4 June 2011 § 2 Comments
Today was the official Summer opening of the Montclair Farmers’ Market. The NJ Transit Walnut St. parking lot was transformed from gray tarmac into a glorious Technicolor feast for the eyes with vibrant plants, cut flowers and fresh produce to herald the first hint of summer.
The overall mood was one of back-to-school buzz. Old friends were welcomed and new ones made. All my old favorites were there – Sally from the Montclair Bread Company; Vacchiano Farms (who of course, deserve a medal for braving out over the long, cold winter) and Ginger from Tree-Licious Orchards.
There were a few newbies there such as Lulada (delicioso-looking empanadas that I will try next time round) and The Everlasting Garden who brought with them a blaze of fresh-cut flowers grown in NJ – including some glorious peonies.
As usual, The Ladies™ snacked their way around: honey sticks from Tassot Apiaries, pickles on sticks from Pickle-Licious and Kielbasy on sticks from Stefan & Sons. To add some variety, Matazzaro Farms dispensed with the notion of serving their sugar snap peas on sticks. Stick or no stick, they were eaten just as heartily.
Another debutante was a woman promoting laying chickens. It was great to get some decent information on how to raise these wonderful little egg machines in the suburbs. The chickens hypnotized The Ladies™ for a good while so I could get some shopping done and dream up a way to convince King Marv that having hens would be a good idea.
Next up was Shore Catch from whom I bought scallops, clams and shark. To accompany our fish fest I bought some eggplant, and garlic scapes from Farmer John (the organic grower). Obviously, there’s not very much local fruit around yet – it is still a bit early, but I did find some beautiful little strawberries at Matazzaro Farms. Now what to do with those garlic scapes – any suggestions please? Pesto maybe – but almond or walnut?
The recipes to accompany this haul will follow later this week — the shark and the scallops are on the grill as I write.
In the meantime, I’ll be working on my campaign to convince King Marv about keeping hens…
The Montclair Farmers Market is at the NJ Transit Walnut St. parking lot every Saturday from 8am to 2pm.
22 May 2011 § 4 Comments
After what feels like an eternity of soggy, gray days, the sun managed to haul its sorry self out for a sunny morning at the Montclair Farmers Market yesterday. The number of vendors had crept up to four – Vacchiano Farms, Shore Catch, Picklelicious and Stefan & Sons.
We bought some Polish Kielbasy from Stefan & Sons. It was really good to see Mario and Lisa back there. The Ladies™ had really missed them, well actually they had missed their sizzling samples of Kielbasy.
Little by little the selection of fresh produce at Vacchiano Farms is growing, they had radish, lettuce, asparagus, rhubarb as well as a good herb selection. I had time to browse their fresh produce, while my mother supervised The Ladies’ sampling of all the pickles and olives at Picklelicious. They agreed the half sour pickles were their favorite, followed closely by the Kosher dill.
As my parents are visiting we stocked up on chicken, eggs, NY strip steak and English style sausages. King Marv requested we buy sausages as he has decided to cook dinner – a major event in our house as it happens so rarely. He is cooking an English speciality – the bizarrely named Toad in the Hole – a combination of two of his favorite foods – Yorkshire Pudding and bangers, basically a popover with sausages. It looks nothing like a toad, more like worms in sand. And based on that tempting description, I bet you can’t wait for that post.
30 April 2011 § 1 Comment
Spring has sprung slowly this year, but we can view the arrival of asparagus as a good sign! Today at the Montclair Farmers’ Market, Vacchiano Farms had plenty of asparagus, escarole, arugula as well as apples, parsnips and cabbage. You could definitely cook a few good meals by shopping solely at their stand – they have a good protein selection of meat, eggs and home-made mozzarella and ricotta cheese. It is really good that they are year-rounders here.
Next door to Vacchiano Farms, I took the opportunity to speak with Jimmy LaPrete, owner of Shore Catch who brings Jersey fresh seafood to our local farmers’ markets. Jimmy works with the local fisherman to bring the freshest to us landlubbers. He told me how the fishermen are really trying to fish sustainably, holding off when certain species are running low to allow them to replenish. Today he had a good choice of cod, clams, scallops and tile fish. With Cinco de Mayo on the horizon, I feel a fish taco recipe coming on. Watch this space.
The Montclair Farmers’ Market is at the Walnut Street Station every Saturday from 8am to noon.
