Sunday, June 15, 2008

Wonderful Market "Social"

This week my friend Montana approached me all excited saying she had the best time this past Saturday thanks to the South of the James Market and the creative planning of a friend of hers from church. Montana's friend, Andrea had decided to host a fantastic day of celebrating food, community and the joy of meeting and making new friends. Okay so how did Montana's host accomplish this? She started by inviting a small group of people from her church who may have met before, but never really got to spend much time together. The guests joined the host and her husband for a Saturday Morning Breakfast of homemade scones, with homemade jam and coffee followed by a group trip to the South of the James Market.
The host had planned out in advance a lunch menu that allowed for some tweaking based on what was available at the market and then everyone shopped the market for all the necessary ingredients to make a fantastic lunch. My friend Montana says that she had not ever been to this market before, and she felt that most of the other guests were not accustomed to shopping at farmers markets. This fun group outing allowed them to explore the market with an experienced market shopper and then see how all the great produce you can find there can be turned into a great fresh meal.
Once all the ingredients had been procured and some of the guests had found things to purchase just for themselves, they all headed back to the car and their host's home to spend a couple hours working together to prepare and enjoy their meal! Once the guest returned home they found all of the recipes for the foods they had just enjoyed had been e-mailed to them.
Montana had a great day she says, making new friends, exploring the market and enjoying wonderful food. She lives in the far west end and she has a real interest in fresh farmers market produce. While the market they visited is probably too far for her to travel to on a regular basis she is hopeful to visit the New Lakeside Market and would like to see that grow and expand. She also suggested that a market closer to her in the short pump area would be the thing to really draw her out.
So what great foods did this party enjoy....? Here is the e-mail that was sent full of helpful tips and great recipes!

Farmer’s Market Lunch – Recipes
Oatmeal Scones
From Baking Illustrated: A Best Recipe Classic, by the Editors of Cook’s Illustrated (NY, 2004).
Note: Yes, I’m aware of the large amount of butter and full-fat dairy. You’re still alive, aren’t you?
1 1/3 cups oatmeal (rolled oats or quick oats)
¼ c whole milk
¼ c heavy cream
1 egg
1 ½ cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
10 Tbsp cold butter, cut up
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spread oats over a cookie sheet. Bake 7-9 minutes, or until fragrant and lightly browned. Cool.
Increase oven temperature to 450 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
Whisk together milk, cream, and egg. Remove 1 tablespoon of mixture to use for glazing.
Place flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt into food processor. Pulse to mix. Add the cold butter. Pulse until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. (If you don’t have a food processor – use a pastry blender or knives to cut in the butter.)
Transfer mixture to a bowl. Stir in oats. With a spatula, stir in liquid ingredients, until it comes together in a mass. (Mixture will be sticky.)
Dust work surface with flour. Turn dough out. Form into a 7-inch circle (about 1-inch thick). Cut into 8 wedges. Use a spatula to transfer wedges onto paper-lined baking sheet. Brush with reserved milk mixture.
Bake till browned, 12-14 minutes. Cool on pan 5 minutes. Transfer to wire rack to cool completely.
Strawberry Jam & Cherry Jam
No big secrets here – I follow the directions on the package of Sure-Jell for low-sugar recipes (the pink box, not the yellow one). The strawberry is a freezer jam, and the cherry is a regular cooked jam. Tart cherries are hard to find in Virginia – I had to drive forever to get them. Let me know if you have a better source!

