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.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Crazy about Cabbage

As you may have realized if you've been following my blog from the beginning, I have a small obsession with kale this summer. I made a southern style kale fried in bacon fat, and an Italian recipe with kale where I made it into a pesto. As the current kale season winds down in favor of an upcoming winter kale, I thought I'd do one last summer kale recipe in an Asian style.

Since I did the first two kale recipes with fish, I thought I'd make a vegan recipe today. A close friend of mine from high school is vegan, and when I was out visiting her in Portland, Oregon last month, I snagged this recipe from her. It's a Japanese style dish, udon noodles with shiitake mushrooms in a miso broth. Now in theory, it may sound, and possibly look a lot like the hot and sour soup I made a couple of weeks ago, but the flavors of these two dishes are completely different. The miso broth is much milder and richer than the that of the hot and sour soup.

So when I hit the market, I definitely had a plan. I started off with the kale, which I noticed was not as plentiful as it was at past markets. I price shopped the two stands that were selling it, and found that the second tent was selling it for $2/bunch. A whole dollar cheaper than the other tent. So I bought it there. I was running out of garlic and onions at home, so I picked up a garlic head for a $1, and a medium size red onion, for a little less.

On my way to pick up the mushrooms I noticed a barrel of zucchini that looked larger than my head. I know large vegetables can be enticing, but this isn't a pumpkin patch contest. In veggies, biggest is not always the best, and I've found that the smaller versions of the zucchini have much more flavor and a better texture. So beware of the 5lb. zucchini.

Just as I was leaving I picked up another New Jersey heirloom tomato and ate it as a snack while I was cooking. I can never get enough of these while they're in season.

As much as I'd like to get all of my ingredients at the farmers market, I know there are some that I'll have to get at an indoor market. Luckily I live in NY where small specialized markets with fresh ingredients abound. I stopped at M2M, the Asian market on 3rd Ave. where I tried, but failed to buy the laksa paste. Luckily this meal was more Japanese, so it was right up their alley. I picked up a package of fresh udon noodles and a tub of shiro miso in the refrigerated case in the back. Make sure you get the fresh udon noodles that are kept refrigerated, not the frozen ones, or the dried ones on the shelf.

Miso, a paste made from fermented soybeans comes in red and white varieties, and is a great base for soups. These are just a few different kinds:

Shiro Miso: This is a white variety with a mild flavor due to its short fermentation process.
Saikyo Miso: This is a sweeter white variety with a high rice content
Aka Miso: This red miso is very salty with a strong flavor due to the long fermentation process.
Awase Miso: This is a mix of both red and white miso paste.

There were about 4 or 5 different types of miso in the case, and the recipe didn't call for a specific kind, so I went with shiro miso since I didn't want to overpower the vegetables with a red miso. Plus I must admit, the red variety is often too strong for me. I got both of these things for about $3.50 each.

Today I purchased:

At the farmers market:

1 medium onion
4 oz. of shiitake mushrooms
1 bunch of kale
1 head of garlic

At M2M Market:
1 600 gram package of udon noodles (this is about a pound and a half)
1 container of shiro miso
1 piece of ginger

Supplemental ingredients I had at home:
Soy Sauce
Vegetable oil

Recipe: Udon Noodles with Shiitake Mushrooms and Kale in a Miso Broth


½ lb of fresh udon noodles (about 220 grams)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium red onion, sliced into thin half moons
4 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stems trimmed, sliced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 teaspoons ginger, minced
2 tablespoons mirin
2 cups water
3 tablespoons miso
4 cups of chopped kale
2 tablespoons soy sauce

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Cook the udon according to the package directions, about 10 mins. When done, drain, and rinse with cool water.

Meanwhile, preheat a large skillet over medium heat. Saute the onion and mushrooms in the oil for 5 to 7 minutes, until the mushrooms are tender and the onions are softened but still have some crunch. Be careful to slice the onions thinly like the recipe calls for. I cut mine too thick, and while still good, it would have been better with thinner half-moons.

Add the garlic and ginger, and sauté for another minute.

Add the mirin, soy sauce, water and miso, and bring to a gentle boil.

Lower the heat to a simmer and add the kale. Toss the mixture around with tongs until the kale has wilted.

Add the noodles and use a pasta spoon or the tongs to stir them into the broth for about 2 minutes. Divide the udon and veggies among bowls and spoon broth over each serving.

I really liked how this recipe turned out. It was very fresh and light, yet the miso gave it a full bodied, complex flavor. It makes about 4 appetizer size bowls like the ones I used, or 2 entree size bowls.

This will be part 1 of a 2 part post. I picked up additional food at the Union Square market today that I'll make for dinner tonight, and blog about later in the week.

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