23 March 2011 § 1 Comment
We are still in Farmers’ Market limbo. It is too early for new crops, so there were the usual few vendors at the Montclair Farmer’s Market on Saturday: Vacchiano Farms selling their meat and delicious potpies, Pickle-icious (bet you can’t guess what they sell) and Tree-Licious Orchards with their apples, amazing apple doughnuts, carrots and a few other winter vegetables.
The lovely Tree-Licious people are taking a well-deserved break before all the spring produce starts coming in April. So I ended up taking home a huge box of apples as they were going cheap, and I love a bargain.
To use some of the apples we made delicious apple, pecan and date muffins, a healthy snack for both kids and grown ups. The Ladies™ and a school friend helped me make them, I use help in a very loose sense of the word, actually it just involved them licking the bowl, but at least they took an interest in my cooking, even if they did have an ulterior motive.
Apple, pecan and date muffins – makes 1 dozen
- 1 stick unsalted butter, softenened
- ½ cup superfine sugar (that’s caster sugar for you Brits)
- 1 cup self-rising flour
- 2 eggs
- ¾ cup unsweetened apple sauce (I chopped apples, added a bit of water and simmered for about 10 mins then mashed with a potato masher)
- ¾ tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ cup chopped pecan
- ½ cup chopped dates
- 1 small red apple, thinly sliced
- Sugar for sprinkling
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Put the cupcake wrappers in a 12-cup muffin pan.
Place the butter, sugar, flour and egg into a bowl and beat with an electric mixer until smooth and pale, about 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the applesauce, cinnamon, pecans and dates.
Spoon the batter into the cups. Lay the apple slices on top and sprinkle with some sugar.
Bake for 25 minutes. Remove pan from oven and cool for 5 minutes. Then remove cupcakes and cool on a rack.
So please email me if you have any good apple recipes. Merci Tante MoMo for the apple and almond tart recipe, will try that soon! Even though I have given away a few dozen apples the box does not seem to be going down much.
21 February 2011 § 7 Comments
The number of vendors at the Montclair Farmers’ Market on Saturday had mushroomed to three – a sign that spring had to be on its way, although it did not feel like it with plastic bags dancing off in the strong gusts.
Braving the whirling chilly winds were Vacchiano Farms selling their wide range of meat, home-baked pies and sauces, Shore Catch – with a small but good selection of fresh fish and Tree-Licious with their usual wide choice of fresh apples and baked goods. We bought free-range chicken, bacon, Cameo apples, onions and cider doughnuts.
This winter I’ve started roasting a chicken on Sunday evenings. It is the one day of the week when we are all guaranteed to be in the same place at the same time, so we always eat with The Ladies™, in an attempt to civilize our little savages. They do look positively Neanderthal each gnawing on a chicken leg (“chicken bones” as they call them), so we still have a way to go with the civilization. Luckily I predict many more Sunday roast dinners.
Even though it takes a bit of cooking time, it is good to have the oven on for a few hours filling the house with that delicious smell of roast chicken and vegetables. If I buy a big enough bird then sometimes we have enough for sandwiches on Monday, and I usually get a soup out of the carcass the next day, with the simple addition of some onion, garlic and a handful of vegetables and herbs.
Roast Chicken with Winter Vegetables recipe
About 2 oz of butter
2 cloves of garlic
1 big turnip (or a few small ones)
4 large potatoes – peeled and chopped into thirds
A few sprigs of thyme
Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Wash the chicken and dry with paper towels, take out any of the innards and put them aside for the gravy. Season the chicken and rub the butter over the chicken. Put the whole garlic cloves and some of the onion inside the chicken.
In a large roasting pan, roast for about 20 minutes at 425°F – you won’t notice it yet but this is what gets the skin nice and crispy and golden brown later. In stages, you’re going to add the vegetables to the roasting pan, so after that initial 20 minutes at 425°F, reduce the heat of the oven to 375°F and add the chopped potatoes. Baste the chicken with the melted butter and the juice from the bottom of the pan. After another 30 minutes add the rest of the vegetables, stir them so they get coated in the buttery juice, season and cook for another hour (the chicken, depending on size should take about another hour from when you add the vegetables – you should allow about 20 minutes for every lb of weight).
During this hour or so cooking, baste the chicken and turn the vegetables and potatoes every 20 minutes or so. Check for doneness by puncturing at the top of the leg with a knife and if the juices run clear the chicken is done. Take the chicken out of the oven and let it rest for about 10 minutes before carving.
