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.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Pumpkin Patch Pancakes

One of the biggest complaints I hear from friends in CSAs is that they have too much of one type of vegetable, and end up throwing away half of their basket because they don't have enough recipes for leeks. That's why I like to blog about a couple of different recipes based on the same ingredient. A couple of weeks ago I made pumpkin muffins. I went through the whole two hour process of roasting, scooping, and mashing the pumpkin to make the puree, but only used a small amount for the muffins. Today I thought I'd make another pumpkin recipe using the leftovers.

Since I was a child I have had a fondness for pancakes. Every morning before elementary school my mom would make me pancakes with syrup for breakfast, and I think by the time I was 8 or 9 I was making them for myself on Saturday mornings. When I was a child they were pretty basic out of the Bisquick box, but the older I got the more experimental I got with my pancakes, adding berries, bananas, spices, etc. That's why I thought they'd be the perfect vehicle for my leftover pumpkin.

I originally had the idea to make pumpkin cranberry pancakes, because I don't like my food to be too sweet, and love it when I mix tart fruit into desserts and sweet breakfast foods. However, although in Massachusetts, where I'm originally from cranberries are already in season, in New York, they're not quite there yet, and consequently are not at the farmers markets.

I returned to the Union Square market this week and was immediately surrounded by all sorts of apples. I haven't made anything this season with the crisp red and green fruit so I thought it was about time. There was a wide variety of apples, some good for eating raw, others for sauces, and finally some for baking. I decided to go with Empire apples because their description said sweet, but with a tartness to them, and that they were good for baking, but I could have easily gone with Fujis or Golden Delicious. At $1.25/lb, I bought two apples for $.85 - very economical.

Next I headed across the way to a table selling Vermont maple syrup. As stated before, I'm from New England, so I'm used to getting this stuff almost straight from the tree. The $9 bottle of Grade A dark amber seemed a little pricey, but I guess that's what you get in Manhattan. There were at least 3 vendors selling syrup, one with fruity varieties, so I'd shop around before you choose a bottle.

I would have picked up another pumpkin, but I had the leftover puree. I did however, notice something called a "cheese pumpkin" that I almost bought and roasted just to see what it would have been like. When choosing a pumpkin to roast be experimental. I played it safe and bought sugar pumpkins a couple of weeks ago, but there are all sorts of varieties that would be good in cooking. Most of the vendors had signs up talking about what each pumpkin or squash is good for, but if you're not sure ask the vendor, they're usually very knowledgeable and friendly.

Today I purchased:

At the farmers market:
2 empire apples
1 bottle of Grade A dark amber syrup
1 container of milk

At a supermarket:
1/2 pint of whipping cream

Supplementary ingredients I had at home:
Pumpkin puree
All purpose flour
all spice
baking powder
baking soda
ground ginger
brown sugar

Recipe: Pumpkin Apple Pancakes with Maple Whipped Cream

For the pancakes
2 cups of all purpose flour
3 tablespoons of brown sugar
2 tsps of baking powder
1 tsp of baking soda
1 tsp of cinnamon
1 tsp of all spice
1/2 tsp of ground ginger
1/2 tsp of salt
1/2 cup of pumpkin puree
1/2 cup of apples, diced (about 1/2 an apple)
1 1/2 cups of milk
1 tablespoon of syrup
1 egg
2 tablespoons of vegetable oil

For the Whipped Cream

1/2 pint of whipping cream
2 - 3 tablespoons of maple syrup

Mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl.

Mix the pumpkin, milk, syrup, egg, and oil in another bowl and whisk together. I had left-over pumpkin puree so I used that, but if you'd like to make your own check out the pumpkin muffin post from a couple of weeks ago for that recipe.

Add the wet ingredients into the dry and whisk until blended.

Lightly fold the apples into the mixture. Let the batter sit while you make the whipped cream.

I usually make my whipped cream in a metal bowl. I will put the bowl, cream, and mixer blades in the freezer for about 15 minutes before I make the whipped cream. Once you take it out, pour the cream into the bowl. Mix on low until it begins to slightly thicken, then turn up to medium speed. Once the cream starts to stiffen, add the maple syrup and mix for another minute until it forms stiff peaks.

Heat a frying pan or griddle on medium-high heat. I add a little butter to the pan, but you could spray with cooking spray if you'd like. Use about 1 ladle of batter per pancake. This resulted in about 6-8 medium-sized pancakes. Cook on the first side until the batter begins to thicken and bubble.

Flip the cake, cook for another minute on the other side, and remove.

I served these two at a time. I put a dollop of whipped cream on top, and sprinkled it with a little cinnamon. I have to say, these were some of the best pancakes I ever had. The tartness of the apples nicely balanced out the sweetness of the spices enabling me to make it all the way through 2 cakes...something I can never do anymore.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Short Ribs, Long on Flavor

I recently realized that a good portion of the dishes that I make are Asian influenced. I guess if I had become a professional chef I probably would have worked in some type of Asian fusion restaurant. My mother, who isn't the biggest fan of Asian cuisine, has been complaining that she wants me to blog about more dishes that she would like. So in some ways, today's dish is dedicated to her.

