Saturday, August 11, 2012

At the Farmer's Market

Thank you to everyone who everyone who showed up at the South Shore Farmer's Market this morning for my cooking demo.  Also, thank you to those people who didn't show up - because I ran out of food near the end!

It was a good morning - which is unusual for me because I do not, as a general rule, enjoy the morning.  I am not one of those people who feels that the morning is this beautiful, amazing, peaceful time of day.  Wait, I retract that.  I believe all those things, I just prefer to enjoy that time under a pile of blankets with my eyes securely closed.  I've enjoyed a few sunrises, but they were all after a night out - on the way home to go to bed!

So, to wake up and get ready to cook at 6:30 is a bit much for me.  And that, considering I had been up late fretting about the whole to-do and how it would go.  Add to that the fact that I'm not supposed to have caffeine (it constricts your blood vessels, and mine are already constricted on their own) and I am on my own to be bright and cheery in the morning!

And so I did.  I dragged my butt out of bed, I prepped my supplies, and I went out to cook.

I feel like it went well.  It was lovely for being early - not too hot, not raining - and I had my farmers around me.  And I got my first opportunity to cook in front of people.  Fortunately, my belly dance classes have prepared me well.  Talking at a volume that will carry over a busy farmers market is about the same as talking over a class of music and ziling, but to be fair then all I have to say is "and a five, and a six, and a seven, and an eight."

My goal was to promote the farmers.  That is, after all, what I am here for most: to promote the farmers, to promote real food, and to promote people being less afraid to cook for themselves.  I feel like I did a good job of that.  Some of my favorite farmers were not there, which was sad because I would have like to share their meals with them.  In the end, they did the work.  How am I possibly to fail, when I am starting with something so good?

Hopefully I also brought a few new readers on board.  If I did, welcome!  I'm here to help you work a little more local into your life.  And also to rant about the food choices I see made around me.  I like bacon.  I like booze (more on that later).  And I like when I try something that surprises me.

As I said at my demo (if you were there) the trick to cooking from the farmer's market is to not be too set on a recipe.  If you find your recipe, write your list, and go to the market looking for exactly what you need, you're not going to be successful.  The market requires a little more flexibility.  I read a lot of recipes online, and I am highly annoyed by the reviews that read like this: "I tried this recipe and it was terrible.  I didn't have any heavy cream, so I substituted Kahlua.  I also didn't have any potatoes, so I substituted marshmallows.  The finished result was far too sweet.  Whoever wrote this recipe doesn't understand how to cook!"  Don't be that guy.  But at the same time, in order to cook from the farmer's market, you kind of need to be that guy.  But smarter.  It's about an understanding of how foods react, and what really can be substituted for what.  Kahlua can be substituted for cream - if it's dessert.  Potatoes can be replaced with, depending on the recipe, sweet potatoes, turnips, carrots, parsnips, and beets.  Depending on the recipe.  Cooking isn't like baking.  It's an art, not a science, and cooking from the farmer's market, or from a CSA, emphasizes that.  Whatta ya got?  What can you do?  If it doesn't work, keep it to yourself.  If it does, revel in your successes.

Here are my recipes from the farmer's market:

Peach and Basil Salad, with Saxony Cheese
  • 2 lbs peaches, pitted, quartered, and those quarters cut in half
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup cubed Saxony Cheese or something Parmesan-y
  • About 8 large basil leaves, thinly sliced
  • Fresh ground pepper
Heat a grill to high heat.

Place the peaches in a large bowl.  Add the maple syrup, and gently stir to combine.  Over high heat, grill the peaches until warmed and slightly caramelized.  You can grill all the peaches, or you can leave a few ungrilled to create a variety of texture.

After about 5 minutes, remove the peaches from the grill and return to the bowl.  Allow to cool slightly.  Add cheese, basil, and a dash of freshly ground pepper.  Enjoy warm.

