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Foodist Approved: Pesto Pasta Salad with Grilled Veggies and Sardines Recipe

by | Jul 19, 2016
Pesto Pasta with Grilled Veggies and Sardines

Pesto Pasta with Grilled Veggies and Sardines

Yup, you heard that right, sardines! Sardines are a much-underutilized ingredient, but should be a staple you keep on hand in your pantry. They’re a great addition to pasta because they add satisfying umami flavor, protein, and a serious omega-3 boost.

Since sardines are much lower in mercury and other toxins, they’re my go-to over tuna (Darya’s too). My two-year-old loves them and eats them straight up out of the can (personally I prefer them mixed into dishes like pasta and egg salad).

For this pasta dish, I was inspired by the broccolini and summer squash at the farmers market, but feel free to mix it up and grill any assortment of summer favorites. Red peppers, eggplant, fennel, and asparagus are other reliable grill-time staples.

If you’re feeding a small army, I recommend doubling this recipe. It makes great leftovers and can be served cold as a salad for lunch the next day.

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Foodist Approved: Summer Quinoa Salad Recipe

by | Jun 14, 2016
farmers market quinoa salad

farmers market quinoa salad

The ingredients in this hearty grain salad celebrate the start of summer and the opening of farmers markets across the country. This quinoa salad is packed with a power combo of kale, sugar snap peas, and radishes and is tossed with a bright lemony vinaigrette.

The secret that takes this salad from good to great is adding finely grated lemon zest to the vinaigrette. The zest brightens the other flavors and creates a beautiful flavor profile.

A microplane zester is an inexpensive tool worthy of adding to your kitchen gadget collection. Otherwise a paring knife can be used to carefully remove the zest from the pith. This will give you large pieces of zest that then need to be minced finely. Lemon zest adds exceptional flavor to everything from dressings to marinades to baked goods.

I’ll admit it. I made this salad three times this week! The first night for recipe testing, the next night for dinner at grandma’s house, and a couple nights later for a dinner party with friends. It was an acclaimed winner at every event.

Top this salad with a soft-boiled egg for a quick, nourishing meal or serve as a side with grilled steak for a no-stress dinner party.

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Foodist Approved: Radicchio Salad with Roasted Figs and Walnuts

by | Sep 22, 2015

roasted fig salad kopecky 2 edit sm

Since figs are in season just once a year, for a short period when summer fades into fall, this is the salad I’m devouring right now. The bitter radicchio paired with the sweet, caramelized, roasted figs and the salty crumbles of goat cheese satisfies every craving in one forkful.

Figs are one of those rare fruits that producers haven’t yet figured out how to grow out of season, ship from halfway around the world, or pick under-ripe and store for months on end. Therefore the figs you’re seeing right now at your grocery store or farmers market are at peak perfection.

Transform this salad into a nourishing meal, perfect for lunch or dinner, by tossing in a cup of cooked farro, wheat berries, or brown rice.

When figs are not in season, pears or grapes make impressive stand-ins.

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Farmers Market Update: Pteleos, Greece

by | Dec 2, 2012

Pteleos is surrounded by half a million olive trees

Matthew Denos of  Lodlois.com is a biologist who lives in Greece. He enjoys the Mediterranean diet and lifestyle after spending 6 years in the US working as a research fellow in academia. He believes that health is our greatest resource and therefore it’s worth keeping it optimum. When he doesn’t review diets and gourmet food delivery programs at SeaRocketBistro he is outdoors biking, mountain climbing or windsurfing.

Farmers Market Update: Pteleos, Greece

by Matthew Denos

Pteleos Farmers Market

I am blessed to live in Greece. Yes, the economy sucks, unemployment is at an all time high, the cost of living is expensive, and basic salary is a joke. Yet, I wouldn’t trade the Greek islands, the beaches and the mountains for any of the strong economies up north or overseas. I wouldn’t trade the Greek food, either—the healthy  Mediterranean diet. The extra virgin olive oil, wine, feta cheese, seafood, olives, unique herbs and spices—the Mediterranean lifestyle in all its forms has a top place in my heart.

Fortunately, the Greek food chain is not as industrialized as it is in other Western countries. Of course, food is nowhere what it once was. But Greece is a relatively small market in Southeast Europe (the gate to the East), and, thankfully, has not yet totally assimilated the Western diet. Our traditional diet still holds strong, and healthy soils abound, especially in Greek islands and villages.

Last summer I spent a few weeks in my grandfather’s village in Pteleos, where I had the opportunity to visit the local farmers market. Pteleos is a picturesque village nestled among curvy hills on the west side of Pagasitikos Gulf, in Thessaly, Greece, not far away from gorgeous beaches facing Aegean Sea. Thessaly is the birthplace of Greek hero Achilles (think Brad Pitt in the movie Troy).

Melons

Olives and olive oil are the farmers’ main produce in Pteleos, and this shouldn’t come as a surprise given that there are over half a million olive trees planted within a radius of 3 miles from the village center. The village is basically embedded in a huge plantation of olive trees. The local farmers, which are mostly olive oil producers, own the plantations. Yet, it’s impossible for them to harvest all these fields by themselves, which is why each year in November, when the olive tree harvest begins, they hire workers from Bulgaria, the neighboring country, to help them out.

As I headed to the market that Wednesday morning, I was excited to meet the farmers. It was my first visit ever. Some of the farmers live and work in Pteleos while others come from nearby villages (Sourpi, Valestino, Almyros). Most of them have their own plantations and are proud and passionate about the quality of their products. Others are simply re-sellers of produce they bring from distant parts of the country. Farming is for them a family business. One can sense the care and passion that goes into cultivating the land, sowing the seeds, growing, protecting, and harvesting the plants, and finally selling the product. It’s a long and strenuous process which the family is proud of.

