Holiday Shopping

The countdown has begun for the 2017 holiday season. Depending on your culture, faith or nationality, there are a dozen observed holidays between now and the end of 2017. And we all know what most holidays include…FOOD! What better place to prepare than at the market where not only is there a variety of fresh, local meats, vegetables, fruits, breads, pastries, dairy products, flowers, libations and artisan products for celebratory feasts, but locally made fine crafts perfect for presents.

Here are a few tips that will help you make the most of your holidays when shopping at one of the Central Farm Markets:

  1. Know the market schedule: Central Farm Markets has a Special Thanksgiving Market on Tuesday, November 21 at the Pike location in Rockville (10am – 2pm) where you can pick up your fresh turkey and any other foods on your menu. Be aware though that not all the vendors participate in this special market. For more information about the 2017 Special Thanksgiving Market items available for pre-orders, check out this online brochure. Double-check to make certain what you need will be available, otherwise, plan to shop on the weekend prior’s regular markets.As with the special holiday market brochure for Thanksgiving, Central Farm Markets will be putting together another online brochure for markets in December so stay tuned. And yes, the Sunday markets are open on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve this year with our regular season hours.
  2. Place special orders in advance: if you need a specific size, cut, amount, etc. please let your vendors know ahead of time. Many vendors have special items, such as larger cuts and holiday desserts that they do not normally bring to market.
  3. Shop early for the staples: these are the items that are at market every week, but tend to go fast during the holiday season. Think eggs, breads, milk, cider, salad greens, etc.
  4. Great gift ideas abound: in addition to lots of delicious food and drinks (always welcomed gifts), artisan vendors offering pottery, woodworking, handcrafted soaps and lotions, and knitting are also found at all three Central Farm Markets locations making one-stop local shopping easier this holiday season. And if you can’t decide, stop by the markets’ information tents for gift certificates in the amount of your choosing.
  5. REMEMBER all markets are CLOSED the weekend following Thanksgiving: seriously, eat your leftovers. Plus, the vendors enjoy spending time with families and friends just like you do. We’ll be back the following week…promise.
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Getting Around

By Sandra Kay Miller, Painted Hand Farm

As the holiday season approaches and shoppers turn to Central Farm Markets to stock up on ingredients as well as gifts, the question becomes “how do I carry it all?”

Turkeys, roasts, winter squash, bags of fruit, pounds of vegetables, jugs of cider, bottles of wine and bouquets of flowers can’t all fit into a couple of market bags and if you manage to do so, it makes for a difficult trek back to the car.

Here are a few practical ideas for loading up at market:

  1. Bring a cart: many shoppers have already returned to the days when two-wheeled market carts were as common as re-usable cloth bags when heading out to the market. If you happen to be the parent (or grandparent) of a toddler, strollers and wagons double nicely to carry all your market purchases.
  2. Use the market’s Concierge Service: simply leave your bags at the Central Farm Markets Information Tent and when you are ready to leave, let the market workers know. Drive your car to the designated curbside pick-up spot and your bag will be brought to your car.
  3. Ask for help: vendors know that sometimes their products can be heavy. After all, they are the one who have loaded their vehicles! If they are unable to carry your purchases to your vehicle, they will always locate a member of the market staff who can help you.
  4. Make more than one trip to your vehicle: Central Farm Markets takes pride in being located within easy walking distance of public parking at all of our markets so that our customers have better access.
  5. Bring a friend: Central Farm Markets provides a community atmosphere perfect for outings, including tables and chairs, prepared foods, and delicious drinks and music.

These ideas aren’t only for the holidays, but for weekly shopping. We hope you will make our markets central to your weekly shopping.

Fall Spaghetti Squash Casserole

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Spaghetti squash! The versatile, previously under-utilized squash that makes a huge difference in my meals as soon as it becomes seasonal. It is a great way to add content and nutrition to a dish without overpowering it. The spaghetti squash has very little flavor on it’s own, so it will work with almost any flavor profile. Earlier this year, I shared my recipe for a spaghetti squash marinara dish that was extremely popular, and very easy to make. You can also learn more about spaghetti squash in general by checking out that post.

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Two aspects of this dish are important – one is the kale. Tuscan kale, also referred to as “Dinosaur kale,” has an extremely different flavor profile and texture than the wider-known, more typical curly kale. It is darker, the leaves are straighter, and it has a more delicate, sweet taste than typical kale, making it more usable in everyday dishes, and preferable to those who claim they don’t like kale. Tuscan kale is common in Italian cuisine, most popularly used in soups and pastas. Cooking the kale before adding it to a casserole allows the tough stems to break down a bit, making it easier to eat and more flavorful.

