Archive for the ‘Farms, Farm Stands, and Farmers Markets’ Category

Peachy Keen

Friday, August 21st, 2009
Jan likes to think about what she's going to do with orchard-fresh peaches.

Jan likes to think about what she's going to do with orchard-fresh peaches.

 
I can’t stop eating peaches!
 
These gorgeous fruits symbolize the color of this time of year. In August everything around us takes on a golden hue. The light seems deeper and more yellow. Black-eyed susans, sunflowers, and goldenrod fill the fields.
 
Lush yellow peaches give us a literal taste of that glow. It’s not just their color that puts summer’s gold into our mouths. Their juice and their texture–not soft but not hard, just yielding–help our teeth sink into the season.
 
A couple of years ago a frost hit just as peach blossoms came out. It ruined the peach crop in local orchards. I remember feeling as though summer hadn’t really taken place that year. (I’m sure our peach growers felt this lack even more strongly!) Since then I’ve never been able to take peaches for granted. They are a special summer gift.
 
We are lucky enough to have several peach orchards in Franklin County, Massachusetts. I bought the peaches for this recipe at Clarkdale Fruit Farms in South Deerfield, where Tom and Becky Clark were proudly displaying photos of their sojourn at Woodstock40 years ago. The Clarks are wonderful orchardists–caring about their community and full of information about their fruit.
 
Of course, mostly I just eat the peaches (messy but SO GOOD). Company always provides an excuse to bake, however, so here is a simple cake that gently and richly enrobes the peaches.
 
Summer Peach Pound Cake
 
I gave some of this cake to a friend, Helen-Marie Goff. She reported that her children were disappointed that the cake had no frosting … up until the moment they took a bite of the buttery mixture! It is a lovely cake–rich, sweet, and very fruity.
 
Ingredients:
 
1 cup (2 sticks) sweet butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups flour
2 cups chopped fresh peaches
 
Instructions:
 
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a 10-inch Bundt pan.
 
In a mixer, cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugar, and beat until smooth. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, followed by the vanilla. Beat in the baking powder and salt.
 
On a low speed blend in the flour until it is incorporated. With a rubber spatula, gently fold the fruit into the batter. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan. Bake for 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.
 
Set the pan on a wire rack to cool for about 10 minutes. Then turn the cake out onto the rack and let it cool completely. Serves 10 to 12.
 
peach pound cake web

Farmers Market Week

Tuesday, August 4th, 2009

Cauliflower from Bloody Brook Farmweb

 
This is National Farmers Market Week according to the United States Department of Agriculture. I’m celebrating not only by going to a farmers market and a farm stand or two but also by making another recipe from the Shelburne Falls Farmers Market Cookbook, which I introduced in an earlier post.
 
Bloody Brook Farm is a thriving farm in South Deerfield, Massachusetts. In addition to selling CSA shares, maintaining a farm cart with produce on the property, and doing wholesale work Bloody Brook has tents at several area Farmers Markets. During my most recent visit to the Farmers Market in Shelburne Falls, Steven Kelley of Bloody Brook was hefting some of the gorgeous heads of cauliflower that inspired him to create this hearty soup.
 
I have adapted the recipe a little. It originally called for cooking the soup even longer after it was blended, but I felt that the flavors had had plenty of time to meld! I have also altered it by suggesting that one could add a little milk and cheese to offset the strength of the cauliflower (I might even try a bit more stock next time as my soup was ultra thick). Without them and with vegetable stock it would be an ideal food for vegans, however, so if you’re serving them please feel free to ignore my suggestions!
 
roastedcaulsoupebv
 
Bloody Brook Farm Roasted Cauliflower Soup
 
Ingredients:
 
1 cauliflower, cut into florets
vegetable oil as needed
1 onion, cut into wedges
2 cloves garlic, peeled
olive oil as needed
4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 large potato, peeled and cubed
salt and pepper to taste
2 splashes of milk
smoked Spanish paprika to taste
grated cheddar cheese for garnish (optional)
 
Instructions:
 
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly coat the cauliflower in oil, and place it in a large baking dish also coated with oil. Bake for 20 minutes, stirring at least once.
 
Toss the onion wedges and garlic with olive oil, and sprinkle them on top of the cauliflower. Return the vegetables to the oven and cook for 20 to 25 more minutes, stirring once halfway through.
 
While the vegetables are roasting, heat the vegetable stock and add the chopped potato. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat. Cook, covered, over very low heat until the potato pieces are soft.
 
