Sunday, May 16, 2010

Farmers Market Season is Back in Full Swing

The opening day of the Saturday outdoor farmers market hosted by Countryside Conservancy was yesterday.  As I stood at the entrance of Howe Meadow visiting with old friends, and admiring the spectacular outdoor kitchen brought by Ohio Proud, and the new tents the Conservancy was able to purchase through donations, I remembered that just a few short years ago, the market was a lot different than it is today.

The original market site in Peninsula, in a small gravel lot at Heritage Farms, featured a much smaller number of vendors and products.  That gravel lot was a pain if you forgot and wore sandals, which guaranteed you'd need to stop about every six steps and shake out your shoes.  A small, but dedicated following swelled into a stuffed parking lot, and lots of folks waiting until the opening bell rang, then the rush for the best selection.

Last year the market moved to much roomier outdoor location at Howe Meadow.  Tons of parking, even when there is a co-hosted event at the site, which gets a lot of horse/camping events, and plenty of room for the vendors to spread out, set-up and sell.

In addition to a lot a familiar faces, this year several new vendors are at the market, including a gluten-free baker, Mrs. P's Gluten Free Bakery.

The asparagus went fast, but there was plenty of green garlic, tender greens, beets, turnips, along with some new, delicious cheeses from Mayfield Road Creamery.  I have a chunk of smoked Havarti and can't wait to try the blue cheeses.

Award for the best makeshift market basket goes to Kris Rosenfeld,  from Eat a Rainbow, Make a Body Smile, who put this box from her car to good use. (No the mouse was no longer in residence).

It was good to see fresh, delicious food, old friends and new friends.  I hope to see you too at the market, which is every Saturday from 9 am - noon.  The Thursday market held at Stan Hywet will debut for the season on June 3rd, where yours truly will be doing the chef's demo.

To celebrate the beginning of the season, and the beautiful day, I decided to grill a steak, quick roast my asparagus, and do a riff on a Crushed Potato and Watercress Cake recipe from Fine Cooking.  Since I bought a bunch of the beautiful green garlic, show above, I used that, instead of the garlic, and I substituted Lucky Penny Creamery's fresh chevre for the mascarpone.  Awesome!

Here's my version of the recipe:

Crushed Potato and Watercress Cakes  (Inspired by Nancy Oakes at Fine

1 1/2 pounds of small, thin skinned waxy potatoes, such as Yukon Gold
Kosher Salt, Fresh Ground Black Pepper
5 T. olive oil
1 medium sweet onion, such as Vidalia, diced
1 small bunch of green garlic, chopped
1/2 # pound watercress, stemmed and chopped (Basketeria now carries the root on packages - I used the whole package)
1/2 c. fresh, local Lucky Penny Creamery chevre

Preheat oven to 367 with rack in center. Scrub spuds and pat them dry. Place on baking sheet and sprinkle lightly with salt.  Bake ti tender when poked with a fork, about 30-40 min.  Remove and set aside in large bowl to cool.

While potatoes are cooling, heat 2 T. of oil in large skillet over medium.  Add onion, green garlic, pinch of salt and saute until softened, 5 min or so.  Add the watercress, season,  and toss til wilted.

Squish the potatoes with the back of soup spoon and break them into chunks.  Add the mix from the skillet, the chevre, and stir to combine.  Taste and adjust seasoning.  Divide and shape into patties about 2" across and 1/2" thick.

Heat remaining oil in skillet over medium and saute cakes in batches til golden.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

All-Clad Factory Sale June 4th-5th, 2010

For the approximately 1,000 people per month who visit my prior blog posts looking for information on the All-Clad Factory sales, here's an update.

The summer sale is June 4th and 5th at the Washington County Fairgrounds in PA.  Friday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.  Hall One. 

The sales are always the first Friday/Saturday of June and December.  Sometimes Sunday gets thrown in as a bonus.  Fresh stuff brought in each day.