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The other important aspect of this dish are the leeks. I LOVE LEEKS. When leek season begins, I usually buy a whole bunch of them, cut them into medallions, and stash them in the freezer. The flavor is so unique among the other common onion varietals- its like a mixture between an onion and some kind of green (spinach, kale, etc.) They are easy to throw into any dish and they always add so much depth of flavor. The important thing to remember is that they typically grow deep in the ground, and the white parts (the more commonly used parts of the leek) need to be properly washed before use. There is generally a lot of sand and dirt particles hidden in the layers. Once you’ve washed your leeks, go for it!

I don’t generally share recipes containing any ingredients that one cannot find at the market. I made an exception this time because I really wanted to show the versatility of the spaghetti squash. In order to do that, I had to add some flavors that aren’t found at any market vendor’s booths. I decided to go in a semi-Mexican direction, so I added salsa verde and black beans. This creates a great Mexican flavor profile without being overwhelming. The eggs in the dish hold the casserole together. I actually enjoyed this dish as a breakfast item – I even put a fried egg on top!

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The one thing that I really want to stress in this post is that spaghetti squash is very versatile. I encourage you to grab one or two at the market, try this recipe (or one of your choosing), and open up to the thought that this is a great veggie-based substitute for so many dishes. It really does astound me what creative recipes some chefs have been able to create with such a simple vegetable!

Fall Spaghetti Squash Casserole

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INGREDIENTS

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 350. Cut the spaghetti squash in half length-wise and remove the seeds. Rub olive oil, salt, and pepper over the exposed sides of the squash. Place on a baking sheet, exposed-side down, and cook in the oven for 35 minutes.

Meanwhile, cut the leek into ¼-inch sized medallions, using only the white and light green parts. Wash the kale and cut it into ½-inch sized ribbons. Add 2 Tbsp. olive oil to a large pan. When the oil is hot, add the leeks. Cook for 2-3 minutes until the leeks start to become translucent. Add the kale to the pan and cook for another 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat and add to a large bowl. Keep the oven on.

As soon as the squash is cool enough to touch, remove the spaghetti “strands” using a fork. Place the strands into a colander and push down, removing as much moisture as possible. You may need to do this several times to get all of the liquid out.

In the large bowl with the leeks and kale, add the spaghetti squash strands, the black beans (drained), and the salsa verde. Beat the eggs and add to the bowl. Pour the ingredients into an oven safe 9×13 dish.

Cut the mozzarella into discs thin enough to cover the entire top layer of the casserole.

Place the casserole in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, until nothing moves when you wiggle the dish. Let sit at least 20 minutes before serving.

Cauliflower Fried Rice

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I adore cauliflower. I’ve been waiting all year for it to be in season and the time has finally arrived. Westmoreland Produce has a beautiful bounty of this cruciferous veggie and I plan on taking as much advantage as possible while I can. Bending Bridge Farm also has Romanesco Cauliflower – definitely a fun veggie!

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Cauliflower wasn’t my favorite growing up. Like many vegetables, I felt like it was always overcooked, which left very little taste and no desire for me to enjoy it. Since veggies have become trendier in the last few years, cauliflower has been given a well-deserved makeover and is now one of the most popular vegetables – and for good reasons, too. For one thing, it’s extremely nutritious. Many people don’t realize this – they think that the lack of green in the veggie equals a lack of nutrients. It’s true, the lack of chlorophyll in cauliflower does mean that it doesn’t have the same nutritional value as it’s close relatives, such as broccoli and cabbage. However, cauliflower makes up for this by containing a whole lot of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. It is also low in fat and carbohydrates, which makes it an excellent addition to healthy meals and a great substitute for many things.

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Many interesting dishes have come from a “cauliflower substitution” trend. I’ve seen dishes where cauliflower is used in place of potatoes to make a “mashed potato” dish. Another very cool way to use cauliflower is to process it and use it as “flour” in a pizza crust. One of my personal favorites is the use of cauliflower as I did in the dish I’m featuring this week – Cauliflower Fried Rice. This is a dish commonly found in the Paleo Diet trend, and it is a fabulous way to get a ton of veggies into one meal. By processing the cauliflower into tiny little crumbles, it resembles rice and can then be used in its place in many dishes. This one works so well because the fried aspect of the dish allows the cauliflower to maintain a crunchier texture, thus resembling rice.