Beautiful Assortment of Peppers

The market takes place outdoors in a car park every Wednesday. It starts at 8am and goes until noon. It’s worth getting to the market early, so at 9am I was there, with my Olympus Stylus Tough 8010 in hand, greeting the first stall owner with a smile.

He thought I was a tourist and greeted me in English. Pteleos, and the broader area, is a popular summer vacation destination. When I told him I am just taking pictures for an article I am going to publish at a California-based health site, he gladly pointed me to his colorful and fresh produce. I loved his beautiful array of groceries of the nightshade family. Peppers of different shapes and colors drew my attention, as well as the shiny, ovoid, dark purple eggplants. I bought two pounds of peppers. Pepper is part of my daily high-protein, veggie-rich omelet.

A little further down there was a stall full of melons. The football shaped ones are called “Thrakiotika” (Thracian), because they grow in Thrace, the northeastern section of Greece, bordering Bulgaria to the north and Turkey to the east. I bought one and it was really sweet. In the summer, production of watermelons is in full swing. The stall owner was thirsty this sunny day and was feasting on a half watermelon.

Feasting on Watermelon

Across the way was a stall displaying a beautiful assortment of apples. Did you know that green apples have fewer calories than red? 30% less to be exact. This is because they contain less sugar. The same holds true when you compare the green and non-green version of almost any fruit or vegetable. Green olives have 38% fewer calories than black olives. Green peppers are 29% less calorie dense than red peppers.

Apples

As I had approached the apple stand, thinking about the calorie content of green and red apples, the farmer behind it greeted me. I introduced myself as a reporter for local Greek farmers markets. “Can you take a picture of me, too?” he asked. “Certainly,” I replied, “people in San Francisco and around the world will be glad to see your produce.” Another lady from a nearby stall heard the conversation and came along for the shot.

SummerTomato.com

As I wandered around the stalls, picking my weekly groceries, I stopped to buy some tomatoes. I love tomatoes, especially if they are produced organically. This was not an organic farmers market (like the one I visited in Patras), still the farmers try to use as little pesticide as possible to grow their produce. Some grow the produce in their backyards without using chemicals at all, mainly for their own household’s needs. They then sell what they don’t consume themselves. Tomatoes sell for 1 euro a kilo (USD 59 cents a pound).

Tomatoes

In general, organically produced tomatoes are less attractive than conventional ones. Take a look at these two photos below and compare the looks and the taste. Well, you cannot actually taste them, but I did. The difference is like day and night.

Compare Tomatoes

The ones on the top tasted much better and were full of flavor.  If you look at them you will notice that they are not as pleasant to the eye as the ones beneath. They are not evenly colored. They have patches of green. They have scars, too. Obviously, in the absence of pesticides and other chemicals, appearance is compromised in favor of taste.

At this point, I heard somebody coming from behind me and I turned around. “Take a look at these gigantic beets! You should feature them in your report,” a vendor said as she held these huge beets proudly in front of my camera. Her request was hard to beet.

Big Beets

Peaches, nectarines, and vanilla plums make it to the list of my favorite summer fruits. Their distinctive aroma and color drew my attention. The ones I purchased had really juicy flesh. They were highly flavored and had a sweet and sour taste.

Vanilla Plums and Peaches

Potatoes and onions are always displayed together in any Greek farmers market I have visited. I like onions because they add to the tastiness of many foods. I eat one a day as they are one of the healthiest vegetables. Being aware of the enormous health benefits onions, famous American chef Julia Child once commented “I cannot imagine a world without onions.” I got a few from the stand below.

Onions

As my Pteleos farmers market trip drew to an end, I looked around for grapes. Grape is regarded by many in Greece as the king of fruits. Here grapes support a vibrant wine industry which is rich in native varieties. Grapes are a seasonal fruit that is available in the market only from August to November. The variety I bought is called “σταφίδα” (stafida – raisins) because it is the variety used for the production of raisins.

Grapes

I was about to leave when I noticed two of my favorite medicinal herbs. Mountain tea (sideritis) and oregano. Both are native plants. They grow in Greek mountains. The vendor opened a bag where he kept the oregano, and the aromatic oils, which are strong enough to numb the tongue, filled the air.

Oregano and Mountain Tea

The farmers market in Pteleos is a lovely place to go shopping if you ever happen to visit Thessaly, the homeland of hero Achilles.

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Farmers Market Update: Tucson

by | Aug 26, 2012
Two-Tone Crook Neck Squash

Zephyr Squash

My name is Ashley Mason, and I’m a graduate student who lived in Tucson for five years while working on my PhD. My husband Evan works in tech. We love to play scrabble, frequent farmers markets, drink wine while cooking, and eat dark chocolate while watching The Daily Show. We’ve been novice weight lifters for about four years. We are leaving our treasured Tucson to move to Palo Alto in just two weeks’ time for his work and my residency.

Farmers Market Update: Tucson

by Ashley Mason

When people hear “Tucson,” they often think, “hot, unbearable heat” and “dry, cactus-filled desert.” Indeed, these are both true, but a whole lot of wonderful produce grows here, and there is quite a bit of pasture on which to raise animals. Tucson is a relatively small town, and home to a variety of small farmers markets.

The good news is that no matter where one lives, there is a market nearby. Here, though, one has to come to market early, or risk missing some of the best picks—to other people, or to the heat, whichever arrives first. My husband and I generally like to purchase our eggs, vegetables, cheeses, beef, fruits, and bacon at the markets, so we generally cover two markets each weekend. This was our last weekend venture to these markets before our move to California.