If you are planning on doing some serious shopping, bring a wing man and a cart with wheels. 

I really, really need a roasting pan.  Plus, I wouldn't mind checking out what's in the MC5 stash.  See you on June 4th. 

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Savoring Federal Hill Part 3: Venda Ravioli

Continuing the adventures of my foodie group touring Federal Hill in Providence, Rhode Island with Cindy Salvato, we were treated to a back room demo by the ladies behind Venda Ravioli.  In a small, unassuming building across from the main square, four ladies were hard at work making hand filled pasta.

They obligingly went in slow motion to demonstrate how the tortellini and ravioli are filled with hand made fillings, then deftly shaped, finished and packaged.

Mouths watering, we then headed across the street to the retail arm, with a full service deli stuffed with wonderful prepared items, meats, cheeses, olives and other goodies.  Rows of freezers held dozens of types of pasta, alongside a nice selection of unique grocery and houseware items. 

We were treated to an awesome 'Italian Breakfast' of assorted antipasto.

We headed back to shop after the tour, where my 'Fig-Dar', as my friend Cheryl cleverly identified it, went off in full force.  I scored Sun-Dried Fig Tapenade and the Confit of Figs with Balsamic Vinegar, as well as the mini lime green dutch oven here.   Excellent shop - I could have eaten my way through it for at least a week!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Vino Love: Las Rocas Garnacha

I've been trying different wines lately, testing the "Life is too short to drink bad wine" motto that adorns my kitchen.  There have been some winners, and some losers, and I figured it's about time to keep track of which is which (that should make standing at the store trying to remember what the good ones were a little easier).

I'm a fan of Spanish reds, and have had some tasty Garnacha, so this Las Rocas ($15.99), did not disappoint.  Deep red color, and after it's open a bit, nice layers of flavor open up.

Sadly, the Nepenthe Tryst 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon/Tempranillo/Zinfandel blend ($14.99) didn't do it for me.  Sounds like an interesting combination, right?  It was thin, boring, and overall a disappointment.

So a winner - I'd buy a case of the Las Rocas, and a loser.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Savoring Federal Hill: Part 2 - Scialo Brothers Bakery

If you missed part one of Savoring Federal Hill, it's because a late night start to the post landed it on another blog I write for, White House Gardens CSA.  (Follow that one, too, as we are gearing up for a great new CSA season)

Anyway, last weekend I had the good fortune of hanging out with some fellow personal chefs in Providence, Rhode Island, where we took an awesome tour with Cindy Salvato.  One of our stops, complete with a behind the scenes look at the awesome brick ovens, was Scialo Brothers Bakery.

We headed straight to the back, where the two huge brick ovens, dating back to the 1920's, with one rebuilt in 1994 after it was damaged by smoke and fire, inspired awe in most of the group, both the bakers and non-bakers.

Carol Scialo Gaeta gave us the history of the bakery, founded by her father Luigi, and his brother in 1916 when they immigrated from Italy.  After a few years, her uncle returned to Italy, and her father continued to run the bakery, with help from the family, until his death at age 103.

All of the products are truly made from scratch.  There are no frozen or pre-prepped items used, just good old fashioned ingredients handcrafted by people who could probably do the work blindfolded.

We were shown how the cream pies were filled with this clever contraption, a funneled can attached to a 10 foot pole.  Since the pie shells need to be par-baked, this allows them to fill the pies in the oven without taking them all out and putting them back in.

These cool lion heads are at the corners of each oven.

After the tour, we went back in to buy some goodies for later, including a new, to me at least, Italian pastry called Sfogliatelle.  It features layers of pastry, similar to puff pastry, with a filling featuring a semolina flour paste.

The old fashioned charm still remains, and business was brisk during our Saturday visit.  We all really enjoyed this part of the tour, and appreciated the passion which Carol, and her staff, have for their work.

Up next: Pasta galore, Italian deli heaven, figs, and wine.