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One great thing about this dish is that the vegetables are interchangeable. I chose to go with some of my personal favorites, but I encourage you to mix and match to your heart’s content. Speaking of personal favorites, I’m very pleased to announce that another favorite of mine has recently been spotted at the market – Kaleidoscope Greens. They are a mix between two amazingly delicious veggies – Brussels sprouts and kale – and the season has just begun. You can learn more about this versatile treat from one of my blog posts last year which can be found on our website or blog page. Please stop by Twin Springs Fruit Farm at any of the markets and try it out for yourself. You’ll be happy that you did.

Without further ado, here is the recipe:

Cauliflower Fried Rice

Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 Head of Cauliflower (Westmoreland Produce)
  • 2 Ears Corn (Twin Springs Fruit Farm)
  • 1 Shallot (Twin Springs Fruit Farm)
  • 4 Medium Carrots (Bending Bridge Farm)
  • 2 Large Handfuls Kaleidoscope Greens – about 10-12 florets (Twin Springs Fruit Farm)
  • 2 Cloves Garlic (Two Acre Farm)
  • 3 Eggs (Liberty Delight Farms)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Soy Sauce to taste (optional)

DIRECTIONS

Cut the florets off of the cauliflower and remove as much stem as possible. Working in batches, process the cauliflower florets in a food processor until it resembles little crumbs (or rice). Set aside.

Small dice the carrot, cut the corn off the cob, and chop the kaleidoscope greens. Chop the shallot almost to the point of mincing, depending on whether or not you like chunks of it (I do). Mince the garlic.

In a large pan, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic and shallots and cook until the shallots become translucent, about 3-4 minutes. Add the carrots, corn, and kaleidoscope greens and cook 5-6 minutes. Depending on how big you cut the carrots, they may not cook as fast. If they are still not starting to get tender, add a few tablespoons of water to the pan, cover it, and remove it from the stove to let them steam for 3-4 minutes. That should do it.

Put the pan back on the heat and add the cauliflower. Mix thoroughly. After 3-4 more minutes, crack the eggs into the pan and coat the veggies. This is where you would add the soy sauce, if you chose to use it. When the eggs are cooked, add salt and pepper to taste, and enjoy!

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Poached Egg Pea Shoot Salad

Left to right: Christine Illich from Heirloom kitchen, me, PR, Shane Hughes from Liberty Delight Farms, Aaron Kushner from MeatCrafters and Lizz.

Left to right: Christine Illich from Heirloom kitchen, me, PR, Shane Hughes from Liberty Delight Farms, Aaron Kushner from MeatCrafters and Lizz.

I encourage guest bloggers and recipe creators to join our blog from time to time. In fact, one of my favorite things to do with this blog is collaborate on recipes. Most of the time, it’s a simple conversation with a couple of vendors – I ask them what’s new and in season and we discuss great ways to use their products. This particular recipe I got from someone different at our market – our Market Concierge, Piyush Rangra (known to his friends as “PR”).

PR and I attended the same Hospitality Management program at the Universities at Shady Grove. He is one of my biggest helpers when it comes to figuring out what do to for a recipe each week (and one of the biggest reasons that everything runs so smoothly at the markets). Not only does he know the market and vendors extremely well (he works at the Info Tent at both Pike and Bethesda Central Markets), but he also happens to be a fabulous chef.

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Last year, he began the arduous process of starting his own personal chef company, Chef 4 Tonite. Over the past months, I’ve watched him prepare every aspect of his business, experiment with seasonal recipes, and eventually launch his great new company. I share with you one of his recipes in an effort to introduce his company and perhaps shed some light on the quality of food that he offers.

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The recipe is a Poached Egg Pea Shoot Salad. The recipe is so simple, with just 5 ingredients, yet so complex in it’s flavors. I chose this one because I love to use greens from Young Harvests, especially in such a pure form as this. Rob’s pea shoots are always at the top of my grocery list when they are available. Earlier this year, I shared a recipe for Pea Shoot Soup that got a lot of great feedback. It really is true that using simple, farm fresh ingredients create the most delicious dishes.

