Shopping the Farmers Market: Why Blog

After years of frequenting the farmers markets in NYC, but only buying a few supplemental ingredients here or there, I decided to be experimental and work dishes around what is in season or looks particularly mouthwatering at the market that day. Green seems to be the buzz word these days from NYC to the White House, and the eat local movement is in full swing. My attempt here is to buy as many ingredients as possible from a the farmers market, and then occasionally supplement with locally produced ingredients from chain markets around the city. Most of the recipes I post (except for the baking recipes) are either things I created myself, or variations on recipes I've found elsewhere. I hope that you take the recipes and shopping tips here and they inspire you to do your own local cooking.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Summer Drinks

I realized recently that all of my posts have been food related. That despite my love of cocktails, there wasn't a drink in sight. So this week, when I went to the farmers market, I thought I'd pick up a couple of ingredients to make a refreshing summer quencher. This drink can be make with our without alcohol.

Today I purchased:

At the farmers market:
1 ripe peach
Pint of raspberries
Lemon thyme

At a supermarket:
Club soda

Supplementary ingredients I had at home:
Vodka (optional)

Recipe: Peach Melba Cooler

1 cup of granulated sugar
1 cup of water
1 medium, ripe peach
6 oz. of raspberries
1 bunch of lemon thyme
1 liter of club soda
1 shot of vodka per glass

I got this recipe from a magazine, and decided to take some liberties with the addition of the vodka.

Bring the sugar and water to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar has dissolved, about 3-5 minutes.

Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. Transfer the syrup to a small container with a tight fitting lid.

Halve, pit, and cut the peach into 1/8th inch thick slices. Add the peach slices to the syrup and stir to combine. Seal the container and refrigerate until the peach flavor infuses the syrup, at least 4 hours or up to 3 days. I did it for 24 hours, which I thought was adequate.

When ready to serve, pour the syrup through a fine mesh strainer set over a medium bowl, discard the peach slices. Add half of the raspberries and half of the thyme sprigs to the bowl. (Set the other half aside for garnish). Using a potato masher, briefly smash the raspberries until they release their juices.

Set a fine-mesh strainer over a large pitcher and pour in the raspberry mixture. Lightly press on the solids with a rubber spatula, then discard the contents of the strainer. Add the club soda and some ice to the pitcher and stir gently with a long wooden spoon.

Gently bruise the remaining half of the thyme by crushing it in your hands (but don't completely mangle it) and set it aside. Fill a collins glass (or any type of medium/short glass)with ice. Add the vodka, then pour the Peach Melba mixture on top. Stir to combine and garnish with a few berries and a few sprigs of thyme.

Although definitely refreshing, I found this drink to be a little too sweet for me. Though I have to admit that I like things a little on the tarter side. If I were to make these again, I'd probably cut the sugar mixture in half (1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup water). I might also add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice to enhance the flavor of the lemon thyme.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Using up your Leftovers

I went to the farmers market in Union Square on Saturday to pick up some cilantro for some quesadillas I was making for dinner. I intended to sprinkle a few pieces into the dish to brighten up the flavor a bit, but what I got at the farmers market could have made 100 quesadillas.

This made me think, what other things could I do with the left over cilantro. The guy at the market suggested pesto, but I'd just made basil pesto a couple of days earlier so I thought I'd go with a chimichurri sauce instead. For those of you who don't like cilantro, chimichurri is usually made with flat leaf parsley, but I thought cilantro was a nice substitute.

On Sunday, I went to the farmers market in Thompkins Square Park. It's small, but you can rely on it in a pinch. I already had most of the ingredients for my chimichurri at home, so I just had to pick up an onion, a few shiitake mushrooms, and a protein. They only seemed to have cippolini onions at the market, but that was fine with me. I picked up a couple for about a buck.

For the protein, chimichurri is often served with beef, but I thought I'd go with seafood since there was a nice fish vendor in the market. I picked up a half a pound of bay scallops for $9 and was on my way. Bay scallops are more common to find at the farmers markets in NYC than sea scallops. They're smaller, but the flavor is very sweet.

