Friday, May 25, 2012

Gatherer Spring Salad

While in Winter Park, Fl earlier this spring, I had lunch at The Ravenous Pig, a gastro pub that gets BIG raves online. I happened to stop in during one of the monthly pig roast Saturdays, which featured a limited menu of a mixed grill plate (two kinds of sausage, pork roast, kraut and potatoes) or salad (for the vegetarians)!

Let's just say the salad stole the show.

Called "The Gathered," per the menu, it featured: mixed baby lettuces, beets, radish, goat cheese, avocado, pistachios, herb vinaigrette.

My version, culled from what I was able to find at the indoor winter's farmers market, along with a little help from Trader Joes, featured bibb lettuce, red onion, grapefruit sections, feta cheese, avocado, pistachios and a vinaigrette made with basil oil and some extra grapefruit juice. Although my version was not as pretty, it was very tasty. And with my outdoor farmers market opening for the summer season next weekend, it's a recipe I will try again soon.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Winter Park, FL Farmers Market

National Geographic recently posted a list of 10 world "food markets." I've only been to two (New York City's Union Square and London's Borough Market) -- time to make some vacation plans! Seriously though, many vacation destinations have great markets, if you only stop to look.

A few months ago, I was in the Orlando area (yes, to go to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter) but the true highlight of the trip was an afternoon spent in Winter Park, FL.

A small town north of Orlando, Winter Park has several great tourist sites, including the Morse Museum of American Art, a scenic boat tour and of course, the Saturday farmers market.

Set in an old train depot, literally across active Amtrak train tracks, the market was packed with people and produce.

But not all the produce was local. Oh sure, there were boxes of local citrus - but alongside were kiwi from Italy, beets from Michigan and artichokes from California. From what I've read, this situation - a mix of local and non-local items - is the case with markets across Florida.  

So I browsed and ended up getting:
-Two kiwis, imported from Italy
-Three heirloom tomatoes, grown locally
-A box of strawberries, also local
-A bag of the most amazing kettle corn (and I generally hate kettle corn)

The kettle corn was made fresh in front of me (I guess that makes it local?!) and was just the right combination of sweet and salt.


My biggest regret is that I couldn't justify buying an orchid and taking it home with me. There were at least three vendors across the market selling beautiful orchids at all price points. Maybe next time.

The Winter Park Farmers market is open on Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. and is worth a visit if you're in the area.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Happy Spring (and What I Did on My Winter Blog-cation)

Happy first day of spring! Given it is the vernal equinox, I decided it was high time to end my blog-cation and share a little bit of what I've been up to these past months.

I visited the Orchid Show at the New York Botanical Garden (true, this is not edible, but the picture was too pretty not to share).

I made a lot of crockpot chicken stock for various soup recipes.

 I experimented with different brussel sprout preparations, including shaved brussel sprouts.

Frankly, shaved brussel sprouts were not worth the effort (could  have just used cabbage).

I made a bunch of macarons, including a new favorite -- cinnamon shells with pumpkin and white chocolate ganache.

Now that spring is here, and the outdoor market season is about to kick off, I plan on posting much more regularly about my latest finds and cooking attempts. Stay tuned.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Fall in the Finger Lakes: Part Two (Butternut Squash)

Earlier this fall, I had a great time crisscrossing the back roads along Seneca Lake and exploring the myriad of farm stands.

Oh, the deals. I got eggplant for a buck a piece, and a peck of apples for $2. Quarts of raspberries for $3 (some of which are hibernating in my freezer waiting for the right recipe) and a slew of tomatoes (several slow roasted and also occupying the freezer).

But my best buy was at a Mennonite farm of Rt. 414 - three huge butternut squashes for $5.

Most winter squash is pretty hardy, and can last a long time in a cool(ish) dark cupboard (I know because I recently discovered and tossed a spaghetti squash from last fall. It looked a little shriveled, but was probably still edible. I was just too grossed out to try it). I used up 1.5 of the squash in soups (two batches of butternut squash soup with white beans and kale and one batch of winter minestrone with butternut standing in for zucchini.

To use up the other half lingering in the fridge, I went back to one of my favorite "weird but works" recipes - butternut with bulgur, feta and mint, wrapped in Phyllo. I first read the recipe in Cooking Light and have made it a few different ways -- as a casserole and in spanokopita triangles. I think triangles is the way to go --you can achieve a better filling to crust ratio.

But be warned -- it's a bear to shred the squash (unless you have a food processor). And be warned -- not everyone likes the flavor combo (I made them one Thanksgiving and I was the only one who ate them). But for the feta lovers out there - it's worth a try. This time, I had a hard time finding phyllo dough so I used wonton wrappers.