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One more thing I’d like to point out – PR’s original recipe calls for bacon. Since I don’t eat pork, I was more than happy to substitute lamb bacon in the recipe. If you have yet to try this amazing product, I highly recommend stopping by the Bethesda Central Farm Market and grabbing a package. Chaim Silverberg and his brother Hillel are almost always at the market, ready with samples and songs that will leave you wondering how you ever went without it. Trust me, even the biggest supporters of “regular” bacon have enthusiastically endorsed this delicious, smoky product. You can obviously substitute the lamb bacon in this recipe for whatever your palette prefers.

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Poached Egg Pea Shoot Salad

Serves 2

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 Eggs (Liberty Delight Farms)
  • 4 Cups Pea Shoots (Young Harvests)
  • 10oz Bacon (Lamb Baaacon or Springfield Farm)
  • 1⁄2 Container of Mozzarella (Blue Ridge Dairy Co.)
  • 5 Tbsp. Spring Onion Vinaigrette, divided (Two Acre Farm)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

Set a pot of water to boil. Wash and dry the pea shoots. Roughly chop the bacon. Small dice the mozzarella.

In a medium cold pan, cook the bacon. Soon, it will begin to release some of it’s fat. Cook the bacon in the fat, about 3-4 minutes. Remove from pan with a slotted spoon and in a small bowl. Toss the bacon with 2 Tbsp. of the vinaigrette.

While the water is boiling, prepare the eggs. Put a piece of plastic wrap over a bowl and spray it with cooking spray. Crack the egg over the surface of the plastic wrap. Salt and pepper the egg. Gather the plastic wrap and tie the excess in a knot. Place egg, in plastic wrap, in the boiling water for about 5 minutes, or until firm. Remove the egg from the boiling water, still in the plastic wrap) and put it immediately into a cold water bath to set. Repeat with remaining egg(s).

In a large bowl, combine the pea shoots, bacon, mozzarella, and remaining 3 Tbsp of vinaigrette. Toss to coat all ingredients. Plate the salad with the poached egg on top. Salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!

Squash Blossom Frittata

The reasons for sharing this recipe is three-fold. Firstly, I realized I haven’t done nearly enough breakfast recipes. The last one that I wrote about was also a frittata, but the recipe was from Valerie of The Culinary Nomad and I wanted to create one of my own. I was inspired by my roommate, who, in an effort to use as many “leftover” produce items in our fridge, threw together a delicious breakfast treat.

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Another reason I wanted to make this recipe is because it works so well for the upcoming Jewish holiday, Yom Kippur. Traditionally, those observing the holiday fast for 25 hours. The end of the fast is marked with a “break fast” and, in true Jewish form, is usually quite a feast. This dish is a fabulous addition to a break fast, as it is pareve (neither dairy nor meat), which means it is perfect for any kosher (or non-kosher) get-together. It also makes a great vegetarian dish.

The final reason for this recipe – squash blossoms! They are so beautiful and quite abundant this time of year, but so few people actually know how to use them. Squash blossoms are the edible flowers from the squash plant. They come in varying shades of green and orange and are so much more than just a garnish. Typical squash blossom applications include filling them with cheese or dips and frying or baking them, tossing them into a pasta dish, or adding them in soup. They don’t have many calories, and are high in Vitamins A and C, so they are so much more than just gorgeous decorations!

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This recipe takes some seasonal ingredients and puts them together into a “could-not-be-simpler” frittata. One of the greatest things about frittatas is that they are so versatile. My roommate helped me discover that as long as you have farm-fresh eggs and fresh produce from the market, you can make numerous varieties of frittatas. The best part is, they make great leftovers – a single portion heats up perfectly in the microwave. A good friend of mine comes to the market every weekend, buys eggs and whatever produce/cheese/meat strikes her fancy, goes home and makes a frittata that serves as her breakfast all week long!

One more thing I need to mention – garlic is important in this dish. I am a huge fan of garlic and it took me a long time to realize that all garlic is not created equal, and different methods of using garlic in a dish produce very different results. The garlic that I used from Spiral Path Farm is so flavorful, strong, fresh and spicy – and the cloves are so large. I highly recommend stocking up on some of Lucas’ garlic bulbs. I decided not to cook the garlic with the veggies in the pan to keep as much of that delicious garlic flavor. Instead, I added the minced garlic straight to the eggs. I love how this worked! I look forward to cooking more with garlic in the future…

No more distractions. Here is the recipe:

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Squash Blossom Frittata

INGREDIENTS

 

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 400. Lightly beat the eggs in a large bowl, and add salt and pepper to taste. Medium dice the eggplant. Remove the ribs and chop the kale. Mince the garlic (or use a zester) and add to bowl with eggs. Thinly slice the shallot.

