Savory Veggie Crumble

I am now starting a new segment on the blog called CFM Savers. CFM Savers will be posted once a month and will introduce an easy, inexpensive, and delicious recipe using a bounty of produce available at the markets.

The great thing about CFM Saver recipes is that they will follow the seasons – using great produce like butternut squash and beets in the winter, asparagus and turnips in the spring and the abundance of fruits and veggies available in the summer. The recipe this week can be made with any of your favorite veggies – the possibilities are endless. Feel free to switch up the fresh herbs according to the season as well.

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I chose the zucchini, squash, and eggplant because I got so excited the past few weeks when these items started showing up at the market! I love to use raw zucchini as much as possible – it’s a great source of dietary fiber and vitamins A, C, and K. Plus it’s a lot tastier raw than people think. Cut some up to throw in a salad or grate it and add it to pasta (see last week’s recipe for Old Bay Shrimp & Veggie Pasta).

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I’m also excited that eggplants are starting to arrive at the markets. The abundance of fresh eggplants has really allowed me to start looking at the different ways they can be used in recipes.  They provide a nice texture to many dishes and also provide a good source of dietary fiber and vitamins C and K. I like to add eggplant to pizza – stay tuned for that recipe!

CFM Saver recipes will be a monthly feature in our blog. The idea is to show you how to shop and cook economically with ingredients from Central Farm Markets. We hope you will enjoy and share these recipes with friends and family!

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Savory Veggie Crumble

INGREDIENTS

Crumble Topping:

  • ½ cup all purpose flour
  • 4 Tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into ½ cubes
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh Sage, chopped (Spiral Path Farm)
  • 1 tsp. cold water

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 375.

Combine vegetables with garlic, onion, olive oil and sage. Toss to coat. Place in an ovenproof pan (I used a skillet).

Combine crumble ingredients in a small bowl. Use your fingers to rub the butter into the flour until it is grainy and there are no large chunks. Pour the crumb over the vegetables and drizzle the remaining 1 Tbsp of olive oil on top.

Place in the middle rack of the oven and cook until the vegetables are tender and the crumble just starts to brown – about 50 minutes.

Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

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Tip: For leftovers (if there are any!), reheat in a pan over the stove. This will give the crumble a nice crisp that the microwave won’t.

Total cost of ingredients:

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
Onion $1.50 each All $1.50
Fresh Sage $2.50 per bag ¼ $0.62
TOTAL MARKET COST: $11.60 TOTAL COST OF USED INGREDIENTS: $5.92
COST PER SERVING: $2.96

~Average cost of items found at various vendors.

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Old Bay Shrimp & Veggie Pasta

A new vendor – Bushdogs – recently joined the Pike Central family. George Bushwaller has been in the food industry since 1971. He had a restaurant in Frederick that he sold in 1990 when he moved down to Florida. For the last 4 years he and his wife Joanna have been selling to farm markets in Florida, where MD style seafood is extremely popular. Recently, they decided to come back to George’s hometown to spread the love.

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They specialize in fresh, Maryland seafood. Nearly selling out the last few weeks at Pike Central Farm Market is something they are used to – people love their veggie-based MD Crab Soup and their Crab Bisque. They sell huge crab cakes with less than 1% breadcrumbs, and two different kinds of shrimp – Chesapeake Shrimp Salad (Imperial Style) and Old Bay Shrimp Cocktail. I chose the latter to create the recipe below and I was quite happy with my decision.

OBS 2This time of year, Spiral Path Farm has amazing Sun Sugar Tomatoes available. These tomatoes won a taste contest last year and it is no surprise why – each one is bursting with the most unbelievable flavor. These tomatoes are one of my favorite snacks! I also used Spiral Path’s snow peas – another great snacking item. These legumes are peas that are eaten whole, shell and all, and are delicious raw or cooked. If you are unable to make it to Bethesda to grab these items from Spiral Path Farm, you can get the tomatoes from Mock’s Green House and the snow peas from Twin Springs Fruit Farm – both are at all three Central Farm Markets locations.