Despite the fact that I made a beef stir fry a couple of weeks ago, I rarely cook meat at home. For some reason I've always left beef for special occasions. Filet mignon always seems to be my go-to dish for boyfriends' birthdays. In fact, October is a popular birthday month for me. My sister-in-law, my niece, three of my close friends from childhood, all have birthdays in October. I have a friend and an ex-boyfriend who's birthday is today, and my half-birthday was on Saturday..if you celebrate things like that. I think that's enough special occasions in one month to warrant a meat dinner. Instead of cooking my usual filet, I thought I'd branch out and try a meat that I hadn't cooked before, but is one of my favorites...short ribs.

Short ribs are most likely beef, but can also come in the pork variety. They can either be slow cooked, or quickly pan seared. I thought I'd go with the slow-cook method. I based my recipe off of an Ina Garten (The Barefoot Contessa) recipe I got online, so I had a list when I went to the farmers market.

I spent the morning shopping at the Brooklyn Flea, so thought it would be a nice idea to try the Fort Greene farmers market. Set at the entrance to the park, there were a dozen or so tables with a variety of vegetables, fish, and poultry, but no meat. I decided to pick up some basic veggies there, then head to Union Square for the rest.

I bought celery and carrots for around $2/bunch, and two small yellow onions for around $1. I probably could have picked up red wine there, but the organic wines will run you close to $40, and I thought that seemed impractical for a wine I was going to cook with. I will mention that there were some lovely flowers called Lisianthus at the Ft. Greene market. I'd never seen them before, but thought they would make a beautiful addition to a table.

Once in Union Square I picked up the short ribs for $7/lb at the meat vendor. At 3lbs, it was a little pricey, but well worth it for a special occasion. I spotted some fingerling potatoes that I thought would be good as a side. I was going to go for the purple ones that would be great for color, but the sign said that they tasted kind of starchy, so I stuck with the red French variety. I managed to get a bunch of leeks, a fennel bulb, and some rosemary and thyme all at the same table for around $7, which was good, because the market was so crowded yesterday that I couldn't wait to get back on the subway.

Today I purchased:

At the Farmers Market:
3 lbs of beef short ribs
2 small yellow onions
1 bunch of celery
1 bunch of carrots
1 bunch of leeks
1 fennel bulb
1 lb. of red French Fingerling potatoes

At a Supermarket:
Beef stock
Tomato paste

At a Liquor Store:
1 bottle of Cotes du Rhone wine

Supplementary Ingredients I had at Home:
Olive oil
Brown sugar

Recipe: Braised Short Ribs with Roasted Fingerling Potatoes


4-6 beef short ribs, trimmed of fat
1/4 cup of olive oil
1 small fennel bulb, fronds, stems, and core removed, roughly diced
1 leek, white part only, roughly diced
2 small onions, chopped
4 cups of roughly diced celery
2 carrots peeled, and roughly diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon of orange zest
2 tablespoons of tomato paste
1 bottle of Cotes du Rhone wine
Fresh rosemary sprigs
Fresh thyme sprigs
1 tablespoon of brown sugar
6 cups of beef broth
1 lb of red French fingerling potatoes

The recipe I looked at called for roasting the short ribs for 15 minutes in the oven at 400 degrees. I felt that my ribs turned out a little tough, and I wonder if this was the reason. I'd recommend pan searing instead. I would salt and pepper the ribs, then pan sear for about 5 minutes on each side on medium-high heat. Once you've done that, set them aside.

In the meantime, heat 1/4 cup of olive oil on medium low heat in a large dutch oven. Saute the onions, carrots, celery, leeks, and fennel for about 20 minutes. This creates a slightly advanced version of a mirepoix (usually just carrots, celery, and onions), which is a flavor base for many dishes. After 20 minutes add the garlic and saute another 2 minutes.

Add the tomato paste, wine, and orange zest and bring to a boil over high heat, cooking for 10 minutes, or until the liquid has reduced by half. Add 1 tablespoon of salt and a teaspoon of pepper. Tie the rosemary and thyme sprigs together with cooking string and add to the pot.

Place the ribs on top of the vegetables in the dutch oven. Add the brown sugar, and the beef stock. Bring to a simmer on the stove, then cover and bake in a 300 degree oven for 2 hours.

About 15 minutes before the meat is ready to come out, cut the potatoes in half. Toss them in a bowl with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Then chop up a couple of tablespoons of the remaining thyme and rosemary and add that to the bowl. Mix until coated. Put the potatoes in a roasting pan.

Once the meat comes out, you can tell that it's done if it's falling off of the bone. Turn the oven up to 450 and roast the potatoes for about 30 - 45 minutes depending on the size of the potatoes. They should be soft when pricked with a fork.

While the potatoes are cooking carefully remove the short ribs from the dutch oven. Also remove the herbs and skim off any excess fat. Turn the heat on the vegetables and sauce up to medium and cook for 20 minutes until the sauce reduces and thickens.

Once this occurs put two ribs on each plate and spoon sauce and vegetables over them. Add the roasted potatoes to the plate and garnish with a sprig of rosemary.