(The squash blossoms look a lot more intimidating than they actually are). Remove the round bottom, making sure to take the stamen and any spiky leaves surrounding the stamen with it.

In a cast iron skillet (or at the very least, an oven safe pan), heat the oil. Toss in the shallots and cook until they become translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the eggplant and do the same, about 4 minutes. Throw the chopped kale in there and cook another 1-2 minutes. Make sure to add salt and pepper to taste.

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Press the veggie mixture down with a spatula, making sure to create an even layer around the pan. Pour the egg/garlic mixture on top. Place the squash blossoms in a layer around the top (depending on the size of the pan and the blossoms, you’ll know how many you need). Keep the pan on the stove 5-7 minutes, until you just start to see the frittata set. Place in the oven 10-15 minutes until there is no “jiggle when you wiggle.” Allow the frittata to cool at least 5 minutes before serving. Enjoy!

Spicy Beef Stir Fry


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It’s been a while since I’ve done a recipe with beef in it. I think the last one must have been the Short Ribs back in May. Beef from any vendor at the Central Farm Markets is high quality, fresh and delicious. I got the beef for this recipe from Shane at Liberty Delight Farms. I love using Shane’s product. Having been to the farm twice (once for a general tour, the other to write about his bunny operation), I have a particular partiality to what he represents. I’ve loved seeing him in the thick of things, caring for his animals personally and treating them with the utmost attentiveness, as if he himself is going to be eating the final product. It is that kind of care and attention to detail that makes Liberty Delight Farm such a special vendor for us to have at all three markets. It’s one reason why we love getting to know our farmers, too!

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I have spoken before about Nicole at Two Acre Farm. She creates such amazing concoctions with the produce on her little farm- delicious salsa, dressings, and jams. I’m also looking for a way to use one of her unique products in my dishes. When I told her I was planning to do a beef stir fry, she rushed me over to her sauce-tasting tray and told me “you need to use this Vietnamese sauce.” One taste and I knew that this was exactly what I needed for this dish. Its got the perfect amount of sweet and spicy- leaning a little more to the spicy side allows me to use a sweet onions and peppers to balance everything out. I highly recommend you stop by her table to try some of the delicious creations that she spends her week slaving over. She’s also got some delightful little sweet peppers that are great for all kinds of recipes and more importantly, for snacking!

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It’s also been a while since I’ve had mushrooms in any of my recipes. I’m not sure why, but I tend to equate mushrooms with fall and winter recipes, though they are available all year. They also aren’t historically my favorite things to eat, but I’m learning. Having the Mushroom Stand at the markets has been a very great learning opportunity for me- I never knew how many varieties of mushrooms could possibly be available to us! I explored the benefits of shiitake mushrooms in a previous recipe last year, and since then I’ve really enjoyed using them as much as possible. The shiitake in this recipe add a nice nutty flavor to the dish.

Enjoy this dish with a nice piece of crusty bread from the market or on top of some basmati rice.

Serves 4-6, depending on portion size.

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Spicy Beef Stir Fry

Marinade the beef for at least 6 hours the Vietnamese sauce, set aside 3 Tbsp. for future use. Peal, halve, and cut the onion into strips about ¼ inch thick. Wash and core the sweet peppers. Cut into disks about ¼ inch thick. Cut stems off the mushrooms and clean the tops with a dry paper towel. Cut the mushrooms into strips about ¼ inch thick. Thinly slice the garlic. Mince the jalapeno, if using. Slice the skirt steak into strips about ½ inch long then cut them in half.

Add 3 Tbsp. oil to a large pan. When the oil is hot, add the garlic, onions, and peppers. Cook for 4-6 minutes, until the onions become translucent. Add the remaining 3 Tbsp Vietnamese sauce to 1/8 cup of water and add that to the pan (add the minced jalapeno, if using). Coat the veggies evenly with the liquid. Stir continuously until the liquid has almost completely evaporated. Add the mushrooms and cook for another 5 minutes. Remove veggies from the pan, salt and pepper to taste.

Using the same pan you used for the veggies (without cleaning it out), cook the beef. The particular cut of beef and the marinade together will create enough cooking liquid and fat. Cook the beef until done, about 6-8 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. Either serve the beef on top of the veggies or toss the veggies in with the beef. EnjoySF 5

New and Usual Summer Items

One of my favorite things to do at the market is just walk around and look for foods that are new or interesting to me. For some reason, in the past few weeks there have been quite a few items that fall into that category! I decided it was my duty as Market Blogger to introduce you to these items and give you a little bit of information regarding what exactly they are, what they taste like, and what you can do with them.

