Thursday, August 20, 2009

Summer Harvest at Hastings-on-Hudson

The Hudson Valley is hot right now -- literally and figuratively. The New York Times travel section just happened to do a piece on farmers markets in the region last Saturday, the same day I was scouring the lower Hudson in my quest to find a slice of village life within a 30 minute commute of Manhattan. While you could call the article a wee bit pretentious (full of quotes from city folk who have weekend homes in Dutchess and Columbia counties), my visits to the "river towns" of Hastings-on-Hudson and Dobbs Ferry, NY showed them to be anything but.
Both villages are in southern Westchester county and are station stops along Metro-North's Hudson line. And both have very active farmers markets. Although I missed the Friday market in Dobbs Ferry, I did get to check out the Saturday market in Hastings-on-Hudson.
First: the view. Perched high above the river in the library parking lot, the market looked like something out of a movie set. And there were more vendors than I expected, crammed into the lot and set up along the path down to Maple Ave.
Second: the variety. Want to buy some lasagna to take home? How about pickles? Or olive oil from Greece? Flowers for the table? Or just some stone fruit? No problem. They had it.
Third: the services. The market offers more than just food (prepared or raw). While one stand offered knife sharpening, another woman was giving impromptu yoga lessons just beyond the market boundary and some enterprising kids were
setting up a lemonade stand (at 50 cents a cup, high competition for the folks from The Station Cafe who were churning out iced coffee at 6 times the price). The overall atmosphere was one of a food fair versus collection of farm stands.
Finally: the unique. While I've seen ice cream at farmers markets, I've never seen gourmet popsicles for sale. Like the iced coffee, the Go-Go Pops were not cheap -but $3 is a small price to pay for some cool relief in 85 degree weather.
Beyond the market, Hastings-on-Hudson has some cute foodie shops too -- from the independent organic food store to a pharmacy complete with soda counter (serving my favorite Frogurt brand of frozen yogurt) to a really-well regarded butcher. Not a bad way to eat a Saturday away.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Tomato Experiment: A Fungus Amongus?

About a week ago, I first noticed that the tomato plants I bought in Skaneateles in early June finally sprouted fruit! I Googled "tomato plants how long from fruit to harvest" and learned that I have at least another six weeks to go before I can pluck a ripe tomato off my fire escape. That is, of course, if I escape the dreaded late blight fungus that is making the rounds. Despite having purchased the plants from an organic farmer vs. a big box retailer, I am worried. One of the bigger green tomatoes has an ugly black bruise that I decided today is definitely some kind of fungus, but hopefully an isolated case of "contact fungus" (from the fruit brushing up against the wet leaves of the basil plant living next to it). So I did a bit of rearranging, pruned both the herb and tomato plants (probably a little too much) and have my fingers crossed for the best! In the meantime, I am buying tomatoes from the greenmarket. My new go-to breakfast is sliced tomato and cucumber on toasted sunflower millet bread with a schmear of cream cheese. With lots of fresh ground black pepper on top, this is the ultimate summer breakfast sandwich (McMuffin watch out). Something tells me I may be turning to the Union Square farmer Stokes Farms for tomatoes all season long. Check back in six weeks (mid-September) to find out.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Bronxville, NY: An Upscale Farmers' Market

On Saturday, I took the Metro-North railroad 15 miles north of Grand Central Station to Bronxville. Yes, after 9 years living in Manhattan, I am toying with the idea of moving to the 'burbs so I can get a bigger space, finally get a car and some nature. I had never been to the village before, so of course I had to check out the amenities, including the gorgeous library and the local farmers market. Easily accessible from the train station and main village shopping area, the market was hopping when I arrived around 11:30 a.m. Along with the standard fruits and vegetable offerings, the Bronxville Farmers Market is heavy on the prepared foods -- and not just baked goods. Perhaps it was a bit reflective of the residents (Bronxville has a reputation of being quite the upscale village). I saw soups and salsa, pickles and empanadas. And cheese. Oh the cheese. The market had an outpost of an Artisanal Fromagerie. I've been to the restaurant in midtown, and gorged myself on Gougères, which were for sale at the market (albeit in bulk).

I did indulge in the small fruit tarts from "Dutch Desserts" after snagging a sample of the raspberry. As the Web site claims, the 5-inch tarts make two perfect servings (for dessert and/or breakfast the next day, I discovered.).

While it's too soon to say if I will be a Bronxville resident in the near future, I will certainly be back to hang out in the library, enjoy the fresh air, and shop the market.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Cherries revisited: Stone Fruit Patchwork Bake

A few weeks ago, I bought what looked like a luscious pint of cherries at the farmers market. Alas, they were kind of squishy and past their peak. Undaunted, I pitted them (using a drinking straw, and wearing an old t-shirt!) and froze them for a rainy day. Well, it rained on Sunday, and so I finally pulled out the cherries just in time to make Mark Bittman's recipe for a stone fruit patchwork bake. Since the whole point of this recipe is to form a non-perfect crust, it was my kind of dessert. In addition to using frozen fresh cherries, I also: used frozen (not fresh) peaches; subbed 50-50 white-whole wheat flour; decreased the sugar in the filling to 1/4 cup; and added cinnamon and nutmeg (with a dusting of extra cinnamon on top). Despite the less-than-food-magazine-worthy appearance, it was yum. And perfect for a cool, wet summer day.