Butternut Squash Wontons


4 C shredded butternut squash 
.25 C uncooked bulgur
.5 t. salt
1 t. olive oil
1/2 Red onion, diced 
.5 C feta cheese
.25 C grated fresh Parmesan cheese
.5 cup chopped fresh mint
.5 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
32 wonton wrappers

Preheat oven to 350.
Combine  squash, bulgar and salt in a medium bowl.
In the meantime, saute the red onion in a splash of olive oil until translucent.
Add onion, mint and cheeses to the squash and bulgar, toss to combine.
Add cooked onions, the two cheese and chopped herbs to the squash-bulgar bowl and stir well.
Working one at a time, lay a wonton on a cutting board and brush entire surface with water.
Spoon .5-1 t. of squash mixture onto the corner of the won ton.
Fold the opposite corner over to form a triange, brush with water again and pinch the edges sealed.
 Bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Poblano Corn Chowder (Cheat)

While walking down to the train earlier this week, I could "see my breath." So it's officially soup season. Unofficially, I've been making soup for weeks. The freezer at work is chocked full of containers of butternut squash soup with white beans and kale, lentil and swiss chard stew, and one of two servings of pobalno corn chowder, inspired by the version served at Whole Paycheck.

I actually made the soup twice in as many weeks, using the last of the season's corn and some poblanos I found at the market. The first go around was largely improvised based on what I had in the fridge -- leek for onion, chicken stock for veggie stock, fresh red pepper for roasted, and mashed potato for whole. Yes, I used Trader Joes' frozen mashed potato to thicken the broth. The potatoes, which come in pellets are actually really good and extremely convenient.

And you know what? The improvised version turned out a lot better than when I made it again by the recipe. Just goes to show that most soup recipes can handle a little improvisation...and that everyone should keep some frozen mashed potatoes in the fridge.

Roasted Corn Poblano Chowder


3 Poblano peppers
1 Red pepper (or .25 C. diced, roasted red pepper from a jar)
4 T. butter
1 Celery stalk, diced 2 Garlic cloves, minced 1 Onion, diced
.25 C. Flour
4-6 C. Stock
1-2 C. Milk
12 oz. Potatoes, either peeled and diced or mashed
2 C. Corn kernels
Freshly ground black pepper


Place red pepper and poblanos on foil and put under broiler, turning until all sides are charred. When blackened, place peppers in a medium bowl and cover with plastic wrap.
In the meantime, melt butter in a large pot; sauté onion, garlic, celery, carrot.
Add flour to pot to make a roux. Cook over medium heat for five minutes before adding the stock and milk.
Bring the mixture to a simmer, add corn and mashed or diced potato. Carefully separate the blackened skin and seeds from the peppers. Important: Do not rise under water (you'll rinse away flavor too). Roughly chop the remaining pepper flesh and add to pot.
Cook uncovered for 30 to 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add salt and pepper to taste

Monday, September 26, 2011

Fall in the Finger Lakes: Part One

Fall is here, but rather than being SAD (or suffering from season affective disorder), I'm actually quite happy about it. Fall is my favorite season. And I was lucky enough to spend the first true "fall-like" weekend wandering among the vineyards and farm stands of the Finger Lakes. It's harvest season. Around one corner, row upon row of grape vines dripping with purple-black fruit. Around the next corner, row upon row of corn stalks, some still featuring corn, others drying out in the sun. And around the next, an honor-system farm stand featuring the last of the season's tomatoes next to the first of the season's apples. And while the local grape traditions -- from stomping and pie -- abound, when it comes to baking, I have to say I prefer apples. The first-of-the-season apples were super crisp and just a little tart. I attempted to make a riff on the Dutch apple tart served at Winkel in Amsterdam, where a thick pie dough rises to encase the apples. I followed this recipe but unfortunately was a bit stingy on the dough (stretched one recipe to fit two pie plates), so the end result was more pie than cake. But luckily, apple season, like the fall, is young. So there is lots of time left to get it just right.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Hurricane Preparations: Poptart Alternatives

Us in the metro NYC area have been freaking out about the pending hurricane. So far, it's just been sporadic heavy rain and a few gusts of wind. Like most people, I prepared early, have been hunkered down for hours and am totally bored (despite knowing the worst is yet to come). Before going into lock-down mode, I: dragged my terrace furniture in, located my old Walkman (for the radio), ran out to buy AA batteries (and water. and good dark chocolate. and wine. and a new trench coat for fall), and dropped by the farmers market. Yes, my market was open and hopping. But ironically, while the tomatoes and squash were still plentiful by the time I rolled in, practically ever single sweet was sold out. No chocolate chip walnut scones from Bread Alone. No Pie Lady & Son. It was pretty depressing. So rather than resort to strawberry poptarts, inspired by one of the many blog posts I've been reading to pass the time this afternoon, I cranked the oven to 400 and baked. I used some Italian plums I had picked up a few weeks ago in plum muffins, based on a recipe from the Joy of Baking. The yogurt and oil-based mix is super moist. The plums, which I quartered and folded into the batter, gave off a lot more juice that I expected. Although I baked the batter in muffin tins, it still almost took the full recommended baking time. In the meantime, I decided to make Julia Child's eggplant and zucchini gratin since it's a dish that tastes good hot or cold (or room temperature, if it comes down to it). The beauty of this recipe is that you "pan fry" the eggplant to start the cooking and then combine it with the other vegetables so it cooks evenly. So between the baked goods, the veg, the chocolate, the wine and my retro yellow Walkman tape player with radio, I think I am set. Best of luck to everyone...and stay safe!