Oddly, the five items I’ve chosen to talk about all have the same color palette:

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First on our plate is the Pluot. The variety I found at Toigo Orchards is a yellowish-green, sometimes referred to as “Empire”. Pluots, or “plumcots” as they are sometimes called, are a distant hybrid between plums and apricots. Their lineage is generally thought of as ¼ apricot and ¾ plum. The skin is delicious, a little tart as you would expect from a plum, but light and easily eaten-  no need to peel.

In my opinion, the best way to eat these sweet treats is whole and raw, with a paper towel for the juice. However, I wouldn’t be opposed to trying them in place of plums in a Plum Tart recipe. If you choose to bake with them, make sure you get pluots that aren’t too ripe – you’ll want that tart flavor and hardy texture for the tart.

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The next interesting item is the tomatillo, which found at Westmoreland Produce. Out of all of the things I chose to write about, I would venture to say that the tomatillo is the most well-known. However, I’d bet that most people don’t have a clue what to do with them – or even what they really are! The tomatillo is typically thought of as a Mexican delicacy, but we are lucky enough to have some locally-grown ones available to us right here in the DC area. Also known as the “husk tomato” or “ground cherry,” tomatillos are actually a different species than tomatoes. When you buy them, they are surrounded by an inedible paper that begins to split as the fruit ripens.

Ever since I visited Mexico years ago, my favorite application for tomatillos is probably the most traditional: salsa verde. The tart flavor they have is perfect when cooked and added to a mixture of hot chilies, cilantro, and onions.

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I’ve used the next item in a recipe already this summer (Ratatouille Tart) and I was so impressed with its beautiful exterior and delicious interior, that I have been getting them at the market ever since. They are called “Costata Romanesco Squash,” and they have very quickly become a staple in my kitchen. This variety of squash is considered an heirloom variety, which essentially means a breed or species of fruit or vegetable that is not commonly associated with large-scale commercial production and whose seeds may have been handed down for generations. The costata romanesco is extremely juicy and has a beautifully nutty taste that I find irresistible. Rob at Young Harvests grows very large ones, some big enough to feed a whole family!

My recommendation is to cut them pretty thick (about ½ inch disks), coat them in olive oil, sprinkle some salt and pepper on them, place them on a cookie sheet. I broil in the oven until they just start to get brown. They are best when eaten hot, but easy to reheat. In fact, I might go heat up some leftovers from dinner last night….

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The Canary Melon is next on the list. Found at the Twin Springs Fruit Farm stand, I alluded to it in my melon mania post last week, but now its time to really find out what they are. When you cut open a canary melon, it will look very much like the inside of a cantaloupe. There are, of course, a few subtle differences; the flesh color is a light yellow, the skin is surprisingly thicker, and the smell is not the overpowering melon-like smell you expect from a cantaloupe or honeydew melon. Some people have actually referred to the taste as “pear-like, ” but in my opinion, the canary melon has a slightly tarter bite than other sweet melons and certainly sweet pears.

Canary melons are great when eaten as is, but a fun way to jazz it up would be chopping up some cilantro and tossing it with some olive oil and the melon.

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The final item I want to talk about is the beautiful Delicata squash. Typically known as a winter squash, they just started showing up at the Bending Bridge Farm stand. Cream or yellow colored with green stripes, they make a gorgeous statement even without their culinary value. As the name suggests, they are a delicate item, the skin being very thin in the early months of harvesting. As the season goes on, and the squashes mature, they do tend to get a bit hardier. Another great thing about the early-season delicates- you can eat the skin! (The skin of fruits and vegetables always provide quite a bit more nutritional value than the flesh alone).

The easiest – and in my opinion, most delicious – way to prepare a delicata squash is by roasting it. Cut it in half, remove the seeds (these can be toasted in much the same fashion as pumpkin seeds), and slice the halves into ½ inch pieces. Rub the pieces with olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, and roast in a single layer on a sheet pan in the oven for about 10 minutes. Flip each piece over and roast 7-10 minutes more, until brown. The taste is a cross between nuts and popcorn. Delicious!

