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.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Blue Cheese Burgers

Despite the extreme heat that has been plaguing NY for the last few weeks, one of my favorite summer food activities is the BBQ. Nothing smells more like summer to me than grilled meat and vegetables cooking over hot coals. Whether small hibachi, or large gas guzzler, there's nothing quite like a burger or hot dog straight from the grill. Unfortunately, I don't have an outdoor grill. One of the downsides to living in New York City is that outdoor living space is hard to find. I live on the third floor of an apartment that looks down on parked cars. But just because I can't afford a roof deck doesn't mean I have to miss out on grilled foods. There is always the option of the indoor grill pan. I know many of you are surprised that I would even bring up the idea of the indoor grill pan. I know, I know, images of cheap, plastic George Forman grills are popping into your heads, burning your perfect burger. I too am not a fan of the $29.99 double electric grill, but there are some quality grill pans out there. I happen to have a cast iron Le Cruset grill pan. They're a little better than regular cast iron pans because the finish doesn't react with the food, and you don't have to season the pan. It can even go in the dishwasher. They're a little pricey at $150, but I think they're a solid investment if you don't have an outdoor grill.

After a morning jog through Prospect Park where I smelled the BBQs as early as 9:30am, I had burgers on the brain. I have a great recipe for a stuffed blue cheese burger that I got from my friend Amy, so I had a shopping list in my head before I even went to the market. After the disappointment of the Boro Hall market earlier in the week, I returned to the Grand Army Plaza market today. After spotting two vendors that sell turkey I thought about making a turkey burger, but I was kind of set on beef. There was a nice selection of meat in a case by the side entrance. At $5.00/lb for free range, grass fed beef, I thought it was a good deal, but was not very happy when I discovered it was frozen. The vendor promised me that it would thaw in no time at all, and be just fine, and I didn't see anyone else selling beef at the market, so I bit the bullet and purchased the frozen beef. If you can find it, I highly recommend buying grass fed beef that comes from cows that are allowed to roam. If you buy meat in the supermarket it is most likely corn fed, a grain that cows were not meant to consume, and cause many intestinal issues. I won't go into the dirty details, but if you're curious, check out the film Food Inc.

Next I headed over to a cheese table that had two blues to choose from. A Cato Ransom Blue that had a sharp tang, and a slightly smoother Black Ledge Blue. Both were $19.99/lb. If I were just eating the cheese with bread, I probably would have gone with the Cato. I like a strong blue, but since I was stuffing the burgers with the cheese, I opted for the milder one. I knew I was going to add some flavors to the meat, and didn't want to overwhelm the rest of the burger.

I picked up some lettuce and a tomato, before swinging by the bread stand to grab two kaiser rolls for $.50 each. I'm kind of picky about my tomatoes, especially when they're standing on their own, and they're not a part of a cooked dish. I love heirloom tomatoes, but I always used to be wary of the ones from NJ. I'm from Massachusetts, and there's a farm near my parents' house that has nearly two dozen varieties of heirloom tomatoes during the summer. ( I couldn't imagine that the Jersey ones were as good and refused to try them for years. A couple of years ago, however, an ex-boyfriend who lives in Jersey used to make me sandwiches with some of the juiciest NJ heirlooms I ever tasted. Since then, I've been a convert. They're a little pricier than the field tomatoes, but worth it.

Today I purchased:

At the farmers market
1 lb of grass fed beef
1/4 lb. of Black Ledge Blue Cheese
1 bunch of rosemary
1 small lettuce
1 NJ heirloom tomato
2 kaiser rolls

Supplementary ingredients I had at home
3 TBS butter
Worcestershire sauce
Dijon mustard

Recipe: Beef Burgers Stuffed with Blue Cheese (makes 2 large burgers)

I defrosted the meat (still in it's air tight package) in a bowl of cold water for about an hour. Now some people are meat purists. They feel that if it's quality meat, it should be able to stand on its own. I agree with that, but I don't see the harm in adding something a little extra to draw out the best possible flavor of the meat. I like to season my meat with salt and pepper. Then I throw in a little minced garlic, a little bit of Worcestershire sauce, and a couple of teaspoons of Dijon mustard. Today, I also chopped up a little rosemary and added it to the beef. Once mixed together by hand, I separated the pound of meat into 4 quarters, and made each into a reasonably flat patty. Next I took some small pieces of the blue cheese and put them in the center of two of the patties. It's up to you how much blue cheese to use, but make sure it stays closer to the center otherwise it will ooze out the sides while cooking. Once the blue cheese was on the patty, I took the other patty and covered the first one up, locking the blue cheese in the center between the two patties. I pressed the edges together to make sure the cheese wouldn't escape.

Last summer, Amy had heard of a great idea on the radio. A program had talked about basting the burgers in melted butter, Worcestershire, and rosemary. I melted about 3 TBS of butter, 2 TBS of Worcestershire, and threw in a sprig of rosemary. Then I took another sprig of rosemary, dipped it into the sauce, and basted each burger with it. If you're using an outdoor grill, you can tie the sprig to the end of a wooden spoon so that you don't burn yourself.

If you're using an indoor grill pan like me, set the heat to high, and let the pan warm up for a bit. Put the burgers on the hot grill. Cook for 4 -5 minutes on each side. This will produce medium burgers. When you flip the burgers half way through cooking, baste again with the butter/Worcestershire mixture.

I had my burger with a slice of the tomato, lettuce, and some mustard, but you can have your with your favorite condiments.

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