Today I purchased:

At the farmers market:
2 cippolini onions
1/2 lb of bay scallops
1 bunch of cilantro
5 shiitake mushrooms

Supplementary ingredients I had at home:
Olive oil
Red wine vinegar
Crushed Red Pepper
Jasmine Rice
White wine

Recipe: Scallops in a Chimichurri Sauce Over Jasmin Rice (serves 2)

1 cup of jasmine rice
2 cups of cilantro, densely packed
5 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons of chopped onion
1/2 cup of olive oil
2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon of lime juice
Kosher salt and red pepper flakes to taste
1/2 lb of bay scallops
5 shiitake mushroom caps sliced
1/4 cup of white wine

Start by making the chimichurri sauce since this needs to sit for at least 20 minutes. A lot of the recipes called for chopping the cilantro, garlic, and onion in a food processor first, then mixing it with the olive oil and the red wine vinegar afterwards, but since I only have a blender and a very tiny food prep chopper, I had to add the liquid to the blender in order for it to work. I thought that this still came out very well, but feel free to add the liquid ingredients afterwards in a bowl and just mix it.

So basically, I added all of the ingredients except the scallops, mushrooms, and rice into the blender and pulsed until it was just blended, and the cilantro, garlic, and onions were chopped.

Once this is at the consistency you want it, pour it into a bowl and set it aside.

Next, put the rice on. Just follow the package instructions for this. I always find that I need to add a little more water than the package calls for, but it will depend on your stove.

Add 1 tablespoon of oil to the pan on medium-high. Saute the mushrooms with a clove of chopped garlic. Add salt and pepper, and the 1/4 cup of white wine. Cook until the mushrooms are soft and the wine has cooked off. Add to the rice when it is finished cooking.

Wash the scallops and pat them dry, then sprinkle them with kosher salt and pepper. Add about a tablespoon of olive oil to a pan. Sautee scallops over medium-high heat for about 2 or 3 minutes until they are just lightly golden brown on all sides. Then remove the scallops from the pan.

To assemble the dish I just placed the rice in the center of the plate, placed 5 or 6 scallops on top, then drizzled the chimichurri sauce on top.

I mixed everything together before eating so the sauce was well incorporated throughout the dish. This was a very easy and tasty meal to make with left over herbs and a couple of other key ingredients. Feel free to experiment with your favorite herb.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Springtime for Stir Fry

Hey guys, I know it's been a while, but I promise this post won't disappoint. Since I had locked myself in my apartment for winter, I thought I'd bust out the new spring post with lots of food ideas. I'm also going to warn you that I accompanied tonight's dinner with copious amounts of champagne, so forgive me if there's a typo or two.

Since I hadn't been to a market for shopping in a month or so, I thought I'd hit the biggest one in the city and go to the Union Square market this week. Feeling a little out of practice I thought I'd check out the "what's in season" board. One nice bonus of the Union Square market is that they always have a chalk board telling you what the best thing to buy are at the very moment that you're shopping.

Today it was sugar snap peas, radishes, oyster mushrooms, free range chicken, and cilantro among others. Looking at the board I thought that a number of those ingredients would make for a good Asian stirfry, and decided to shop accordingly.

After scanning the whole market to see who had the best produce, I picked up cilantro for $1/bushel, 1/2 lb. of sugar snap peas for $6/lb., and 1/4lb. of baby bok choy for $2/ 1/2 lb.

If any of you have been following me for a while, you'll know that I'm a bit of a mushroom fanatic. Although I was originally thinking shiitake mushrooms, I couldn't pass up the oyster mushrooms once I saw that they were in season. I grabbed a half pound for $4.50, and headed over to pick up some gigantic scallions for $1.50, and spring garlic for $2.00.

I wanted to get some seafood so I headed to the fish stall, but almost everything was sold out by the time I hit the market at 3:30pm. So instead, I bought about a pound of shrimp at the local fish market in my neighborhood in Queens.

While perusing the stalls I did notice that there seemed to be an abundance of radishes right now, and Jersey heirloom tomatoes were starting to show, although I think it will be a few more weeks before these are really in season.

I did however, pick up some Jersey strawberries. They won't be in season for another couple of weeks, but they're already starting to show up at the markets. I'm a huge berry fan, and couldn't pass up the chance to have some fresh strawberries right off the wine. (In fact I'm eating some now while I type).

All in all I thought it was a good first trip back to the markets.

Today I purchased:

At the farmers market:
1 quart of strawberries
1/4 lb. of baby bok choy
1/2 lb. of sugar snap peas
1/2 lb. of oyster mushrooms
1 bunch of scallions
1 bunch of spring garlic
1 bunch of cilantro

At other local markets:
1 piece of ginger
1 lb. of uncooked medium shrimp

Supplementary ingredients I had at home:
Soy sauce
Oyster sauce
Sesame oil
Peanut or wok oil

Before I start the recipe I thought I'd wax poetic about strawberries. They're such a versatile fruit. They can be used in salads, sauces, cakes, pies, and really any place else you'd like to put them. I'm thoroughly enjoying them right now while I'm typing, but this morning I made a compote out of them and put them on top of my pancakes.