Chicken Gravy recipe
½ onion chopped
1 clove garlic crushed
1 carrot finely chopped
1 stick celery chopped
2 cups chicken stock
Chicken “bits” (neck, liver – whatever has been shoved inside)
While the chicken is cooking, fry the innards with the onion, garlic, carrots and celery until nicely golden brown. Deglaze with some wine (whatever is on hand) then add the chicken stock, bring to the boil. Once the gravy is boiling, turn down the heat, simmer and reduce the liquid. Let it simmer for a long time, as long as you are cooking the chicken if you like. If you are serving boiled or steamed vegetables with your meal, reserve the cooking liquid and add to your gravy. When the chicken and vegetables are done, take everything out of the roasting pan then put the pan on the stove top under a medium heat, add a tablespoon of flour and make a roux with the crispy juicy bits, then add the sauce that has been simmering, whisk and when it has thickened slightly sieve into a sauce pan. Then heat again and skim off any fat that rises to the surface.
15 December 2010 § Leave a Comment
The Montclair Farmers’ Market will be there for one more weekend this year, so brave the cold and go shop – squirrel away some fresh produce so you can eat your way through the cold weather.
Last Saturday my favorite vendors were there - Stefan and Sons (Polish Kielbasy), Vacchiano Farms, Tree-Licious Orchards and Picklelicious were all there. I managed to stock up for the week. I bought a chicken that we roasted on Sunday night with some vegetables and potatoes, and washed down with a few bottles of wine. There are few things better than the smell of a roast on a cold Sunday evening.
I also made a really simple pasta dish on Saturday evening with roasted butternut squash. No photos, I’m afraid as we ate it all too quickly but here it the recipe.
Pasta with butternut squash, caramelized onions and walnuts
1 whole butternut squash – chopped into 1″ pieces
1 onion – sliced
1 clove of crushed garlic
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons goats cheese
½ cup Parmesan grated
Chop the squash into 1″ pieces, add the onions and garlic, sprinkle with sugar and season with salt and pepper. Toss in olive oil. Cook for about 30 minutes at 350°F. Toast the walnuts for about 5 minutes in the oven – do not forget about them – they will burn! Cook pasta until al dente, drain pasta, reserve a few spoonfuls of the pasta water. Then add roasted vegetables and the nuts to the pasta, add the pasta water and goats cheese and heat through on low heat. Serve with parmesan.
And here are some pictures of the Farmers’ Market to tempt you outside next Saturday, it beats the mall:
19 November 2010 § Leave a Comment
As much as possible I want my produce to come direct from the farm – I don’t want food that has frequent flier miles. I yearn for a simpler life where food comes fresh from the earth, with dirt and imperfections. I do not want shrink-wrapped and pre-chopped vegetables. Having said that I do have my weaknesses for food that is definitely not native to New Jersey - Marmite (compulsory for all expat Brits), coffee, wasabi, French cheese to name a few of my favorite (non-local) things.
When I go to my local Farmers’ Market I expect my produce to come farm to table by way of a short truck ride. I was taken aback to see these bad boys brazenly on display in the back of one of the trucks – celery from California and broccoli, bizarrely, with a Chinese name from…..Mexico. Vegetables that I could have bought at the grocery store for half the price. I’m giving the Farmer the benefit of the doubt, maybe they were just using old boxes, but it did not look that way. Please don’t get the wrong idea though as the majority of produce sold at the Montclair Farmers’ Market is definitely local, organic and good, really good.
It was a glorious day and my faith in humanity was restored as I called in at Corso 98, a local Italian restaurant just around the corner from the Farmers’ Market. Their kitchen, Cucina 98, open every Saturday morning. You will see the owners, Lisa Marie and Elio Suriano, there every weekend. They make and sell homemade ravioli, sauce, delicious cookies and biscotti. In fact if you go there on a Saturday you will see Nonna and Elio, making fresh ravioli in their window-front kitchen. All their pasta is excellent, I bought some butternut squash ravioli and a sage and orange béchamel sauce to go with it. The ravioli was so fresh and light, but the filling was very rich, and a beautifully vibrant shade of orange. My all-time favorite has to be the fava bean and mint ravioli they make in the summer. I love the way they use fresh, seasonal ingredients. During the summer they were also selling their own homegrown figs which I heard someone raving about, but I was not quick enough..there is always next year!