Add the cauliflower mixture to the broth. Puree it until it is smooth. Return it to the pot, and add salt and pepper to taste. Splash in the milk and heat the soup until it is warm. Ladle into bowls and serve with a sprinkle of paprika on top, plus a little cheese if you like.  Serves 4 to 6.
 
 
Steven Kelley of Bloody Brook Farm

Steven Kelley of Bloody Brook Farm

Vote for Your Favorite Farmers Market!

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009
Massachusetts Agriculture Commissioner Scott Soares at a recent visit to the Farmers' Market in Shelburne Falls (Note his EXCELLENT taste in books!)

Massachusetts Agriculture Commissioner Scott Soares at a recent visit to the Farmers Market in Shelburne Falls (Note his EXCELLENT taste in books!)

 

The American Farmland Trust is asking Americans to identify their favorite farmers markets in an online poll. I love this idea, and I hate to fan the flames of regional chauvinism. Nevertheless, I must admit that my flames are already fanned: I was incensed by the partisan article in which I found out about this effort.
 
In Tuesday’s Los Angeles Times Russ Parsons wrote about the “grievous wrong” done to California farmers markets by the polling so far, which has not focused entirely on his state.
 
He complained, “Now, there’s no arguing that there are great farmers markets all over the country these days. But Ithaca? Given the weather up there, how long can it be open? Two weeks in August?”

 
He went on to urge his fellow westerners to vote for their local markets.
 
I know Parsons’ tongue was in his cheek. Nevertheless, I reserve the right to take a small bit of umbrage at his assumption that bigger (in this case, a bigger growing season) is better. 
 
Farmers markets foster small farms and often small fruits and vegetables, which can be the most delectable of all. We in the northeast may not have a very long growing season, but we treasure our few days of harvesting just as we treasure our small farms and their produce.
 
So without pressuring you, dear readers, to vote for any particular market, I urge you to participate in the poll.  (I can of course HOPE that you’ll choose farmers markets in the northeast!) You have until August 8.
 
If you have a market you particularly love, in addition to telling the American Farmland Trust about it please feel free to share it with readers in the comments section below.
 
Enough venting!  I’ll be back on Friday with a summery recipe and a better attitude……..

Eat Your Veggies!

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009
Ivy Palmer with her Market's New Cookbook

Ivy Palmer with her new cookbook

 

I recently checked into my Twitter account—and one of my fellow Tweeters had posted a morning thought that clocked in far below the 140-character maximum allowed by that social network: “I LOVE SUMMER!” I couldn’t have said it (or rather typed it) better or more succinctly myself. I love the sun, the greenery, the long evenings of music and camaraderie, the swimming—the sense of literal and figurative immersion we feel in this season.

 
My only complaint about summer is that it is so fleeting. The relativity of time is particularly apparent at this time of year; the plodding pace of mud season has given way to summer’s gallop. Our local Bridge of Flowers Road Race (coming up on August 8!) is a telling symbol of the velocity of summer life in our area. Suddenly each day, each night, each weekend overflows with activities. And the summer flies by before we know it.

 
There’s never enough time in July and August to spend preparing complicated dishes. Luckily our local farm stands and Farmers’ Markets provide us with plenty of fresh produce that cooks up into a quick summer meal.

 
The corn may not yet be as high as an elephant’s eye, but it has certainly surpassed the height of my dog Truffle. We’re beginning to get that summery vegetable plus flavor-filled tomatoes, crisp greens, resilient beans, shockingly bright carrots, tender broccoli, delicate nectarines, and even baby potatoes. The Farmers’ Markets also offer oven-fresh bread for those of us (like me) who can’t be bothered with baking the stuff in warm weather.

 
The Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts, Farmers’ Market has just made life simpler for fresh-food lovers by publishing The Shelburne Falls Farmers Market Cookbook. This slim volume provides information about common (and a few uncommon) vegetables in our area. It also offers recipes from vendors and food lovers that take advantage of the season’s bounty.

 
Put together by the market’s organizer, Ivy Palmer of Pitchfork Farm in East Charlemont, the book is lively and useful. Ivy obtained a grant from the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources to help defray the costs of the booklet; profits will help maintain the market.

 
Leafing through the book, I’ve found a number of recipes I want to prepare—and I know I’m not the only one! Last time I went to the market I saw a Shelburne Falls resident who wants to remain anonymous purchase a copy from Ivy the minute she heard that a special recipe she had already tried was in the book.