Pizza Dough
(The host own recipe)
(makes enough for 2 pizzas)
3 ½ cups bread flour
2 packages dry yeast
1 tsp salt
½ tsp sugar
1 ¼ c warm water
¼ c olive oil (can use less oil – but use at least 2 Tbsp)
1 tsp olive oil (for coating dough)
Cornmeal for dusting
Combine flour, yeast, salt, and sugar. Add water and olive oil. Mix until combined, then knead 10 minutes. (I do this in my Kitchenaid mixer.) Add 1 tsp olive oil to coat dough. Cover and let rise till doubled (1-2 hours). Punch down. (If there’s time, raise and punch down 1 or 2 more times – the more you let it rise, the better it tastes.)
Makes 2 crusts.
For oven: Preheat pizza stone to 500 degrees. Roll out dough and top. Carefully slide onto pizza stone. Bake 10-12 minutes.
Pizza on the Grill
For grill: Preheat grill to blazing hot. Roll out dough. Slide dough directly onto grill rack. Cover and bake until firm enough to flip over – about 3-5 minutes. Flip dough over (using tongs), and quickly top with toppings. Cover and bake until done – about 5 minutes more.
Friday Night Pizza (recommended by Elaine)
From Barbara Kingsolver, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year in Food Life (NY, 2007).
(makes enough for 2 pizzas)
3 tsp yeast
1 ½ c warm water
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
2 ½ c white flour
2 c whole wheat flour
Dissolve yeast in warm water. Add oil and salt. Mix the flours and knead them into the liquid mixture. Let dough rise for 30-40 minutes. Divide in half and roll out two 12-inch crusts. Top and bake at 425 for 20 minutes.
NOTE: Pizza dough freezes well. Punch dough down, and freeze in a plastic bag. To thaw, place bag in a bowl and thaw in the fridge (will take about a day). Bring to room temperature before rolling out.

Swiss Chard Tacos
From Rick Bayless, Mexican Everyday (NY, 2005).
Roasted tomato salsa:
1 14-oz. can fire-roasted tomatoes (try Muir Glen) – or roast your own (see next page)
1 jalepeno pepper, or 1 chipotle pepper (canned, packed in adobo) – or more or less, to taste
1-2 cloves garlic, whole and unpeeled
Swiss chard filling:
1 bunch (12 ounces) Swiss chard or other greens (beet greens, spinach, etc.) – washed and dried
1 ½ Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp red pepper flakes (or more or less, to taste)
Corn tortillas
Goat cheese or queso fresco or feta
For salsa:
In a small dry pan (cast iron is best) over medium-low heat, place the garlic and the jalepeno (if using). Slowly pan-roast the garlic & chile, turning, until browned on all sides. Peel garlic. Rub skins off pepper. Slice off stem of pepper, slice lengthwise, and remove seeds.
Drain tomatoes. Place tomatoes, chile, and garlic in food processor. Pulse until pureed.
For filling:
To prepare chard, remove stems from leaves. Chop stems into 1/2-inch pieces. Chop leaves into 1-inch pieces.
Put onion and oil in large nonstick pan over medium heat. Sprinkle with about ½ tsp salt. Slowly cook until caramelized (10-15 minutes). Add garlic and red pepper. Add chard stems and cook till just tender. Add leaves and stir until wilted. (Covering the pan can quicken the wilting time.

Note: I roast tomatoes, rather than canning them – they have tons of flavor and their uses are limitless. Plus, it takes much less work than canning! (Try just pureeing roasted tomatoes, and then cooking them with garlic, olive oil, and thyme for the best pasta sauce ever.)
Roasted Roma Tomatoes
Roma tomatoes, sliced in half lengthwise
Salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line baking sheets with foil. Lay tomatoes, cut side up, on baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper. Roast until slightly browned and cooked, about 20-25 minutes.
Freeze tomatoes, with juices. Can be pureed without peeling.
Slow-Roasted Tomatoes and Garlic
From Tom Collichio, Think Like a Chef (NY, 2000).
(This recipe makes 3 different ingredients – roasted tomatoes, roasted garlic cloves, and roasted tomato juice.)
20 ripe tomatoes, peeled, stems and cores removed, sliced in half crosswise
2 heads garlic, divided into cloves
½ cup olive oil
Salt and pepper
8 sprigs fresh thyme
Heat oven to 275 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with aluminum foil. In a large bowl, toss all ingredients. Place tomatoes, cut sides down, onto the baking sheet. Divide the rest of the mixture (garlic, oil, thyme) over the tomatoes.
Roast 3-5 hours, turning once during process. While roasting, periodically pour off the juice that collects in the pan – save the juice. Roast until tomatoes look slightly shrunken, and concentrated (but not yet dry).
Allow tomatoes to cool in the pan. Discard thyme stems. Store tomatoes, juice, and garlic in separate containers. Refrigerate for 1 week or freeze for 6 months.