Goat Cheeses

Goat Cheeses

The Philips Plaza Tucson farmers market, located north of Tucson proper, is a Tucson gem. One can find a variety of eggs (duck, quail, peacock, or chicken), local cheeses (especially goat cheeses), breads, and of course, fruits and vegetables. The market this August was brimming with peaches and squash. This week I hosted a brunch for several friends who love spicy food and wanted to make a quiche, so I was particularly after eggs and anything I could incorporate into the quiche or as a side.

The Fiore de Capra sells goat’s milk cheeses that are just to die for. From spreads to solid cheeses for slicing, they have quite the variety. Their cheeses are tangy and have a fabulous texture, not a bit grainy. One of the best things is that the marinades that the cheeses are packed in (olive oil and various peppers, peppercorns, etc.) makes a wonderful marinade for chicken or other vegetables long after the cheese is gone. I opted for a baked goat brie wedge and a goat cheese marinated in a mixture of olive oil and jabanero peppers. Who doesn’t want to wake up to a goat cheese quiche?

Fiore de Capra Cheeses

Fiore de Capra Cheeses

The Village Bakehouse is a famous-to-Tucson local bakery that specializes in breads. At this booth if you ask for olive bread, whichever baker is working will likely ask you what type of olives you prefer. They also make excellent pecan rolls. My husband has a soft spot for these, so we picked one up.

Pastries

Pastries

Maria of Durazo’s Poco Loco Specialty Salsas has something for everyone. Our favorite? Her chunky pico de gallo, made with home-roasted local chiles. Although one might think of tomatoes as the primary ingredient here, Maria focuses heavily on the natural oils in the chiles when she describes each of her offerings. She also makes wonderful fruit salsas with peaches and mangos. Evan actually plops this salsa in the pan with his eggs every morning, and the smell of roasted green chiles floods our apartment.

Maria

Maria

Right by Durazo’s is Tortilla Arevalo, which sells mesquite flour tortillas, corn tortillas, tamales, and homemade chips deep fried in olive oil. These are a real treat.

Arevalo

Arevalo

Grammy’s Garden, located in Wilcox Arizona, always has wonderful produce. The sweet potatoes are awesome, especially when roasted with a mixture of coconut oil, paprika, and cinnamon. They also grow a variety of tomatoes and other well-known vegetable varieties. I picked up a few sweet potatoes and started dreaming up a curried sweet potato hash side dish.

Grammys Garden

Grammy's Garden

These cherry tomatoes were delicious—flavorful, sweet, and perfect for roasting or simply eating drizzled with balsamic and olive oil. We decided these would make a lovely roasted tomato side dish. We picked up a couple of pints of cherry tomatoes.

Tomatoes

Tomatoes

George and his grandmother oversee the production of a variety of pickled and preserved vegetables, as well as jams and jellies.

Grammys Jars

Grammys Jars

My husband and I normally buy a lot of yellow squash, and frequently make Darya’s “pasta” recipe by using a peeler to create large fettuccine noodles, but this week we held out for some different squashes that are not as frequently available. Larry’s Veggies is an excellent place for all things squash. They always have a variety of shapes, colors, and sizes of squash, and this week I was in the mood for something different.

Larry's Summer Squash

Larry's Summer Squash

Crook-neck squash and large summer squashes are excellent both cooked and raw. The smaller crook neck squashes are actually on the sweet side this year, and when sliced, make excellent “chips” for salsa or guacamole dipping. We like to thinly slice the larger squash and layer the slices with goat cheese and homemade marinara sauce, and bake it into a sort of “lasagna.”

Two-Tone Squash

Two-Tone Squash

Larry’s also has eggs from their small flock of chickens, and the yolks are almost the color of a florida navel orange. I picked up a variety of squashes and the last dozen of eggs, along with a hefty bag of baby lettuces and a couple cloves of garlic.

Larry's Veggies

Larry's Veggies

I’d already gotten cherry tomatoes, but these looked good too!

Garlic and Cherry Tomatoes

Garlic and Cherry Tomatoes

We picked up several squash from Leo Big D Farms. The purple okra looked beautiful, too.

Leo Big D

Leo Big D

Wilcox peaches, which are actually cling peaches, are a must if you can find them in August in Tucson. They are the most delicious peaches I’ve ever had. They are small, but the flavor is intense. Delicious (and a sticky mess) in the car on the way home, but also when sliced and mixed with fresh blueberries. I purchased a few pounds from Grammy’s Farm. We cite these peaches for our complete disinterest in store-bought peaches.

Peaches

Peaches

It would not be a Tucson market without some chili offerings. These jalapeños were on the cusp of becoming the hottest that they ever will. A lone jalapeño was the first to start to turn color. We chose a very small one to mince for the quiche.

Jalapeno

Jalapeno

Since we knew we would need a good deal of eggs, and had some hopes for bacon and homemade beef breakfast sausage, we had also driven 10 minutes north to the Oro Valley farmers market the previous day (Saturday), just outside of Tucson city limits, to get some eggs and meats.

The grassfed beef from Sombrero Butte Beef company is unbelievable. Laurie, the ranch owner, and her husband, raise the cattle and slaughter approximately two per month. For over a year, Laurie set aside tenderloin roasts for me, and we used them at our wedding this past June in Chicago. The TSA at the airport got to know me as “the beef lady” as I carted frozen beef to Chicago four times over the course of the year! Laurie also occasionally has local bacon—a real treat. We picked up a couple pounds of ground beef to make into beef sausage patties, along with a couple pounds of bacon. Earlier in the week, I’d gotten some spices from Penzeys that I use to make “sausage.”