I took about 10 strawberries since it was just me, and quartered them. I threw them in a small bowl with about 1/8 cup of sugar and a little fresh squeezed lemon juice. I mixed them together, then let them sit in the refrigerator for a couple of hours to macerate. Then you can pull them out and serve them however you want. I like them chunky so I just squished them with a spoon, but if you want more of a sauce, you can puree in the blender or chop in a food processor. Either way, it makes for a delicious topping for your favorite pancake recipe.

Recipe: Shrimp Stir fry with oyster mushrooms, baby bok choy, and sugar snap peas.


1 lb of shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tablespoons of mirin
2 teaspoons of soy sauce plus 1 tablespoon
1 scallion minced
1 spring garlic minced
2 teaspoons of minced ginger
1/2 cup shrimp broth
2 teaspoons of sesame oil
2 teaspoons of oyster sauce
1/4 teaspoon of sugar
1 teaspoon of cornstarch
Sriracha to taste
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
2 tablespoons of peanut oil
Jasmine rice

In a small saucepan make the jasmine rice according to the package directions. I made about a cup since it was just for me.

At the same time (or ahead of time) make the shrimp broth. Peel the shrimp, saving the shells. Put 1 cup of water in a small saucepan with the shells. Heat on medium high until it boils. Turn down to low, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes. When done, strain, and reserve liquid.

Chop vegetables according to ingredient list. Mix scallions, ginger, and garlic in a bowl. Mix shrimp with 2 teaspoons of soy and 1 tablespoon of mirin. Let marinade for at least 10 minutes.

Then mix oyster sauce, sesame oil, sugar, shrimp broth, and cornstarch in a bowl.

Put 1 tablespoon of oil in a wok or a large skillet. Heat over medium high heat. Once warm, throw in a little bit of scallion and garlic and cook for about 30 seconds. Throw in the mushrooms and sugar snap peas and stir fry until they begin to cook through. Add salt and pepper as well as 1 tablespoon each of soy sauce and mirin. Cook for another minute or two. Add in bok choy and cook for an additional minute.

Push veggies to the side of the wok, add another tablespoon of oil in the center, and add the shrimp. I salted and peppered them first. Cook for about 1 minute, just until the shrimp turn opaque.

Once this occurs, move the shrimp to the side of the pan as well. Add in the aromatics (ginger, garlic, and scallions). Smash for a second with a spoon. Then mix them in with the shrimp mixture. Cook for about 45 seconds. Mix the shrimp broth mixture again with a whisk. Then add to the wok. Cook for another 30 seconds, then add cilantro and sriracha. Mix together, then turn off the heat.

Once the meal is done cooking, scoop the rice into a shallow bowl. Spoon shrimp stir fry and sauce over rice. Sprinkle with a little more cilantro and sriracha to taste and serve.

I was very impressed with how tasty this meal was considering how easy it was to cook.

Welcome back to farmers market season!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

New Farmers Market in Age Old Spot

Hi guys. I know it's been a while since I posted, but now that it's spring again, I'm actually leaving my apartment instead of staying huddled by the heater with a bowl of soup. I didn't cook a recipe this week, but I did make it to a brand new farmers market.

While wandering around in lower Manhattan on Sunday I came across the New Amsterdam Market just north of Pier 17.

For much of NY history, this area was the Fulton Fish Market, home to generations of fish mongers, as well as my grandfather on my dad's side. For decades he managed a stall at the fish market, getting up in the wee hours of the night to drive in from outer Queens and sell fresh off the boat fish to the local chefs. Some of my, if not fondest, most interesting memories, are of going to fish restaurants in 80s NYC with my grandfather, and the chef coming out to chat him up about the local catch.

Today, the fish market has moved up to the Bronx, but their is still an atmosphere of camaraderie and of fresh ingredients being sold. The website for the New Amsterdam Market says that it's opened from 11:00am to 4:00pm on Sundays starting June 5, but there were a number of different stalls out front open this past Sunday. Local restaurants and farms sold their goods to a crowd of NYC shoppers.

A few stalls I noticed were:
Hudson Valley Duck
Benmarl Winery
The Cellars at Jasper Hill
Marlow & Sons
People's Pops
Sullivan St. Bakery

A complete list of vendors can be found on the website.