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.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Kale Take Two

A lot of people have told me that they're not sure what to do with the leafy greens that they get in their CSA boxes. They might have one recipe for swiss chard, but not two, and when faced with a large bunch of it, they're looking for variety in their recipes. My first post a couple of weeks ago showed you how to make a fish dish on a bed of sauteed kale. Today, I thought I'd show you another way to use the bitter a pesto.

Pesto, a bright green sauce hailing from the Genovese region of Italy, is usually made with basil. I first tried it on a trip to the region over a decade ago, and I must admit, it's never tasted quite the same since. Basil is plentiful in the summer, but it can often be hard to find fresh basil in the winter. The recipe I'm going to make today was originally made with winter kale, so use that when it's in season, but I thought I'd try it with the summer variety. The kale gives it a milder, but also slightly more bitter flavor that I think works well with a sweet mollusk like scallops.

Today I thought I'd branch out and try a farmers market I'd never been to before. I wanted to stay in Brooklyn so my choices were the Williamsburg market on Havemeyer and Broadway, and the Boro Hall market on Court and Montague. I hear the Williamsburg market is great if you're cooking any type of Latino food, as it has a wide variety of peppers. But it's much easier for me to get to downtown Brooklyn from Prospect Heights, and this meal is lacking any spicy flavors, so I thought I'd try that one today.

I have to admit I found the market underwhelming. There were only two or three vegetable stands, a bread stand, and a cheese table. When I asked the bread woman if it was an especially small day, she laughed and said this was big for Boro Hall. In the winter there are only two stands.

I found the lack of variety especially vexing since I already had a dish in mind, and it included scallops. I could have drizzled the pesto over pasta like I had it in Italy, but a reader commented the other day that her husband has celiac's disease (an auto-immune disease where the lining of the colon gets broken down by gluten found in wheat, barley, and rye) and was always looking for recipes that didn't use any gluten. I took it as a challenge for the week, after making pizza and muffins last week, and decided to only use veggies and a protein. I had even looked up the market online at to make sure there would be a fish stand. The site listed one, but there was definitely not one there, so be aware that all of the vendors listed on the site might not be present on any given day. As a result, I was forced to walk to a local fish store on 7th ave. in Park Slope on my way home. I picked up 6 sea scallops (the large ones, bay scallops are the tiny ones) for $1/scallop. This would be enough for 1 main course or two appetizers.

While still at the market, I bought a large bunch of kale for $2.75/bunch. I wasn't sure what I wanted to use as a side until I spotted those avocado squash that I had seen, but passed by at the Union Square market last week. They were nestled next to some vibrant light purple eggplant for $1.50/lb. I picked up one of each, and headed off to the fish market before returning home to cook.

I purchased the following:

At the Farmers Market
1 bunch of kale
1 avocado squash
1 small light purple eggplant

At the Fish Store
6 Sea Scallops

Supplementary Ingredients I Had at Home
Olive Oil
Sea Salt
Unsalted Butter
Roasted Almond Slices
Garlic (originally from the farmers market)
Shallot (originally from the farmers market)

Recipe: Seared Sea Scallops with Kale Pesto and Sauteed Vegetables

For the Pesto:
4 cups of kale densely packed, taken off of the ribs
1/2 cup of olive oil
1 large garlic clove
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1/2 cup of Parmesan
1/2 Tablespoon of roasted almond slices

Blanch the kale in boiling water for 6 minutes. Drain in a colander and remove as much of the excess water as possible. Put garlic clove and salt in a blender or food processor and process until minced. Add kale and olive oil and process until blended. Add Parmesan and process until blended. Add nuts and pulse until chopped and mixed in. (Side note: Pesto usually calls for pine nuts, but they're quite an expensive nut, and I've found that a lot of other nuts are just as good. This was my first time using almonds, but I didn't think it changed the flavor too much.)

For the sauteed vegetables:
1 avocado squash sliced into rounds and quartered
1/2 eggplant sliced into rounds and quartered
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove minced
1 shallot chopped

Saute all ingredients on medium high until eggplant and squash begin to soften but not fall apart. Remove from heat and reserve. I have to say that these were my favorite part of the dish. The squash had this lovely buttery quality that I couldn't get enough of, and the eggplant was the perfect accompanying texture. So simple, yet so good.

For the Scallops:
6 Sea Scallops
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Wash scallops and pat dry. Lightly salt and pepper scallops. Heat butter and olive oil on high heat. When it begins to smoke, add the scallops. Cook the scallops 1 1/2 minutes on each side, until lightly browned crust forms. Remove from heat.

To serve:
I placed the sauteed veggies in the middle of the plate, surrounded them with the scallops, and spooned a dollop of the pesto on top of each. Feel free to get creative with your plating.

I love pesto because there are lots of different ways you can make it. I made a vegan pesto a few weeks ago with a friend in Portland, OR. We used traditional basil, but instead of using cheese, we used ground pecans. It gave it a much richer flavor. I hope you'll experiment with different market greens in your pesto, and let me know what works for you.

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