Home-cooked beans: A bit of work, but they taste better than canned, and have no mystery ingredients. I get my beans from the bulk bins at Ellwood Thompson’s. They’re typically fresher, better quality, organic, and cheaper than grocery-store bags of beans (a win-win-win-win). Cooked beans can be frozen, in their cooking liquid.
Basic Cannellini Beans or Chickpeas
From Jack Bishop, The Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook (NY: 1997).
1 pound dried cannelloni (or Great Northern) beans, or chickpeas, washed and picked over
3 large garlic cloves
2 bay leaves
Place beans in large bowl, and add enough water to cover by several inches. Soak at least 8 hours or overnight. (Quick method: bring beans and water to boil. Reduce heat and simmer 2 minutes. Turn off heat, cover, and let sit 1 hour.)
Drain beans. Place beans in large pot, and add enough fresh water to cover by several inches. Add garlic and by leaves. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes. Add salt to taste (1-2 teaspoons) and continue cooking until beans are tender but not falling apart (anywhere between 5 and 30 minutes more). Turn off heat and allow to cool in their cooking liquid. Discard bay and garlic before using or freezing.

Sicilian Chickpeas with Escarole and Caramelized Onions
From Jack Bishop, The Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook (NY: 1997).
1 large escarole head (about 1½ lbs), well washed, dried, and torn into 2-inch pieces
¼ cup olive oil
1 large or 2 medium onions, halved and thinly sliced (about 2½ -3 cups or so)
2 tsp sugar
¼ cup raisins
Salt and pepper
3 cups chickpeas, drained – reserve 1/3 cup cooking liquid
Heat oil in large sauté pan. Add onions and ¼ tsp salt, and cook over medium-low heat, stirring often, until golden (about 15 minutes). Add sugar and cook until onions are golden brown (about 5 minutes – be careful not to burn).
Add raisins and escarole to pan. Cook, turning escarole occasionally, until greens are wilted but still crunchy (about 5 minutes). Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Stir in chickpeas, raisins, and cooking liquid. Simmer about 3 minutes. Serve either warm or room temperature.

UPDATE: It turns out the name of this creative and clever host is Andrea. Since the original June 16th posting date of this story I have been able to communicate with Andrea directly and she has provided me with this nice insight into her motivation and some practical steps behind this market based event.
A letter from Andrea......
"My partner and I have been members of various CSAs in Richmond, and are currently members of the Victory Farms CSA. We love cooking with friends, so this was just a bigger version (there were 10 of us total) than we usually do. I had a full pantry that day, in anticipation of making whatever came to people's minds. (In the pantry/fridge: veggie stock, pre-cooked beans, various citrus, good parmesan cheese, rice, pasta, polenta, garlic and ginger - plus I made sure my spices, oils, and vinegars were all full.) We have an herb garden, so I anticipated using that, too. I made pizza dough in the morning, and set it to rise. I also provided breakfast (people had paid for the event, so I wanted people to feel a little spoiled).

The foods we made were really just some of the foods in my regular rotation of dishes, plus lots of ideas from others. One person transformed a bunch of arugula into pesto. Another made a vinaigrette for salad. One person made bruschetta. Everybody helped clean and prep veggies. My partner tended the grill. (It was 100 degrees out - so he gets major points for that!)

Coincidentally, several of the people who attended had recently read The Omnivore's Dilemma. I think that consciousness about the provenance of one's dinner has become more of an accessible idea. (It was that book that really transformed my own thinking about it - shifting me from just being a budding foodie to being more of a locavore.) I had a few goals in planning the event. First, like any host, I wanted people to feel comfortable and well-cared for. I wanted them to eat delicious food. I wanted us to spend a leisurely time together while actually doing something - to get to know one another while our hands were working together on a shared task. And, I wanted people to feel like this kind of eating, and this kind of living, is accessible and real and fun. I'm really pleased with the outcome. "

Thank you Andrea!


  1. for those in the far west end I recommend a trip out to the Goochland Farmers' Market.

  2. I buy my tart cherries from Traverse Bay Farms
    They ship fresh tart cherries, frozen tart cherries and cherry juice. They also have tart cherry capsules. Good Luck