of you who don’t get why local, seasonal produce reigns supreme, check out these strawberries. This photo is of local Virginia strawberries picked in the last two weeks. Notice how vibrant the red color is and how deliciously juicy these look. They are fantastic this time of year.

Now consider the strawberries you get mid-winter that are imported from warmer climes. They could be from California, Mexico, or even farther away than that, but they are not fresh local strawberries. Have you ever noticed the hard white centers and pinkish flesh? These strawberries are usually picked underripe so that they can make the long trip over thousands of miles to reach your grocery store shelves. Strawberries do not continue to ripen after being plucked from the vine, so the color and flavor will never fully develop for these strawberries the same way that it does when they stay in the warm sun on the vine until ripe.

Start eating fresh local strawberries on the regular and you won’t even want the out-of-season stuff. They are that good! See also, tomatoes.

Have a lovely week!

Farmers’ Market 05.12.12

This weekend, I hit the South of the James Market right at opening with Kyle, Adrienne (hippie itch), and Adrienne’s adorable dog Roary. It was her first time at this market and I really enjoyed showing her around. I hope you enjoyed those fresh strawberries, Adrienne, and I hope the pups liked their locally made treats too!

There are so many vendors at SOTJ that it seems like you are always finding something new. This holds true especially at this time of year, when there is a new fruit or vegetable popping up each week. In the Spring, the arrival of the first batch of something new each week moves us along as we slowly build up to the fanfare of fresh produce that we will see mid-summer. This gorgeous pile of carrots joined the greens, asparagus, and strawberries at the market this week.

Also new this week was the South of the James Market Chef Demonstration. Sam Baker of the Hermitage Grill took his place next to Alfredo’s Honey at the east end of the market for the first time this week. Sam shopped the market, then prepared a fresh meal before onlookers, who then sampled Sam’s creations. On the menu this week was a pan roasted Empress Farm rabbit, marinated in oil, Bombolini vinegar, black pepper, sea salt, and Simply Savory’s Legend Brown Ale Mustard.

The Chef also prepared sauteed vegetables straight from the market stalls: yellow squash, carrots, Asian kale, Swiss chard, scallions, tomatoes, and garlic shoots. Check it out next time you’re at SOTJ and grab a sample!

Here’s what I picked up at the market this week:

  • Beets (Walnut Hill)
  • Radishes (Victory Farms)
  • Broccoli (Victory Farms)
  • Swiss chard (Victory Farms)
  • Kale (Victory Farms)
  • Turnips (Heath Farm)
  • Cilantro (Pleitez Produce)
  • Strawberries (Pleitez Produce)
  • Eggs (Black Creek Farm)

Once again we have a ton of greens to eat – more on that later. Also, Kyle has been on a radish kick lately, which has inspired me to get pretty creative with them in the kitchen. I should have a good radish recipe to share later this week.

 

Farmers’ Market 5.5.12

If you haven’t yet, make sure you check out my OXO Salad Dressing Shaker Giveaway and enter for your chance to win. All entries must be received by the end of the day on Monday, May 7th and I will announce the winner on Tuesday, May 8th!

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The time has come! The South of the James Market opened this weekend! This was my first SOJ Market since moving into the new house, and therefore the first one I could walk to. Check out my beautiful new route for heading to and from the farmers’ market!

Forest Hill Park is so gorgeous any time of year, but especially in the spring, when everything is in bloom! Next time I plan on getting up extra early and having a coffee on my back porch before trekking over to the market. This time, Kyle and I were too excited for Crossroads iced coffee and bagels with the works to make anything at home beforehand. We wandered over unfed and uncaffeinated as soon as we were ready, and we ordered breakfast first thing.

These chewy bagels topped with cream cheese, tomatoes, micro greens, capers, basil, salt and pepper are one of the highlights of the SOJ Market. These are Kyle’s reward for helping me carry the bags of fresh produce.

Here’s the loot!

  • Swiss chard (Victory Farms)
  • Green onions (Victory Farms)
  • Mustard greens – which Kyle insisted on for some reason (Victory Farms)
  • Salad mix (Victory Farms)
  • Radishes (Walnut Hill Produce)
  • Asparagus (Walnut Hill Produce)
  • Strawberries (Agriberry)

We will definitely get our fill of greens this week! The Swiss chard looks beautiful but Victory Farms told us it is waning, so we are trying to savor it while it’s still available. We also splurged on some cookies from Hispania Bakery this week. We sampled two varieties and they were out of this world! We had a really difficult time deciding which to buy but we ultimately picked up the Spicy Chocolate Diablo cookies. We’re suckers for chocolate and chile.

The South of the James Farmers’ Market takes place every Saturday in Forest Hill Park from 8am to noon, May 5th through December 1st.