Sunday, June 27, 2010

A TISKET A TASKET A GREEN AND YELLOW BASKET




OVER THE PAST FEW WEEKS I HAVE  photographed market baskets. They come in all shapes and sizes, some with wheels, some with handles, some like cozy backpacks...but all chock full of goodies found at the market. Here's my parade of Market "baskets". Hope you enjoy!




AND IF YOU DON'T HAVE A BASKET, ARMS WILL DO!

AND..
Help America's Farmers
For the past 18 months dairy farmers in America have faced their worst crisis since the Great Depression. Since December 2008, the price they are paid for their milk has dropped more than 50%. At the same time, giant dairy processors have raked in record profits while dairy farmers are losing their farms. This problem has been caused by excessive concentration, which offers farmers little choice where they can sell their milk. As a result of this economic crisis several farmers have taken their own lives in the face of crushing debt with no clear hope of resolution. Farmers need your voice today. Please stand with them!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

AN HEIRLOOM TOMATO LOVE AFFAIR





HEIRLOOM TOMATOES have bloodlines and stories often twining back generations. The Cherokee Purple, for example, with it’s dusty red/purple skin and dense, juicy interior, is said to have been the tomato of choice raised by the Cherokee Indians of Tennesee and shared with their white neighbors. The Japanese Black Trifele, that looks more like a mahogany-colored pear than a tomato, hails from the southern Ukraine where it became popular early in the 19th century, It seems that after the Crimean War soldiers carried the seeds home, and as a result, these wonderful-tasting tomatoes spread throughout Western Russia. And Aunt Ruby's German Green - the perfect choice for Fried Green Tomatoes -come from Greeneville Tennesee where Ruby Arnold's immigrant grandfather brought the seeds from his native Germany. 


Now, these amazing tomatoes are not for the faint of heart. They are big, bulbous, deformed, strange-colored and heavy. Put one in your hand and you’re heftng a good pound of dense, luscious tomato. And at four to five dollars a pound they can put a serious dent in your Market budget.


But they are irresistble, the ripe peach of the tomato world.

And when you see boxes and boxes of them displayed at David and Joanna Bauman's REAL FOODS market table, I can guarantee that you will come to a screeching hault, linger over each variety, and pick the perfect tomato or two to wend its way into your kitchen and into your heart.



The Bauman's have been coming to market for 3 years now. They grow 30 varieties of Heirloom Tomatoes - starting them under a green house but in the ground - and estimate that they pack up and sell about a thousand pounds of these beauties each week. That's a lot of tomato happiness!

Now, while the classic Green Tomato recipe calls for corn meal and bacon grease, we kinda like Paula Dean's rendition cause we love buttermilk slathered on just about anything. Enjoy!

PAULA DEANS FRIED GREEN TOMATOES
Ingredients
• 3 or 4 large firm green tomatoes - we suggest Aunt Ruby's German Green
• Salt to taste
• 2 cups vegetable or peanut oil, for deep-frying
• 1 cup buttermilk
• 2 cups self-rising flour
• Freshly ground black pepper

Directions
Slice the tomatoes 1/4-inch thick. Lay them out in a shallow baking pan and sprinkle with salt. Place the tomato slices in a colander and allow time for salt to pull the water out of the tomatoes, approximately 30 minutes. In a skillet, heat the oil for deep-frying over medium-high heat. Dip the tomatoes into buttermilk, then dredge them into flour with a dash of pepper. Deep-fry until golden brown. Keep warm.






Sunday, June 13, 2010

BEAUTIES AT THE MARKET THIS WEEK...


AND LET'S HEAR IT FROM A VERY DISCERNING FOOD CRITIC!
YUMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM
This beauty is a guide dog. Interested in rasing a puppy?

A COLUMN OF MUSHROOMS


WHEN I WALKED BY THE RAMSEY FAMILY FARM table today,  I saw a beehive-like contraption hanging just behind Jamie Ramsey as he bagged a gaggle of his pristine oyster mushrooms for a customer. When the transaction was done, I asked him about the "bag" that sprouted bouquets of mushrooms like coral growing on an ocean reef.


"That's a mushroom column," explains Jamie, who started coming to Market in 1994. "The mushrooms grow on pasturized wheat straw and cotton seed," he explains, reaching into a cooler and offering a sample of these shell-like beauties. "They're grown in a very controlled environment," explains Jamie, who says he's got 100's of columns growing in a special barn in Merrimac, WI, about 35 miles north of Madison.


Oyster mushrooms are a colorful lot, it seems. They come in designer colors - pink, blue, yellow, brown, grey and black. Jamie and his wife Diane grow the yellow, grey and brown oyster mushrooms, and shiitake mushrooms, says Jamie, will wend their way to the Market come July.
 If you stop by, be sure and ask him about when he went to Russia and helped farmers there grow oyster mushrooms!

BE CHARMED I'M SURE

"IT'S THE CHAMPAGNE OF HONEY" intones Mary Celley, describing the translucent, glistening honey called Black Locust that is clearly her pride and joy. "It's the perfect baste to slather on a roasting chicken; it makes the chicken tender and sweet," says Celley who's been bringing THE BEE CHARMER honey to Market for 30 plus years. That's a lot of honey. But she's got a lot of bees. Let's see. She's got 110 hives on 15 acres and four "other" bee yards. There's 80,000 bees to a hive. No matter how you do the math, that's a heck of a lot of bees.