Zucchini "Pasta" with Lime Vinaigrette Dressing

I consider this recipe kind of a cheat, in that it's a good recipe base to alter.  Really, all you need is the zucchini, and in the summer that's pretty hard to get away from.  Don't have limes?  Use a high quality white wine, champagne, or white balsamic vinegar.  No tomatoes?  No problem!  Extra veggies?  Throw them in!  Top it with cheese or meat!  Looking for something more filling, add equal parts cooked spaghetti to the zucchini pasta.

One thing I meant to bring up at the market is that you do not need fancy tools to make this.  My sous-chef, Denise, has a mandolin, so we used it, but at home (where I don't have one: present idea!) I just use my box grater.  The pasta doesn't look quite as fancy, but it tastes just as good:

Zucchini "Pasta" cut on the mandolin.

Here is the recipe, as I served it at the market:

With the box grater, it's not quite as pretty...
but it's just as tasty!
  • Lime Vinaigrette (This makes a HUGE batch.  While it saves well, you may want to cut it in half, or even quarter it)
    • 1 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
    •  zest of 2 limes (zest before you squeeze the juice!)
    • 1/2 cup honey
    • 1 tsp salt
    • 1 Thai chili pepper, minced
    • 3/4 cups olive oil
    • 2 tbsp garlic scapes, minced
  • 1 large zucchini, cut into thin pasta like strips
  • 2 ears of corn
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, cut into bite sized pieces
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
Combine vinaigrette ingredients and mix well.  I recommend making in a bottle or jar that you can close tightly, and then just shaking vigorously.   I also recommend making this dressing a few hours to the night before, to allow all the flavors to marry.

On a mandolin or box grater, create long strips of the zucchini and place in a large bowl.  With a sharp knife, cut the corn off of the cob and add to the zucchini.  Add the tomatoes and stir to combine.  Add enough dressing to coat the zucchini, but don't drown it - about 2 tbsp to a quarter cup is probably good, depending on the size of your zucchini.  Toss gently, and allow to sit for at least five minutes.  The acid in the dressing will start to break down the zucchini, and it should develop a texture more like cooked pasta.

Farmer's Market Breakfast Fajitas 

This is another really good cheater recipe.  You can basically take anything, put it on a corn tortilla, and call it a taco, fajita, or burrito.  Yes, these words do mean something, but if you actually get called out on it, just tell them you're taking artistic liberties.  Cooks are artists too!

The main recipe here is actually for the skirt steak itself:

Skirt Steak Fajita Marinade:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar 
  • 1 tsp fresh ground pepper
  • 2 tbsp garlic scapes
  • 2 tbsp shallots
  • 1 tsp buckwheat honey
  • 1 tsp minced hot pepper (I used Thai Chilli because that's what I had)
Combine ingredients and mix well.  Place 2 lbs skirt steak into a freezer bag and pour in the marinade.  Seal up the bag, and give the whole thing a good massage to work the marinade into the steak.  Allow to marinate at least an hour, up to overnight.

Once you are ready to cook, heat a grill to high.  While you are waiting, prepare a double thickness of aluminum foil large enough to completely contain the steak.  Season the steak with salt and place on the grill.  Cook for about a minute and a half on each side, then transfer to the aluminum foil and wrap up tightly, sealing any ends to prevent heat from escaping.  Allow to sit for 10 to 15 minutes.  At this point, the steak is continuing to cook - it's not really resting.

Slice the steak very thinly against the grain, and serve with corn tortillas and whatever else you would like on your fajitas!


  1. For a non-morning person who can't drink caffeine, you did awesome! So glad we came. And everything was very yummy. Can't wait to try some of this out ourselves.

  2. Super fun awesome time! You were great!!!

  3. Kate was so entertaining and she didn't need a microphone!
    On another note, I have since made the Peach and Basil salad with Saxony Cheese and the Zucchini Pasta salad for a BBQ at a friends house last weekend; everyone loved both dishes! I told them what they missed by not going to the South Shore Farmer's Market when Kate was doing her demo dressed in her fancy-frilly apron!