Laurie

Laurie

This family runs the Rancho Chico Eggs, which specializes in a variety of eggs, from chicken eggs to peacock eggs. The couple who run this booth are engineers who also have a knack for raising chickens and other birds, and bring their five children with them every week.

Rancho Chico

Rancho Chico

The children are often over by Laurie’s beef stand, snacking on whatever she’s cooked up to sample, but always come back to greet customers. I average two hugs per visit from the little girls. We picked up a dozen chicken eggs here.

Rancho kids

Rancho kids

In total, we had wonderful ingredients for the brunch. We made a goat cheese quiche with baby greens and pico de gallo, curried sweet potato hash, bacon, grass-fed beef sausages, roasted cherry tomatoes with balsamic vinegar, and sliced peaches. Everything was a hit, not a leftover in sight! Later that week, we made the above-mentioned “lasagna,” also delicious.

The Loot

The Loot

Purchases:

  • 2 pounds grass fed ground beef from Sombrero Butte Beef Company
  • 2 pounds local bacon from Sombrero Butte Beef Company
  • 3 pounds Wilcox (cling) peaches from Grammy’s Garden
  • 1 pint mild pico de gallo salsa from Durazo’s Poco Loco Specialty Salsas
  • 1 spaghetti squash from Sleeping Frogs Farms
  • 1 bag mixed lettuces from Larry’s Veggies
  • 1 tiny jalapeno from Leo Big D Farms
  • 1 dozen eggs from Larry’s Veggies
  • 1 dozen eggs from Rancho Chico Eggs
  • 1 package goat cheese marinated in jabanero peppers and olive oil
  • 1 baked goat cheese brie wedge from Fiore de Capra cheeses
  • 3 large sweet potatoes from Grammy’s Garden
  • Several two-tone squash from Leo Big D Farms
  • Several summer squash from Larry’s Veggies
  • 2 pints cherry tomatoes from Grammy’s Garden
  • 1 pecan roll from The Village Bakehouse (didn’t make it home! Devoured in the car.)

What was at your farmers market this week?

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Farmers Market Update: Midsummer in San Francisco

by | Aug 5, 2012
Red Zebra Tomatoes

Red Zebra Tomatoes

I checked the weather report this morning and apparently most of the US is experiencing 100+° weather. You may be suffering, but I’m jealous of all of you. It was 57° here in SF this morning, and I wore a wool sweater and windbreaker to the farmers market, but once I got there I really wished I’d had my scarf and hat. Burrrrrrr!

The grass is always greener, right?

Thumbalina Carrots

Thumbalina Carrots

I love sun and heat, but the one advantage I had this morning was that pictures turn out much better on overcast days. Since no one told the sunny farms around the Bay Area that it isn’t actually summer here, we had all the bright, beautiful produce a warm summer would promise. We just have to eat it in the cold.

Golden Beets

Golden Beets

It has actually been weeks since I’d last been to the market, due to the extensive travel schedule I’ve had this summer. And despite my shivers it was sooooooo nice to be back.

Gypsy Peppers

Gypsy Peppers

Gosh vegetables are beautiful this time of year. Have you ever tried purple beans?

Purple and Green Beans

Purple and Green Beans

Needless to say I bought everything I could carry in two Mercado bags, doing my best to take advantage of the produce peaking this time of year. Stone fruits like peaches, nectarines and plutos (plums) are working their magic right now.

Pluots

Pluots

Summer squash is something I look forward to all year. I was particularly excited today to find bitter melon, a vegetable I ate a lot of in Okinawa earlier this year.

Squash and Bittermelon

Squash and Bittermelon

Honestly I may have purchased more than we can eat, but we’ll do our best.

Today’s purchases (~$40):

What did you find at the market this week?

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Farmers Market Update: Burgundy, France

by | Jun 24, 2012

Wild Asparagus

Elyse Kopecky is an Oregonian living, working and playing outdoors in Geneva, Switzerland. She’s a passionate foodie lifestyle blogger who enjoys inspiring friends to live fresh. Follow her adventures in the kitchen and on the trail at www.freshabits.com and @freshabits.

Farmer Market Update: Beaune, France

by Elyse Kopecky

Beaune is a historic ville surrounded by vineyards and small organic farms spread across rolling hills. It’s known as the wine and gastronomic capital of the Burgundy region, and for good reason. The tiny town comes alive on Saturdays with an impressive local food market featuring specialties from the Burgundy region.

Beaune Market Square

I have a passion for farmers markets (borderline obsession) and often drag my husband to obscure places just to check out the local market. I first fell in love with Beaune in March when my husband and I planned a fun Burgundy-wine-and-cooking weekend excursion to celebrate our 7th anniversary.

Buying Vegetables

My husband and I returned for a second visit this June. Our trip was well timed. The bountiful spring harvest had begun, and the stands in the market were packed with an array of colorful fruits and vegetables. I loved all the variations of fresh berries, including wild sweet strawberries, tart currants, blackberries, and cherries.

Wild Berries

Wild Berries

The Beaune farmers market takes over a historic square in the heart of the walled old town and overflows into the surrounding cobbled side streets. Within the square there is a well-worn covered food market where you’ll find the butchers, artisan cheese makers, and fishmongers setting up shop.

Market Crowd

Don’t be alarmed that the meat actually resembles the animal, meaning the chickens, ducks, and pigs still have their endearing heads attached. That’s how the French spot quality and freshness.