This gives you and idea of what a thrill it is to try new and usual items at the farm market. Try these out and spend some time walking around the market, looking for fruits and veggies that you may not have eaten before. I guarantee you that our vendors at all three markets can give you quite a bit of information about all of the produce they are selling. Try new things! You really never know what will soon become a staple on your farm market grocery list and on your table.

Summer Watermelon Salad with Halibut

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In my head, the end of the summer is synonymous with melon season at the market. Cantaloupes, honeydew, and even the less-well-known canary melon can all be found at Central Farm Markets. Of course you can also find the most popular and iconic melon of the season, Watermelon. Watermelons remind us all of hot August days, swimming pools and BBQs. That’s why I decided to elevate this sweet, summer fruit and turn it into a savory salad, perfect for those hot summer nights under the stars.

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The watermelons that I grew up with didn’t have seeds. We got them at a grocery store, they were huge, and all you had to do was cut them up and eat the fruit. Farm market watermelons are different. They generally have seeds (although some vendors sell seedless) and are a bit smaller than generic watermelons. I know what you’re probably thinking – why would I want a watermelon with seeds when I can just as easily get one without and not have to go through the arduous process of removing them? Well, truly find that watermelons with seeds taste better. They have a sweet, rich flavor that I find seedless watermelons lack, which is why I used a watermelon with seeds for this recipe. The extra five minutes of effort it takes to remove the majority of the seeds is completely worth the delicious end product.

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You’ll notice I’ve added a piece of fish to this dish. I could have just as easily created this recipe of the salad alone, but I really liked the idea of pairing it with a fresh fish, like halibut. I chose halibut because it is meatier and heartier than other white fish. I thought that would stand up very well to the light, fresh flavors of the salad. If you’re not a fan of Halibut, check out Lobster Maine-ia at any of the markets. Their staff are total fish experts and they can easily recommend the correct fillet to match this or any dish you want to create. But I would really go with Halibut for this one…

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Some other important ingredients to note in this recipe: the red onion is essential here. I’ve heard quite a few people tell me that they don’t appreciate raw red onion as much as I do. I understand – it’s definitely got a spicy, bitter taste but there is a trick to combat that. Slice your onion and rinse it under cold water. Squeeze out the water and voila, not so spicy! I always tell people that the fresher onions are, the easier it is to get that delicious taste from them.

Also, know when to use red onions! They work perfectly with this salad to balance all of the sweetness from the watermelon. I considered using one of the delicious-looking sweet white onions I saw at the Westmoreland Produce stand, but I needed something that would counteract the already bold flavor of the watermelon. Thus, red onion was added to this recipe.

Last but least, I topped the salad with feta cheese. It works so well in this recipe. Watermelon and feta are found together in many different salad recipes. In this recipe particularly, there is something about the brininess of the feta that blends perfectly with the sweet watermelon, grassy basil, and spicy red onion. I do not recommend making this salad without the feta. That being said, here is the recipe:

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Watermelon Feta Salad with Broiled Halibut

This recipe is for an entire watermelon. It serves about 4-6, depending on the serving size.

INGREDIENTS

DIRECTIONS

Set oven to broil. Rub olive oil, salt, and pepper on all sides of the fish. Place on a sheet pan and broil in the oven until fish is done. This will depend on the size and thickness of the fish. Generally, about 5-7 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the salad. Cut the watermelon into cubes. Remove the seeds as much as possible. There may be some left over pieces with many seeds. I like to press these pieces and make watermelon juice (I don’t let anything go to waste in my kitchen, if I can help it).

Using a vegetable peeler, peel the green part of the cucumbers. Starting on one side and turning the cucumber with each peel, make ribbons. Do this until you reach the seeded part. (You can juice this part, too, or just eat it as a snack).

Peel the red onion and cut it in half. Using a mandolin, or a very sharp knife, slice the onion very thin.
Stack the basil leaves on top of one another, roll into a log, and finely slice.

Combine the watermelon, cucumber ribbons, red onion, and basil in a large bowl. Crumble about 3⁄4 of the feta over the salad. Alternatively, use as much or as little as you desire. Add the vinaigrette. Toss to combine. Plate the salad next to the Halibut. Enjoy!!!

Ratatouille Tart

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I’m a big fan of ratatouille. No, I’m not talking about the movie, although I do enjoy watching that cute little rat cook! I’m referring to the traditional French stew made from delicious summer vegetables such as zucchini, tomatoes, and eggplant. Other items are thrown in there as well – typical additions include sweet bell peppers, garlic, and onion. Then there are the offshoots of traditional ratatouille that exist in different cultures, such as the addition of capers and celery in Sicily, or the accompaniment of a fried egg in Spain. Ratatouille and its components have endless possibilities – the only thing I believe is essential is the freshness of the ingredients. If you’re working with fresh, seasonal produce, you really can do no wrong.

