Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Someone Else's Cooking: Ithaca Farmers Market

Sometimes, visiting the farmers market is less about the food you buy to cook and consume later and more about the food you buy to consume then and there -- as I quickly accepted when I visited the Ithaca Farmers Market.
I went to school in Ithaca, but for some reason, never once in my four years there did I ventured off the hill down to the market at Steamboat Landing. In fact, I don't really remember cooking a lot at all during college, so I am sure I would have not appreciated it.
But I think I would have appreciated the other offerings at Ithaca, including vendors featuring mini wooden clock towers, handmade cards and jewelry, baked goods and prepared food.
Oh, the prepared food at Ithaca is like no place else -- people wait in lines 10 deep for corn fritters or peanut noodles or platters at Macro Mamas (the only macrobiotic food I have tried and actually liked), which is right next to the Cambodian stand, which is down from the burrito people.
On my last visit, I noticed a new baked goods vendor with a genius business model -- a portable wood burning oven for made-to-order $7 flat bread pizzas. On a cold and blustery day, after slogging through the muddy parking lot just to get inside the market, $7 was a small price to pay.
Apparently, many other people thought so too, as this was the last margarita "pie" they were able to make as they ran out of tomato sauce. Very thin and piping hot, we devoured it while enjoying the water view. If I went back, I might try one other versions, including a white flat bread and Mexican style flat bread (burrito people, take note).
And if you're curious, yes, I did buy some veg at the market, including some very pretty delicata squash, but it really was a day to enjoy the market ambiance and, for once, let someone else to do the cooking.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Quinoa Calling

I did it again – spent almost $50 at the green market. I went with the best intentions of only spending what was in my pocket ($23) but was seduced by produce and actually hit up the ATM mid-shopping spree. Can you tell the one thing I was not able to buy? If you guessed Persian cucumbers, you’re right! The season is almost over and what the vendor had, they were saving for an unnamed restaurant. Hmph. But since I could barely carry what I had, perhaps it was for the best. Four days later and I’ve actually used up a good chunk of my purchases – in cauliflower leek potage and baked eggplant mozzarella and several servings of an autumn salad based off of one I had from Marks & Spencer’s Simply Food last January. Marks & Spencer’s Simply Food has the best concept – a majority of the space is dedicated to high quality prepared foods for people on the go. If they would only open across the pond, as I have only seen them in Europe. When I was in London last winter, the exchange rate was even worse that it is now, so I picnicked from M&S SF several times. The best dish was a Moroccan Chicken Salad prepared with grains, roasted sweet potato, pine nuts, pomegranate seeds and two kinds of dressing (chermoula and a lemon mint yogurt) served over greens. I actually preserved the label from the container so I could recreate it at home, and when I saw that pomegranates were reappearing in the markets, dug out the scrap. The ingredient list is pretty daunting: quinoa and bulgur, rocket (arugula) and baby spinach, mint and coriander (cilantro), preserved lemon, sunflower oil and more – oy! So I simplified a bit. I still made a tabouli-style mixture of bulgur and quinoa with chopped mint, cilantro and scallions, but I subbed olive oil for the sunflower oil and lemon juice and zest for the preserved lemon. To me, adding butternut squash was somehow more appealing than adding sweet potato, although the sweet potato may have the nutritional edge. And I didn’t bother making a separate chermoula and a lemon mint yogurt dressing. Served over arugula with a sprinkle of rice wine vinegar, and it was almost like I was back in London…without the £9 M&S price tag.
Mock M&S Salad I noticed that the October issue of Bon App├ętit has a similar recipe. I actually think the addition of grains makes for a heartier main dish salad, which is the intent of this recipe. Ingredients About 2 c. of butternut squash, peeled and diced into .5 inch cubes 2 T. olive oil, separated 1/3 c. uncooked quinoa 1/3 c. uncooked bulgur 1 c. water or broth, divided 2 T. cilantro, finely diced (more to taste) 2 T. fresh mint, finely diced (more to taste) 3 scallions, diced ¼ c. pomegranate seeds ¼ c. pine nuts, toasted 1 lemon, zested and juiced Paprika Salt Pepper Salad greens (optional) Method Preheat oven to 400 Place squash cubes and 1 T. of olive oil in baking or roasting pan; season liberally with salt, pepper and paprika Roast squash in oven for 20-minutes until edges start to crisp Boil ½ c. of water or broth, combined boiling water and bulgur in a large mixing bowl, cover Boil remaining ½ c. of water or broth, add quinoa and cook until water is absorbed[i] Add quinoa to bulgur bowl, along with herbs, pomegranate seeds, pine nuts, lemon zest, lemon juice and remaining olive oil; toss well Add roasted squash cubes and stir to combine Serve over greens or eat as is [i] I like to add the plumped bulgur to the cooked quinoa during the final minutes of cooking so bulgur can absorb any excess water from quinoa