Outside, the square is packed with rows of tables where the farmers sell everything from seasonal produce to olives, dried herbs, cured meats, farm-fresh eggs, crusty baguettes, creamy honey, hand-pressed oils, freshly picked flowers, and of course Burgundy wine (Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are the specialties of the region).

Cured Meats

One of my favorite stops was the stand of a young organic farmer from the Ferme duJointout, where they grow a rotation of seasonal vegetables and raise grass-fed goats and sheep. By the time my husband and I got to the Jointout stand, all that remained were a small selection of cheeses and a few bouquets of herbs, spring greens, and lettuces. With dirt from his farm caked beneath his fingernails, the young farmer looked as if he had arrived at the market straight from the field. A sure sign of farm-to-table!

Organic Farmer

I bought one of his last heads of deep purple romaine lettuce and my favorite chevre frais (goat cheese). The chevre frais was the first item we polished off when we arrived back at our home in Geneva. The Jointout artisan cheeses are so fresh and creamy that they alone are worth driving to Beaune to discover.

The French are serious about their food. They will happily talk about their produce, where it comes from, how it was grown, and how best to prepare (cook in butter, top with cream of course!).

Chanterelles Mushrooms

Chanterelles Mushrooms

Burgundy is proudly a leading region for organic food (called agriculture biologique) and most of the surrounding farms open their doors to visitors (you can buy half a lamb directly from the farm). Although, you do have to be careful that you’re buying from the “producers” and not the “traders,” just as you have to be in any market in Europe, but the traders are fairly easy to spot because their stands are usually full of bananas and pineapples, items clearly not native to France.

Organic Radishes

I made my way up and down every aisle and easily filled my basket to its brim. Luckily I had my husband tagging along to carry the load.

The Bounty

Here’s what we purchased:

  •  wild strawberries
  • cherries
  • blackberries
  • charentais melon (French variety)
  • baby potatoes
  • green dried lentils
  • wild asparagus
  • romaine lettuce
  • rhubarb stalks
  • coeur de boeuf tomatoes
  • sunflower honey
  • chevre frais
  • whole grain baguette
  • Burgundy Pinot Noir

Thankfully, Beaune is an easy two-hour drive from Geneva. My husband and I are already planning a return visit during the fall harvest. You can read more here to explore the impressive organic farmers and winegrowers in the Burgundy region.

Bon app!

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Farmers Market Update: Memphis

by | Sep 25, 2011
Flowers

Flowers

I’m Sharon Steed and I’m a freelance writer from Chicago. I go to Memphis a few times a year to visit some family I have down there, and this was the first time I went to the farmers market there. I lovecooking, reading, Housewives (the ladies from Beverly Hills are my favorite) and wine. You can follow me on Twitter @sharonsteed.

Farmers Market Update: Memphis

by Sharon Steed

99 degrees. That’s how hot it was at 10:00am when I got to the Memphis Farmers Market. I was in town visiting family for Labor Day weekend, and I wanted to explore something more than the Memphis night-life for this trip. The farmers market was a good way for me to see what else the city had to offer, and it helped me not gorge on yummy southern food for four days.

Memphis is known for a few things including the enormous contributions to American Music (Graceland is a little south of downtown), the Beale Street bars and good old southern hospitality. It’s not, however, known for being a hub for healthy, locally grown food. And that’s where the Memphis Farmers Market (MFM) comes in.

Memphis Farmers Market

Memphis Farmers Market

The MFM is a non-profit corporation in the State of Tennessee. They’re dedicated to providing local food choices, improving public health, educating the community on nutrition and serving as a community gathering place.

Peaches

Peaches

This was my first time venturing out during daylight hours while in Memphis, and I was pretty surprised at how much the city had to offer. The market is in the heart of downtown Memphis, and only a few blocks away from the Mississippi River and Beale Street. It was miserably hot that day – especially for someone from a cooler city like Chicago. But that didn’t stop the smiling faces and perky families from getting healthy eats.

Beets

Beets

I love cooking, but I rarely take time out to do it on vacation. Since I was in town for a long weekend, I figured this was a good opportunity to change that up. Spaghetti squash is a little bit time-consuming to cut and carve, but it’s so worth the energy. And I figured I could convince some of my family to have a few bites since it looks like linguini.

Spaghetti Squash

Spaghetti Squash

I’m obsessed with tomatoes; I put them on pretty much everything. Sometimes I even just eat them alone with maybe a little dressing. They’re a perfect vacation food because you can always find a simple greens to mix them with and it only takes a minute to cut up a couple.

Summer Tomatoes

Summer Tomatoes

Apples are a good travel food since they’re sturdy and don’t leak. I picked up some for the eight-hour drive home.

Apples

Apples

About half of the vendors there were selling artwork. This steel heart caught my eye.

Steel Heart

Steel Heart

I also saw some beautiful wood tree houses and I spent a few minutes talking to a really sweet man who made them by hand.

Gas Station Bird House

Gas Station Bird House

The granola vendor was the first one I stopped at when I got to the market, and I’m glad I did. Finding good granola is pretty difficult as I gather it’s quite challenging to make. This granola from Groovy Foods was probably the best I’ve ever had.

Granola

Granola

My mom and I have been enjoying baked stuffed peppers lately, and these were so vibrant and flavorful that it was immediately on my list for an easy vacation meal.

Green and Purple Bell Peppers

Green and Purple Bell Peppers

I was really surprised to find out that the MFM was non-profit solely focused on bringing together area farmers to sell healthy foods. The farmers market has its own outdoor facility and is run by a board of directors. The sense of community was so refreshing, and, as an out-of-towner, I was blown away by everyone’s hospitality. Memphis is a special place for me, and the MFM is now a go-to spot for all of my future visits to one of my favorite cities.