8 November 2010 § Leave a Comment
All my favorite vendors were at the Montclair Farmers’ Market on Saturday. Usually they start falling off in fall but they were out in full force taking advantage of the sunny weather. I had the pleasure of a quick visit on my own as King Marv took The Ladies™ for a family haircut, so I was able to meander a bit more than usual.
The Tree-Licious lady said that they will be there until December as they have fresh produce growing all the time. Still to come are all those hearty root vegetables – turnip, parsnip and rutabaga. This week brussels sprouts were plentiful, particularly those brussels sprouts trees that look like some fantastical illustration out of a Dr. Seuss book. Countless varieties of gourds and squashes brightened up the station parking lot, the colors as vibrant as a series of autumnal-themed paint chips. The Shore Catch people were there, including the fisherman himself, the Jersey Shore still has plenty of fish in the sea.
We have friends coming for dinner tomorrow so I played Farmers’ Market Roulette and bought a few random things that looked good. I am hoping tomorrow I will have a flash of inspiration to put them all together to make something resembling a meal. My picks were beautiful colored carrots (a mixture of orange and purple), some Fingerling potatoes, beets, butternut squash and celery. Having never tried Cameo apples before, I bought a few. I also bought some quinces, so looking for some quinspiration if any one has any, please let me know.
Having met the fisherman who caught the fish, I had to buy some cod (for the grown ups) and flounder (for the Ladies ™) for tomorrow’s dinner. I also remembered to order my Thanksgiving turkey – a free range hen from Vacchiano Farms. I learned my lesson a few years back when my pregnancy brain forgot about Christmas (being a Brit it is compulsory to have turkey on Christmas Day) – and the only bird I could get my hands on Christmas Eve was a 24lber – perfect for a quiet Christmas à deux. Needless to say the freezer was chock full of endless variations of turkey which served us well through the Winter when the Ladies™ were born.
Recipes to follow once I’ve figured out what to do with this week’s haul.
19 October 2010 § 4 Comments
The Walnut Street NJ Transit parking lot in Montclair is transformed into a vibrant market place. The drop in temperature meant it was quieter than the busy summer months, The Ladies™ were a tad disappointed to see the Animal Rescue People were not there with their cats and dogs for adoption (not consumption, now that would add a new meaning to live produce!) Their disappointment was soon overcome with their treat of a honey stick from the Tassot Apiaries stand. At 25 cents a piece, it was money well spent, buying me all of seven minutes of quiet browsing time.
Most of the vendors were out in full force, all the regulars were there – Tree-licious Orchards had a huge variety of apples – Mollie’s Delicious, Jona Gold, Fuji, Mutsu, Empire to name a few. Vacchiano Farms had an impressive display of fresh produce. John’s Organics had a huge choice of greens. We bought some fresh mozzarella, to enjoy with the last of my home-grown tomatoes and basil, as well a chicken to roast on Sunday.
Hunger started to set in with The Ladies™, so we grabbed a few things for lunch – some Polish kielbasy sausage from Stefan and Sons, fresh bread from the Montclair Bread Company, followed with some fresh figs.
I also bought some beautiful, shiny eggplants. The very talented British chef and writer, Nigel Slater – and I bet you thought I was going to say Jamie Oliver – thinks they are the sexiest of all vegetables (although as members of the nightshade family, along with tomatoes and potatoes they are botanically fruit.) I don’t really have a point of view on the sexiness of vegetables, although that said, I do think aubergine sounds much sexier than eggplant. I can understand why Europeans thought they were inedible until the 15th century, before that they were prized as ornaments.
Here’s the roasted aubergine dip I made…or I should say roasted eggplant dip, from Nigel Slater’s Tender Vol 1 – A Cook and his Vegetable Patch.
1 large or 2 smaller eggplants
3 garlic cloves
5 tablespoons olive oil
Cumin seeds – toast in a pan
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper
A handful of mint
Roast the eggplant and garlic cloves (whole unpeeled) in the oven at 400°F for about 45 mins. One of my garlic cloves exploded – this has NEVER happened before – so use the blade of a cook’s knife to squash slightly to avoid explosions.
When cool enough to handle, half the eggplant and scrape out the middle. This picture of the roasted eggplant should have a health warning, it is pretty offensive:
Mash eggplant with the roasted garlic with a fork or in a food processor. I used a hand processor as I did not want it too runny. Then add olive oil gradually, lemon juice, cumin, mint and season. Enjoy with crackers or fresh bread. Not sure if The Ladies™ will like this, but I’m looking forward to it tonight with a glass of wine.