 
I have a couple of tiny complaints about the cookbook. One is that the recipes don’t tend to provide a yield; that is, you have to use your common sense (or wait and see!) to determine how many people the dishes serve. The second is that we don’t get much information about the individuals who contributed recipes. Always curious about my neighbors, I want to know who they are and where they live.

 
Despite these minor quibbles, I know I’ll be cooking out of this book a lot this summer and in summers to come. Ivy has given me permission to offer a few of the recipes on these pages. I hope they will encourage readers to visit her market and others and to grab and use all that lovely summer produce—before it disappears like a runner in the Road Race!

 
Green Beans with Garlic

 
My first try at cooking out of the cookbook couldn’t be easier—or tastier! I have adapted it slightly to reflect the produce I had on hand.

 
Ingredients:

 
2-1/2 cups green or yellow beans, trimmed and cut into 2- to 3-inch strips
1 to 2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon chopped fresh garlic
1 pinch salt
several grinds of the pepper mill
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

 
Instructions:

 
Cook the beans in boiling lightly salted water for 5 to 7 minutes, until they are ALMOST done. Remove them from the pot, and drain them.

 
In the pot you used for the beans melt the butter. Add the garlic, and sauté lightly for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the beans, salt, and pepper, and toss lightly for a minute or two.

 
Put the beans in a serving dish, and sprinkle parsley over them. Serves 4.

 

String Beans with Garlic FM web

I Land Scapes!

Friday, June 26th, 2009

scapesweb

 

I am frequently on the low end of the chic-food curve; it can take me a while to get out of my usual cooking ruts. So until recently I had never tried the garlic scapes that have been increasingly available in American farmers’ markets and gourmet shops.

 

Scapes are the stalks that come out of garlic bulbs. They are clipped off in June by farmers who want the plants to send all their nourishment to the bulbs of garlic. Since I have only seen scapes for the last few years I have a feeling many garlic farmers formerly used them for compost. They now sell them, and the curvy stalks are a boon for garlic lovers.

 

Visiting the Alexandria, Virginia, Farmers’ Market the other day with my mother I found scapes at the stall of Twin Springs Fruit Farm. This Pennsylvania farm travels a couple of hours from home to sell its wares to suburbanites in the D.C. area.
 

My mother and I were just discussing what the heck we would do if we bought the scapes when we spied a recipe leaflet from Twin Springs devoted to them. Emboldened, we picked up a half pound of scapes and went home to make the first suggested recipe, scape pesto.

 

Since I can never leave a recipe alone I changed the one I was given slightly: I cut down on the olive oil (Twin Springs suggests a full cup, and you may want to try that) and added a few nuts plus a little butter and salt. 

 
My family members found the scape pesto a little too bold when we tried it on crackers. We are nearing the end of the season for scapes, which become more garlicky as they ripen. We remembered while watching True Blood later that evening that our breath would easily protect us from vampires, but vampires are scarce in our area so we didn’t really need the extra pungency. The pesto was just right used sparingly on pasta, however.

 

The scapes’ flavor resembles that of garlic but is somehow greener—a little sharp but lovely blended with the cheese. My brother remarked that the pesto reminded him of a fresh Caesar salad.

 

Twin Springs also suggests using scapes in a stir fry or an omelet—anywhere, in fact, that you might use garlic. The farm tells shoppers to cut the scapes into 1- or 2-inch pieces and parboil them before sautéing them.

 

What my family liked best about the scape pesto (aside from the flavor) was its color—the true green of early summer, especially a rainy early summer like the one we’ve been enjoying on the East Coast.

 

Next year I’ll start buying scapes earlier and try other recipes. This year we Weisblats are enjoying our pesto. 

 
Scape Pesto

 
(Adapted from Twin Springs Fruit Farm)

 

Ingredients:

 
1/2 pound rinsed chopped scapes (bulbs removed)—about 2 cups when chopped into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons pine nuts or walnuts
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup melted butter
2 cups Parmesan cheese

 
Instructions:

 
In a blender or food processor combine the chopped scapes, nuts, salt, and olive oil. Process until the mixture is blended but not completely pulverized.

 
Pour the mixture into a bowl, and blend in the melted butter and cheese. Taste the pesto and adjust any ingredients you like.

 
Makes 2 cups (plus!) of pesto.
 

scapepesto