Onesie!

Onesie!

What I bought:

  • Apples
  • Roma tomatoes
  • Dark Star Granola from Groovy Foods
  • Spaghetti Squash
  • Green and Purple Bell Peppers
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Farmers Market Update: Eastern Market, D.C.

by | Sep 18, 2011
Eggplant

Eggplant

Ali is a reformed loather of all-things cooking. She recently found her inner chef after losing herself in the farmers markets and local grocers of Washington D.C. She now counts cooking with her beloved husband among the highest joys in life. Ali lives life through her taste buds, and considers the countless foods growing and living on this earth as true gifts from God.

Ali works for the United States Army in public affairs and communications and is also an instructor of cause and non-profit related communications at Georgetown University.  She has a master’s of public relations and corporate communications from Georgetown University, and lives outside D.C. with her husband and two overfed felines. When not in the kitchen, Ali enjoys training for triathlons and bikram yoga, though is admittedly terrible at and uncommitted to both. She can be found on LinkedIn as Ali Zimmer Sanders, or on Twitter as @AliZimmer.

Farmers Market Update: Eastern Market, D.C.

by Ali Sanders

Every weekend, DC’s Capitol Hill sheds its buttoned-up, political shell and exposes its warmer, friendlier side through its Eastern Market. Thousands pour in every Saturday and Sunday to walk the colorful streets and choose among the myriad odds and ends in an endless party for the senses.

Eastern Market

Eastern Market

Eastern market is a veritable mecca for vintage furniture and hand-made art, jewelry, soaps, beauty products and clothing. But the greatest draw of DC’s longest-running farmers market is the local, homegrown and farm-raised food.

My family visited us this past weekend for Labor Day, and we had lofty ambitions for cooking something special together at each meal. I introduced them to a realer side of our city, devoid of memorials and museums, tourists on Segues, and pretention. Eastern Market serves, twice a week, as DC’s thumping heartbeat, where the energy, excitement and lust for life among DC-ists is palpable.

Prior to flinging ourselves into Eastern Market proper, we enjoyed the offerings of the various merchants flanking the market on Capitol Hill. We started with a coffee and various French provisions at Montmartre, followed by deep diving into the extensive and cavernous Capitol Hill Books. We emerged ready to take it by storm.

Eastern Market consists of an indoor area for perishables like meat, dairy and seafood, and a colorful and extensive outdoor area for everything else, including all fruits and vegetables. We started at the peach stand. Can you blame us?

Peaches

Snow King Brand Peaches

These peaches suffered the fate of becoming the evening’s dessert. We sliced them, grilled them, basted them in a melted unsalted butter, cinnamon and brown sugar mixture, and dumped them, still hot, on vanilla ice cream. We then drizzled a simple raspberry sauce (made by crushing and heating raspberries over the stove and adding a touch of sugar).

A peach and tomato smorgasbord

A peach and tomato smorgasbord

Also on the side to drizzle over the dessert was fresh, local honey… purchased today.

Local honey – did I mention how delicious this tasted

Local honey – did I mention how delicious this tasted

For dinner, we created a linguini pasta mixed with fresh, late-summer veggies and a healthy amount of good-quality extra virgin olive oil. We included some of these beautiful, juicy tomatoes, almost too pretty to chop. We could sample each farmer’s tomato offering before buying the meatiest ‘maters for our meal.  This was the winner today!

Agora Farms Heirloom Tomatoes

Agora Farms Heirloom Tomatoes

We removed the casing from this sausage, cut it into small pieces and sautéed it for the pasta, keeping the juices for our sauce.

Sausage

Sausage

Chopped zucchini and onion complimented the flavors perfectly.

Mom with Zucchini

My mom displays her zucchini selection

Add chopped mozzarella, just a drizzle of marinara and a splash of parmesan.  It will rock your world.

Onions

Onions

We continued our meanderings through the market looking for the ingredients for the rest of the weekend. We decided to make berry pancakes for the next morning’s breakfast, and Coquille St. Jacques, sautéed asparagus, and oniony rice pilaf for the following evening’s dinner.

Here are a few more photos from our day in Foodie Heaven. Call me inexperienced in the world of brussel sprouts, but these were by far the daintiest, smallest sprouts I’ve ever seen. Perfectly bite-sized!

Brussels Sprouts

Brussels Sprouts

Not a very good day for these poor dudes. But the extensive seafood selection was impossible to resist. Enter our sea scallops. They don’t have faces, so it was easier to nom them later 😉

Blowfish! The notoriously deadly sushi fish

Blowfish! The notoriously deadly sushi fish

My brother’s favorite – sunflowers.

Sunflowers

Sunflowers

Fragrant herbs abounded. The merchant knew special tips about each herb and how best to use them in meals.

Herbs

Herbs

Here’s to breakfast! The next morning, we paired homemade blueberry pancakes with smoked bacon and local coffee.

Blueberries

Blueberries

I have a special place in my heart for shiny, plump little blackberries. These were just gorgeous.

Blackberries

Blackberries

At this time of year, when in the presence of black cherries, seize the day! Summer is almost gone.

Black Cherries

Black Cherries

Agora farms Oyster & Shitake mushrooms.

Mushrooms

Mushrooms

I wonder why the basil in my garden looks nothing like this.

Basil

Basil

Gracie samples Spanish manchego cheese in the market to go with our Spanish tempranillo wine.

Cheese

Cheese

The first sign of impending fall and many more seasonal blessings to come.

