Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Ithaca Farmer's Market- Part I

One of the highlights of my fun, fabulous, foodie friends weekend was a trip to the Ithaca Farmers Market.

On the waterfront, with live entertainment (some kicking banjo music), many places to sample an international buffet of cuisines, and most importantly, a large assortment of lovingly tended fresh produce and hand crafted foods and goods. A true foodie paradise.

We managed to score a pretty decent parking space and headed in, on a beautiful summer day, along with a lot of other eager shoppers.

The first thing I spotted were these fantastic looking lime green cucumbers (it's a disease - I can't pass up the color without investigating). The farmer informed me that they were thin skinned, with a sweet, tender flavor. Sign me up! I bought a half dozen and immediately snacked on one while taking in the market sights and smells.

The produce, the plants, the flowers, the food! And the people watching! What a fantastic combination.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Lunch at Moosewood Restaurant

I spent the most amazing weekend with 8 fellow personal chefs at the Finger Lakes this weekend. When you get a bunch of foodies together, you immediately start eating, then discussing the next meal and what it might entail.

Since we were about 45 minutes away from Ithaca, New York, and the famous Moosewood Restaurant, one of the country's pioneering vegetarian restaurants, with several fantastic cookbooks we've all enjoyed, it was a natural lunch destination after we visited the phenomenal Ithaca farmer's market (which will get a post of it's own).

In addition to an excellent Bloody Mary (there were a few martinis and some wine the evening prior, so it really hit the spot), I also had this yummy Strata which was a layer of potatoes topped with sun-dried tomatoes, spinach and cheese. Delicious!

Several in the group ordered the pastisto with lentils.

Beth ordered this enchilada with corn, pinto beans, and other yumminess, and was very happy with her choice.

Of course there were desserts: a brownie a' la mode which was served with the wrong ice cream, so another huge dish of mocha chip arrived to replace it. Fresh peaches with pound cake, and a to die for chocolate ricotta mousse. Everyone was generous enough to share a bite with me, all were delicious, but not compatible with my Bloody Mary (all the good stuff and pepper at the bottom).

Moosewood’s Chocolate Ricotta Mousse

  • 3 oz. unsweetened chocolate, melted
  • 1 lb. ricotta cheese
  • 1 s/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup honey, or other sweetener to taste
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tbsp. pure maple syrup
  • Fresh fruit or shaved chocolate
  1. Combine melted chocolate, ricotta cheese, 1 tsp. of vanilla, and honey in a blender or food processor bowl and whirl until very smooth.
  2. Pour into dessert cups and chill for 1 hour.
  3. Just before serving, combine heavy cream, remaining 1/2 tsp. of vanilla, and maple syrup, and whip until stiff.
  4. Serve the mousse topped with whipped cream, and garnished with fresh fruits or shaved chocolate.
  5. Makes 6 servings.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Real First Day of Summer is the Day You Pick the First Tomato

I have long loved the black varieties of tomatoes: Black Prince, Black From Tula, Black Cherry, Nyagous, Black Plum.  Mostly heirlooms, so not as available, except by seed, although I have found several local sources that carry some of them.

I don't have the patience to wait until late August and September for the giant Brandywines, which usually get nibbled by wildlife before me anyway, so one of the qualities about these I love is that they are smaller, ripen sooner, and are perfect for a burger, with a slice or two left to eat with just salt and pepper.

The flavor is deep and rich, and often described as having the character of red wine.  They are prone to cracking, and aren't really black, but more like the color of bruise, with tints of brown.

So yesterday was the day.  The weather most of the summer has been unseasonably cool, and yesterday was no exception.  It was a pleasant day to defrost the basement freezer (not something I'd usually contemplate in July, but it was a long overdue project since the freezer contained mostly stalactites and stalagmites, which left little room for actual food). 

I also read a book that believe it or not, had nothing at all to do with food (The Fate of Katherine Carr).  

I had some grass-fed beef burgers to grill for dinner and a stroll past the garden revealed the first black tomato of the season was ready to harvest.  The photo of the burger, perfectly grilled, and tucked into a grill toasted ciabatta roll, with a few slices of this tomato and some fresh lettuce from the garden,  was pretty ugly, because I didn't want to spend a lot of time futzing with it - I wanted to eat it!

I enjoyed every juicy, fresh bite.  Ahh, summer is finally here.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Which came first?

I've been enjoying my eggs from Brunty Farms, since farmer Jeff Brunty, joined the Countryside Conservancy farmer's markets this year.  The eggs have richly colored yolks, and are some of the tastiest I've ever had.  And here are the girls responsible.

This is Cheese and Quackers, the pet ducks.  They greeted me with a little interest, but were more interested in hanging out with each other.

These happy chickens were roosting and cooing in a tree.  They were just relaxing and chilling on a pleasant day.

And well, here was the purpose of my visit to the farm.  One of the first batches of fresh chicken.  

I am pretty sure I've never had one butchered the same day, since my ax wielding great grandmother was long gone by the time I entered the world.  I did inherit a cookbook with a chicken recipe that begins with, "select chicken and cut off head with an ax" (I haven't tried that one yet - lol!).  

Brunty recommended aging it for a few days for optimum flavor, so I saved it 'til last night.  I stuffed it with some rosemary and a few chunks of orange, and gave it a butter rub down.  Threw in some purple potatoes to cook in the fat, which were delicious, but not very photogenic.  

Because it wasn't processed and shot full of saline and other "stuff", there wasn't a lot of liquid left in the roasting pan.  I think next time, I will salt it and leave it uncovered in the fridge overnight to see if I can get crispier skin.

Friday, July 10, 2009

First Local Corn and Tomatoes of the Season

Well my favorite local corn, hands down, comes from Graf Growers, conveniently located about 5 minutes from my house.  They open a farm stand for the summer, which just opened last week.  I was very happy to see in yesterday's newsletter that the first crop of their famous bi-color, hydro-chilled corn was available today.

I went over at about 9:45.   As I was walking through the crowded parking lot, one of the employees said to me "Well, we aren't out yet"." Apparently there had been people lined up on the street prior to the 9:00 opening.  Since they are located on a pretty dangerous curve in the road, they wisely decided to open the gate and let the corn stampede begin.

I picked up the tomatoes and some perfectly peppery fresh arugula at the farmer's market last night at Stan Hywet.  

I could eat fresh corn and tomatoes every day while they are in season.  And I might.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Fresh From the Garden Sliders

When I saw this recipe in Better Homes and Gardens, I knew I had to try it as soon as the garden started producing.  I grilled some of the yellow zucchini slices briefly on a grill pan, and I tried some with the raw squash.  Equally as good.

Instead of Italian seasoning, I used Tuscan Sunset from Penzey's, which is one of my favorite salt-free seasoning blends.  The garlicky white bean spread was delicious with crunch of the cucumber, and the juicy tomato.  The soft baguette slices helped hold it all together.  I considered toasting the bread, but I like it better with the bread untoasted.  

I finished some with cornichons, and some with a grape tomato half.  

Don't want to make them yourself?  Then come to the Cleveland Wine School's Cellar Door tasting room this Friday and Saturday, July 10th and 11th, where I will be preparing these, along with 3 other plates.  You can taste 8 wines for only $15, and for an additional $10, enjoy the food pairings.  Hope to see you there!