She says that she's always loved bees and her meticulous bee keeping practices speak volumes for that love affair. The process of extrating the honey, says Mary, begins with tending the frames. There are about ten frames to each box/hive - remember she has 110 hives!. She carefully removes each frame, gently brushing and shaking the bees off with a special bee brush. Then the frames are taken to the honey house where a hot knife is applied to the wax and the honey is "untapped".The honey is then put into an extractor that spins and filters it. It's bottled, brought to market and enjoyed. Oh yes, in case you're wondering about any idle hours that Mary might have when her bee charming is done for the day, she also grows organic strawberries, raspberries and sweet Ambrosia corn.


“Tart words make no friends; a spoonful or honey will catch more flies than a gallon of vinegar” 
                                                           
Benjamin Franklin




THE SUBLIME CARROT

WHAT COULD POSSIBLY ONE UP THESE HANDSOME CARROTS? Well if they were shredded and napped with a divine combination of olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, harissa, carraway and cumin seeds, sugar, paprika and mint...oh yes, a bit of feta...then THAT would surely one up them. Here is a sublime recipe that would make a perfect carry-to-a-picnic dish.

 CARROT SALAD WITH HARISSA, GARLIC AND MINT

INGREDIENTS
3/4 pound carrots, peeled, trimmed and coarsely grated
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 crushed clove of garlic
1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds or about half as much, ground (I used seeds but ground them first)
3/4 teaspoon cumin seeds or about half as much, ground (I used the seed but ground them first, again)
1/2 teaspoon paprika
3/4 teaspoon harissa (a North African chile paste available in specialty markets- it's spicy!)
1/2 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh mint, finely chopped
¼ c.-1/2 c feta, crumbled or chopped into bits

DIRECTIONS:
In a small sauté pan, cook the garlic, caraway, cumin, paprika, harissa and sugar in the oil until fragrant, about one to two minutes. Remove from heat and add the lemon juice and a pinch of salt. Pour over the carrots and mix. Add the herbs and mix. Leave to infuse for an hour and add the feta just before serving. Serve at room temperature.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

A FEAST FOR THE EYES...


AND THE EYE CANDY GOES ON AND ON...



AN ODE TO JAM...




JAM...JAM..JAM.,.AS FAR AS THE EYE CAN SEE...Well, it does seem like a sea of jam when you're standing in front of
THE SUMMER KITCHEN'S market tables.

In fact, they put up about 80 different kinds of jam with monikers like Fiesta, Millenium, Maiden Blush, Denim, and Hedgerow. What the heck is Hedgerow Jam? I ask the intrepid, 88 year-young owner and jam wizzard, Jim Schroeder. "Wild fruit grows in hedgerows," says Schroeder. And that's exactly what goes into this luscious jam - wild strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries. Now if you ask him about his all-time favorite jam, he tells you apricot...and adds with a wicked glint in his eye:"What God would make for "her" children."  Yup. You got it.
Jim Schroeder is a character and loves to chew the fat.

HE'S A STORYTELLER,  and if you stop he'll talk. He'll tell you how much a dozen eggs cost when he was a kid: "3-cents a dozen." He'll tell you that he used to supply jams to Tavern on the Green restaurant. And he'll tell you heartwarming stories like the one about the woman from North Carolina who stopped by and only had enough money to buy one jar of jam. He graciously gave her a case and wouldn't accept any money. A few months later he got a box in the mail. Inside was a beautiful hand-made afgan and a check for the case of jam. "I kept the afgan, but sent back the check," he grins.

AND THEN THERE ARE THE EGGS. Brown beauties laid fresh by 30 Golden Comet chickens - twenty dozen a week. "We have them out on grass," says Dan Aultman, who's been with Jim for 34 years.


"I started comng to the farm when I was four, says Dan who lived next door and remembers his first job was "counting out the asparagus and drinking Tang". Now he manages the jam making, tends to the cows, and oversees the 100 acres of farm land including the six acres of wild plum, black raspberry and wild apple. He works the Market with Jo Miller (in photo on right), who always has a great and welcoming smile!



AND TRY THEIR RELISHES AND SAUCES - THEY HAVE WONDERFUL FRESH-FROM-THE-GARDEN FLAVORS!




A SPEAR THROUGH THE HEART...

A BIG PINK SIGN READS: SNAPPED ASPARAGUS...You can't miss it.
So I asked Bruce Zinkle of Marshview Farm what was so special about being snapped versus being cut. He told me that snapping breaks the asparagus spear at the point where it becomes tough, so each spear brought to Market is pristine and tender from top to bottom; ready to steam or grill or lightly saute to perfection.

Bruce and Jane Zinkle grow 3 to 4,000 lbs.of asparagus each season and they've been coming to Market for about 20 years. That's a lot of asparagus and a lot of snapping. And, a lot of soil preparation and diligent tending. Asparagus. says Bruce, love a sweet, sand/clay loam and once picked, must be kept at a steady 35 degrees. That's key. "Our asparagus looks like it was picked yesterday, and most of it was!"

 
"Pray how does your asparagus perform?"
John Adams, in a letter to his wife Abigail

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A SLICE OF HEAVEN...

AT 5:30 AM EVERY FRIDAY MORNING...when most of us are snuggled in our beds waiting for the alarm to go off...the Mennonite bakers at PILGRIM PANTRY in Monroe, WI are hands-deep in flour and shortening and fruit, making 400 pies and assorted pastries by hand to bring to market the folowing day. They've been selling their lovely pies, turnovers, fruit breads and granolas at the Market for the past seven years. I tried their Blackberry Pie and it was rich and thick with berries and had a lovely tart/sweet flavor that could only have been improved with a giant scoop of vanilla ice cream. I'm going back...yup...for another Blackberry Pie. It was that good!

MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM...

BLACKBERRIES GLISTENING...

FIRST BITE...

LAST BITE...IS THERE MORE?