Pumpkins

Pumpkins

Our grocery list:

  • Peaches
  • Honey
  • Tomatoes
  • Sausage
  • Scallops
  • Blueberries
  • Onions
  • Zucchini
  • Manchego Cheese

Would you like to share your farmers market with Summer Tomato readers? Find out more.

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Farmers Market Update: Montreal

by | Sep 4, 2011
Berries

Berries

I’m so psyched to have a farmers market update this week from Montreal, Canada. Thanks to Roman Korol for today’s guide.

From Roman:

Retired. All food matters interest me keenly, as they have a direct impact on my quality of life. This interest encompasses knowledge of the farmers’ markets in my area as sources of the best food within reach. It’s therefore a rare pleasure for me to present this little introduction to Jean Talon Market which happens to be right close by my home.

Farmers Market Update: Montreal

by Roman Korol

To help situate the reader, I should mention that this market is located at a northerly latitude, in Montreal about 500 road miles or a 6-hour drive due north of New York City.

Montreal is the second-largest city in Canada and seventh-largest in North America. The city is on a boomerang-shaped island in the St. Lawrence River, accessible by a number of bridges, and the city proper has a population of two million. There are numerous suburbs beyond city limits and off-island: for Canada, this is densely-populated land.

Marche Jean Talon

Marche Jean Talon

Montreal’s most characteristic geographical feature is a triple-peaked hill in the heart of the city, Mount Royal, which gave the city and the island its name. French is the city’s official language and one sees this reflected in the public signage. Montreal is the second-largest primarily French-speaking city in the world, second only to Paris.  It is home to seven French-speaking and two English-speaking universities.

Its climate is humid continental. Summers are warm, hot and humid, which is what we’ve been having until Hurricane Irene plowed through. Winters are very cold, snowy and windy: they are generally more severe than what I experienced while living for several years in Canada’s northwest, north of the 60th parallel right up near Skagway, Alaska.

Blueberries and Carrots

Blueberries and Carrots

There are (perhaps surprisingly, because of their number) 14 farmers markets in Montreal as shown by the red pinheads on the map.  The biggest of them all is Jean-Talon Market. Its location is marked by the north-westernmost red pin that we find directly north of Mount Royal.

The market operates year-round on a 7-days-per-week basis. It first came into being in 1932 during the Great Depression by taking over the then-existing Shamrock Stadium, that had been built in 1914 for the game of lacrosse. It now covers an area in the order of 20 acres and includes private buildings, while its central permanent building provides about 3 acres of indoor space and underground parking.

Peppers

Peppers

The market lies in the middle of the Little Italy district, which kicks the general ambiance up considerably. I have the good fortune to be living just on the edge of that area.

On the day of my visit on Aug. 27, 2011, I traveled by bike to Shamrock Street which leads straight into the market’s center. This street is of course a remnant from the days of the old lacrosse stadium. How odd, to see that Irish symbol still preserved in the middle of Little Italy, and not an Irishman in sight.

A livelier introduction to the market cannot be conceived of than this captivating opera-fest performed at that very place by the Opera of Montreal one year ago. The video is well worth the viewing for its music and its glimpse into the market’s soul in such high relief, in all of only 6 minutes.

Tomatoes

Tomatoes

While the market has its own bilingual website, the part in English is (as yet) an incomplete translation of the fuller French version: it is a work-in-progress. Missing on the English side are interesting video chats with some of the farmers from the local area who bring their produce to market, that are featured on the French-language side of the website.

These videos can also be found on You Tube. Even for readers without a knowledge of French, it is perhaps of interest to peek in and see the views and the action (and hear the folksy music, too).

Here are the links:

  • Jacques and Diane Rémillard have a farm 32 miles east of Montreal at Napierville, Quebec, where they produce a wide range of vegetables as well as herbs and spices that they bring to market.
  • Serge and Diane Trottier have a farm 30 miles northwest of Montreal at Oka, Quebec where they grow strawberries, raspberries and apples. They also tend beehives. The bees of course play a key role in cross-pollination. Diane explains how much more labor-intensive is the harvesting of strawberries as compared to their other fruits.
  • Aline and Daniel Racine have a farm 20 miles north of Montreal at Ste-Anne-des-Plaines, Quebec. Daniel explains that his farm provides employment for local residents.  They own a bus that does a daily circuit  gathering up workers, mostly local teenagers, drives them to the fields, and then returns them home at day’s end. They report having no shortage of labor.
  • Thérèse and Conrad Pitre have a farm 18 miles south-east of Montreal at St-Jean-Baptiste, Quebec, producing with their family a range of fruit and vegetables. Holding a huge ripe tomato in the palm of his hand Conrad chortles, “one slice, one sandwich”.
  • Louise Marc-Aurèle and Gilbert Jodoin have a farm 27 miles south of Montreal at St-Damase, Quebec and bring their produce here and also to another farmers market in Montreal, the Atwater Market.

Like farmers everywhere, these are hardy folk. For them, attending the market is a serious and very tough livelihood.  It is nourished by time-tested knowhow that is aligned to human needs and the environment. These video interviews give a tangible sense to the value of the term “locally produced.”  No genetic manipulation need be apprehended here.  The marvelous flavor of their fresh produce at the market, harvested usually the day before, certainly proves out their worth.

Radishes, Broccoli and Cauliflower

Radishes, Broccoli and Cauliflower

On the day of my visit the weather was bright and sunny—a wonderful summer day, just one of many others like it, with the temperature edging up to 90ºF by lunchtime, and giving no inkling of the approach of Hurricane Irene the very next day.

