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 23, 2010

It's Hot Outside Sour Soup

I'll have to admit that this heat has sucked the energy out of me. I had plans to try out all sorts of new recipes this week, but it didn't really happen. I had to pick up a cook book yesterday at my friend's place in Williamsburg, so I thought I would try out the farmers market there. I was thinking that it was the one in McCarren Park, but I looked it up online I realized that Thursday's market was under the J train at Broadway and Havemeyer. Not the area I think of when I think of fresh vegetables. I thought I'd try it out anyway and see what was there.

I will admit that I showed up rather late in the day, but his was one of the more dismal markets that I've been to in the city. There was only one vendor left, and the produce did not look very mouthwatering. The squash was oversized, the herbs were wilted, and the corn looked like some creature had nibbled on it during the day. The only think that looked interesting were some large green peppers, but the rest of the table deterred me from purchasing any. So nothing was purchased at this market. Instead, I'll share with you another recipe that I made with ingredients from a previous week's farmer's market.

Last week at the Union Square market I had picked up those great spring onions with the red bulbs. I had also picked up some shitake mushrooms. Whenever I think of those two ingredients my favorite soup springs to mind, Hot and Sour. I know you can get it at the local Chinese market for $1.50, but it tastes so much better when you make it at home. It's also one of the easiest recipes I make. I usually make it vegetarian, but I'll provide instructions if you want to add pork as well.

For the soup I purchased:

At the Farmers Market:
1/2 lb of shitake mushrooms
1 bunch of scallions

At Whole Foods:
1 package of firm tofu
2 containers (8 cups) of chicken stock

Supplemental ingredients I had at home:
Soy sauce
Corn starch
Brown rice vinegar
Chinese black vinegar
Sesame oil
White pepper

Recipe: Chinese Style Hot & Sour Soup


1/2 package extra-firm tofu , drained

4 tablespoons soy sauce

1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

3 tablespoons cornstarch , plus an additional 1 1/2 teaspoons

3 tablespoons cold water , plus 1 additional teaspoon

1 large egg

6 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1/2 fresh shiitake mushrooms , stems removed, caps sliced 1/4 inch thick (about 1 cup)

2 tablespoons black Chinese vinegar

2 tablespoons brown rice vinegar

1/2 teaspoon sriracha (amount to taste)

1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper

3 medium scallions , sliced thin

1. Place tofu in pie plate and set heavy plate on top. Weight with 2 heavy cans; let stand at least 15 minutes (tofu should release about 1/2 cup liquid). Whisk 1 tablespoon soy sauce, sesame oil, and 1 teaspoon cornstarch in medium bowl. (If adding pork, cut pork into strips and add to this marinade - let marinade 1/2 hour)

2. Combine 3 tablespoons cornstarch with 3 tablespoons water in small bowl and mix thoroughly; set aside, leaving spoon in bowl. Mix remaining 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch with remaining 1 teaspoon water in small bowl; add egg and beat with fork until combined. Set aside.

3. Bring broth to boil in large saucepan set over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low; add mushrooms and simmer until mushrooms are just tender, about 5 minutes. (If you'd like, you can experiment with ingredients here. I sometimes add 1/2 cup of woodear mushrooms or a can of bamboo shoots as well.) While broth simmers, dice tofu into 1/2-inch cubes. Add tofu and soy sauce/sesame oil marinade you prepared (and pork if you're using it) to soup. Continue to simmer about 2 minutes. (Simmer until pork is no longer pink if included.)

4. Stir cornstarch mixture to recombine. Add to soup and increase heat to medium-high; cook, stirring occasionally, until soup thickens and turns translucent, about 1 minute. Stir in two types of vinegar, sriracha, pepper, and remaining 3 tablespoons soy sauce; turn off heat. (The black Chinese vinegar can be hard to find. I usually get it at an Asian grocery store on 3rd Ave somewhere around 11th or 12th St., but if you can't find it, just use 4 tablespoons of the brown rice vinegar which can be found at any Whole Foods.)

5. Without stirring soup, use soup-spoon to slowly drizzle very thin streams of egg mixture into pot in circular motion. Let soup sit 1 minute, then return saucepan to medium-high heat. Bring soup to gentle boil, then immediately remove from heat. Gently stir soup once to evenly distribute egg; ladle into bowls and top with freshly chopped scallions.

Sorry for the lack of photos on this one. I took them, but I can't seem to find where they went. This is a last minute photo of a leftover bowl without the scallions, but the green of the scallions gives it a great color contrast, so definitely add them. I love this recipe. I make it all the time during the winter, but I see no reason why it can't be a year round soup. It makes enough for about 6-8 bowls, and I tend to make a big batch and eat it all week on its own or as an appetizer for a larger meal.

Next week I think I'll return to the Union Square market. More variety, and more intriguing ingredients to work with.

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