As I stated earlier, I found my meat to be a little tougher than I would have liked, but the flavor was amazing. I ended up saving the remaining liquid in a container and sticking it in the freezer to use later as a stock for another dish. The flavor was so concentrated that it would easily add depth to whatever I make with it.

I hope you enjoy this hearty fall dish if you decide to make it, and happy birthday to everyone with an October birthday.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Sweet and Salty Pumpkin

The leaves are changing colors, there's a nip in the air, and most of the cafes and beer gardens in NY have closed their outdoor seating. Yes, it's that time again, we're officially in autumn. One of my favorite things to cook as the weather begins to chill is the most orange of gourds...pumpkin.

I attempted to go shopping at a little farmers market on the Upper East Side at 82nd St. and 1st Ave., but as you see from the picture, the pumpkin selection was pretty weak. I bought myself a peach danish and headed down to Union Square where I knew there would be a much better variety.

Sure enough, when I got there, there were bushels of all types of gourds: decorative pumpkins, sugar pie pumpkins, peanut pumpkins, spaghetti squash, acorn squash, butternut squash. All but the decorative pumpkins (AKA jack o' lanterns) are great to cook with. I was going to be experimental with a peanut pumpkin, but instead I thought I'd stick with an original and buy a 4lb. sugar pie pumpkin for $3.

I also picked up 1/2 dozen large brown eggs from a local egg vendor for $2.50

I continued to shop around for some ingredients to make my udon miso shiitake soup, this time with tatsoi instead of kale, but I've already blogged about that so I'll stick to the pumpkin.

Today I purchased:

At the farmers market:
A 4lb. sugar pie pumpkin
1/2 dozen eggs

At a supermarket:
Crystallized ginger

Supplementary Ingredients I already had at home:
All purpose flour
Ginger powder
All spice
Baking Powder
Baking Soda
Vegetable Oil
Olive Oil

I decided to technically make two recipes today, but one actually comes out of the other one. I made pumpkin ginger muffins with fresh pumpkin, but a pleasant bi-product is that I was also able to make roasted pumpkin seeds, one of my favorite fall snacks. Here are the two recipes below.

Recipe: Pumpkin Ginger Muffins with a Side of Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

1 4lb. sugar pie pumpkin (yields about 2 cups of pumpkin puree - only 1 cup needed for the muffins)
1 1/2 cups of all purpose flour
1 tsp. of cinnamon
1 tsp. of ginger
1 tsp. of baking soda
1 tsp. of baking powder
1 tsp. of allspice
1 1/4 cups of sugar
1/2 cup of vegetable oil
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup of milk
3 tablespoons of crystallized ginger, chopped
Olive oil
Salt to taste

First start by creating the pumpkin puree. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cut the stem out of the pumpkin, then slice it in half. Scoop out the seeds and stringy part of the pumpkin. You can do this with a spoon, but I like to get down and dirty and just do it with my hands. Put the seeds in a bowl and throw away the stringy pumpkin.

Once the pumpkin halves are emptied out, wrap them in a thin layer of tin foil and place them cut end down on a sheet pan. Place in the preheated oven and cook for about 1 1/2 hours.

After you put the pumpkin in the over, wash the seeds off, then pour a little olive oil over them. Salt to taste with kosher salt. Spread them out on a sheet pan so that they're all in a single layer. Place the pan on the other rack of the oven. Cook for about 20 minutes until the seeds are crispy without being burnt. Taste a couple too see if they're salty enough. If they're not, add a little more salt.

As I said above, these are some of my favorite things to snack on. Keep them in a container and you can eat them all week, or if you have no self control like me, you can eat them in one sitting.

Once the pumpkin is done test to make sure it's tender. If it's not, leave it in for another 10-15 minutes. Once it's soft enough to scoop, remove the halves from the oven and let cool. Scoop the pumpkin out into a bowl and mash up until there are no longer chunks, but a semi-smooth puree instead.

Now you can start the muffins. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix the dry ingredients in a medium bowl. In a large bowl mix the oil, eggs, and milk. Stir in the pumpkin puree.

Combine the flour mixture into the pumpkin mixture. When blended, fold in the crystallized ginger. Scoop the batter into a muffin tin. I was all out of non-stick spray so I used paper cupcake cups. Bake for around 20 minutes, until a tester inserted into the center of one comes out clean. I baked mine for 22.

Remove from the oven, let cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then remove and place on a cooling rack. These came out different than most pumpkin muffins that I've made in the past. First, they were a lot less orange than muffins with store bought pumpkin puree. This didn't bother me at all, I'm always a fan of foods that don't look like someone put food dye in it. Second, they seemed a lot more cupcakey than other pumpkin muffins, but I did get the recipe out of my "500 Cupcakes" book, so I really can't complain. No matter what, they were very yummy. Sweet, light, and just the right amount of pumpkin flavor.

Feel free to experiment with other gourds. You can mix butternut squash in with the pumpkin to get a slightly sweeter taste, but if you do that, I'd recommend cutting back on some of the sugar. There are plenty of others out there, just make sure you don't try to cook your carving pumpkin, the flesh is not as soft or sweet and you'll be sorely disappointed in your muffins.