The extensive central building at the market is identified with a discreet sign and contains many indoor shops and restaurants. The bulk of the action takes place beyond the building in a great expanse of sheltered outdoor stalls (which is where the Opera of Montreal performed). These are accessible on foot or by bike. It is easy to lose one’s bearings here if one is not paying attention, because the stalls extend outwards quite a ways. Here and there during peak periods musicians are often playing solo, or in small groups of two or three.

Green and Yellow Wax Beans

Green and Yellow Wax Beans

Leek flowers, the seeds of which are used as flavoring in many recipes. These flowers, I was told, first appear only two years after the leek is planted, if even then.

Leek Flowers

Leek Flowers

The commonplace garlic, with its extraordinary flavor and healthful nutrients, will keep for as long as three months at room temperature, without need of refrigeration. Those harvested in the fall keep even longer and will stay good through the winter. Amazing.

Garlic

Garlic

I noted with interest that the little Patty Pan squash that Kristin DeKay identified earlier in her report on Omaha, Nebraska, also makes an appearance here at Jean Talon Market under the French name of pâtissons, and these were available in both miniature and larger versions. Intriguing question, how did that name come to be? I found pâtisson in a French dictionary, and pattypan in an English one. Wikipedia marries up the two terms but does not suggest an etymology.

Summer Squash

Summer Squash

Moving along, not too far away I pause at an attractive stall offering locally-made apple cider vinegar, and buy some. It is run by master vinegar-maker Pierre Gingras.

Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple Cider Vinegar

Pierre makes available an informative leaflet that explains the healthful uses of ACV, some of which I had not known before.

Right nearby I make another unusual (for me) find: flowers of zucchini, the buds of which can be used to make a delicate and attractive appetizer. The lady at the stall kindly provides a recipe along with enthusiastic explanations on how to do it.

Squash Blossoms

Squash Blossoms

At this stage in summer (late August) sweet corn begins to make an ephemeral appearance. Its season doesn’t last very long and it is always a popular item. This corn is grown for eating, of course, not for industrial applications, and farmers have no problem selling huge quantities of it.

Corn

Corn

Locally-grown potatoes are also beginning to make an appearance, and they will shortly take center-stage at all the markets here and will be sold even in bags of 50 and 100 lbs. Even with such a banal plant as a potato, when obtained at the market, I notice a real difference in taste when compared to the store-bought kind.

Local Potatoes

Local Potatoes

In a passageway I encounter an exhibit from the island of Ile aux Grues (Crane Island).  This small island is several hundred miles downstream from Montreal, has less than 200 families, has no link to the mainland, and its only industry is a dairy and cheese farm.  The young lady with the charming smile and the large wheel of cheese was offering samples of it, the cheese being the sole and unique produce they bring to market (it was delicious and I wish them huge success with their marketing).

Cheese Lady

Cheese Lady

Wandering back to the main building one finds an impressive organic butcher shop that is a coop enterprise of numerous farms adhering to organic farming standards under the collective name of Ferme Saint-Vincent.

They offer organic beef, veal, lamb, pork, turkey, duck, and game birds such as pheasant and quail. A prominent sign over the entryway reads: “Thanks to your patronage, 35 farmers can keep and work their farms and bring fresh produce for your table three times daily.” Their pork bacon (free of nitrites) is outstanding and I avail myself of that luxury on occasion.

Meats

Meats

Directly across the way from them is a competitor, a smaller shop under the name of “Viande Naturelle Nordest” (“Northeastern Natural Meat”). In chatting with this merchant, I learn that he demurs from paying the hefty annual fee that would give him the right to use the “Organic” designation and instead, he passes on the saving in the form of lower prices. This works, because he is well-known in the area and has a high reputation and the trust of his customers.

Further along inside this building is an impeccably clean and fresh-smelling fish market, the Aqua Mare. Aqua Mare was offering among its snacks my favorite for a hot summer day, an appetizing selection of fresh oysters on ice in which I happily indulged.

Aqua Mare

Aqua Mare

Some farms in the region have earned their spurs in the art of making cheese from raw milk, and their products are available at this market. The dairy case contains cheeses made from raw cow’s milk or goat’s milk, the makers being mainly local but also from France. The cheese is highly prized but it is hard to find on our continent outside of the province of Quebec. As a quality indicator, an imported Parmigiano Reggiano which is made from raw milk is seen (by me at least) as a gold standard for quality cheese. Many of the cheeses here measure up to that standard. On the other hand, cheeses from pasteurized milk fall into quite another category, one that generally fails to make the grade.

Cheese

Cheese

To round out my account, here is a typical view of one of the streets surrounding the market. Not a single one of the usual fast-food joints to be seen! But this does not mean an absence of fast-food; what’s there is simply different and (possibly) less destructive of one’s health, like, for instance, the ubiquitous and irresistible merguez, the North African answer to the hot dog.

Today’s purchases:

  • fresh strawberries and wild blueberries from S&D Trottier Farm
  • tomatoes
  • apples
  • celery
  • bell peppers
  • green string beans
  • Apple cider vinegar from master vinegar-maker Pierre Gingras
  • cheese made from raw milk
  • Organic bacon
  • bison steak
  • free range chicken breast
  • Fresh brown eggs from free range hens
  • fresh Malpeque oysters
  • sachets of dried lavender (to interleave with my folded laundry)

Traveling by bike I am limited as to what I can carry so I buy small quantities. For years I’ve been promising myself to build a trailer and have even found free detailed drawings for a light model in bamboo (if anyone wants a copy, let me know). But in any case I can always go back for more stuff which is in itself a pleasure and this, in fact, is what I keep on doing.

Arriving home, I found the streets closed to traffic (but not to bikes) and a neighborhood fiesta under way: one of many that spring up in my hood in summertime. Nice.

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