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That’s why this time of year is best for creating a Ratatouille tart. The effortlessness of this dish and the ease with which it is crafted makes this tart a perfect addition to your dinner table. The ingredients are simple: a tomato, an eggplant, a zucchini and two types of squash. Go out and purchase a box of frozen puff pastry and then all you need now is salt, pepper, and olive oil. If you’d like to elevate the dish, sprinkle some feta cheese on top after the tart has cooled. I considered it, but I truly enjoyed the rich flavors of the vegetables so much that I chose not to add anything else.

I chose to go with the simplest of preparations, both to showcase the bold flavors of the vegetables and to include this recipe as another of our CFM Savers. This tart can be made by spending just a few dollars at the farm market, yet I guarantee it will look and taste as delicious and amazing as if you’d bought it from a gourmet grocery store.

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Here is the run down of the ingredient costs:

Item Average Cost Amount Used  
Zucchini $2.30 each ½ $1.15
Squash $2.30 each ½ $1.15
Eggplant $3.00 each ½ $1.50
Costata Romanesco Squash $2.50 each ½ $1.25
Tomato $1.75 each All $1.75
TOTAL MARKET COST: $11.85 TOTAL COST OF USED INGREDIENTS: $6.80
COST PER SERVING: $0.37

~Average cost was determined by taking the price of the item at each vendor and dividing by total vendors who sell this item

~Total cost includes only farm market ingredients

~Serving size: 18 (It is really up to you how you want to cut the tart, depending on how many people you’d like to serve and whether you are serving it as an appetizer or a side dish. Honestly, it’s so yummy, it could easily be shared between 4 people!)

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Before I share the recipe with you, I would like to take a moment to talk about the striped zucchini, which I found at the table of goodies at Young Harvests. This is the time of year when Rob, the wonderful owner and farmer of Young Harvests, brings us an amazing bounty of produce, varying from his standard mixture of greens and herbs, to red skin potatoes, to all different types of squash, peppers, and tomatoes. It’s so much fun to watch the items come and go, to have the sense of “get ‘em while he’s got ‘em!” I love walking up to his table to see what fresh produce he’s brought to us this week. That is how I found myself staring at the beautiful striped squash, wondering if I could somehow incorporate it into my life. I later found out this was called a “Costata Romanesco” squash. As this recipe only calls for half of one, I sliced the other half, tossed it with some olive oil, salt, and pepper, and threw it into a pan for a few minutes. I’m telling you, this is no ordinary squash. It’s a must try for anyone who likes to challenge traditional flavor profiles.

Enough rambling about squash. Here is the recipe:

Ratatouille Tart

Ingredients*

*Try to obtain zucchinis, squash, eggplant, and tomatoes with similar diameters for a more even look to your tart.

Directions

Make sure to leave the frozen puff pastry out to thaw at least 3 hours before you begin this recipe.

Preheat your oven to 375°. Remove sheet of puff pastry from the box and lay on a surface sprinkled with flour. Using a rolling pin, roll pastry to the size and shape of a standard half-sheet pan (about 12×18 inches). You will need to trim some of the dough to make it fit – I ended up trimming about 1/3 off one of the sheets.

Place parchment paper on the sheet pan and lay the dough flat. Make sure to layer the two sheets about ¼ of an inch and press them together, so they stay together during the cooking process.

Use a fork to poke holes in the dough. This will allow air to escape and prevent bubbles or uneven baking.

Using a mandolin, cut the zucchinis, squash, eggplant, and tomato into even rounds. If you do not have a mandolin, use a knife!

Drizzle 3 Tbsp. of Olive oil on the pastry dough and use a brush to spread it evenly.

Lay out your veggies in whatever pattern or order you wish. I chose columns of zucchinis and squash alternating between columns of eggplant and tomato, but use your judgment!

Drizzle the remaining 2 Tbsp. Olive Oil on top of the veggies and really go crazy with the salt and pepper. I found that the pepper brings out some amazing flavors in the veggies.

Place in the middle rack of the oven and bake for 1 hour, rotating the tart half way through.

Remove from oven and let cool. Slice and enjoy!
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