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Another gem in this recipe is the spice blend from Two Acre Farm. Nicole Olson makes some of the most interesting amalgamations of spices and sells them in tiny bags with cute labels on them. In the recipe, I left the spice blend choice open-ended because there are so many different options. I used Ragin’ Cajun, a blend that Nicole said would work very well with the Old Bay used to cook Bushdog’s shrimp. She was not mistaken. Other flavors include Honey Garlic and Coffee Cocoa.

One of my favorite things to do during the week is challenge myself to create dishes using only ingredients from the market, without a single store-bought ingredient. I am happy to say that this delicious recipe fits that bill – everything can be found at one or all of the Central Farm Markets locations.

Old Bay Shrimp and Veggie Pasta

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 Pint Shrimp Salad (Bushdogs)
  • 1 lb. Tagliatelle (Cavanna Pasta [Bethesda] or Pappardelle’s Pasta [Pike and Mosaic])
  • 1 Large Zucchini (Two Acre Farm)
  • 1 Pint Snow Peas (Spiral Path Farm)
  • 1 Pint Sun Sugar Tomatoes (Spiral Path Farm)
  • 2 Large Pearl Onions (Westmoreland Berry Farm)
  • 4 tsp. Spice Blend of your choice (Two Acres Farm)
  • 5 Tbsp. Olive Oil, divided (All Things Olive)

Optional Garnish:

DIRECTIONS

Cook pasta according to instructions. When the pasta is cooked and drained, immediately toss it with 2 Tbsp. Olive Oil. Set aside.

Using the coarsest side of a box grater, grate the zucchini. Thinly slice the pearl onions, using only the white parts. Pick the stems off of the snow peas. Cut the tomatoes into quarters.

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Add 2 Tbsp. Olive Oil to a large pan. When the oil is hot, add the onions and 2 tsp. of the Spice Blend. Cook, stirring frequently, until onions are tender and fragrant, about 4 minutes. Add the snow peas and shrimp to the pan and toss to coat. Add the remaining 1 Tbsp. of Olive Oil and another 1-2 tsp. of the Spice Blend (depending on your taste buds – I like a lot of flavor so I added more).

When the snow peas begin to get translucent and the shrimp is heated, turn off the stove and add the zucchini. Cook for 2 minutes, to keep the crunch of the zucchini. Toss the pasta into the pan and mix everything together. Add salt, pepper, and Spice Blend to taste.

Plate your dish and garnish with delicious sun sugar tomato slices and if desired, asiago cheese shavings.

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Community Food Rescue

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Recently, Central Farm Markets joined the food recovery revolution.  Every year, 23% of Montgomery County’s solid waste (246,000 tons) is from food. Meanwhile, about 80,000 residents experience hunger and may not know where their next meal will come from.

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For years, CFM has worked with Manna Food Center – the largest food recovery and distribution organization in Montgomery County.  We encourage farmers to donate unsold produce at the end of the market and to collect money for the agency. Now CFM has agreed to be a “Rescue Recruiter” for a new Countywide coordinated food recovery system called “Community Food Rescue.” CFR will enhance all food recovery efforts, like Manna’s and many other hunger relief organizations that already recover food throughout Montgomery County.

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Community Food Rescue (CFR) grew out of the vision of the Montgomery County Food Council. In 2012, inspired by a campus food recovery program organized by students at the University of Maryland, College Park, Councilwoman Valerie Ervin introduced the idea of coordinating food recovery throughout Montgomery County. Their Action Plan was adopted by County Council in September 2013. The Action Plan, along with funding from County Council and County Executive Ike Leggett, forms the basis of Community Food Rescue.

Under the support of the Montgomery County Food Council, the Food Recovery Working Group – comprised of businesses, agencies, and organizations actively engaged in food recovery – continues to advise and support the Coordination Team, which is charged with developing the overall strategy, design, and implementation of Community Food Rescue.

Manna Food Center leads the Coordination Team with Cheryl Kollin of Full Plate Ventures, who serves as Program Manager, and by and The Campus Kitchen Project of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES) at the Universities at Shady Grove. UMES students provide a “quick response team” to pick up and deliver recovered food.

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Here’s how it works:

CFR seeks out licensed food businesses in Montgomery County (such as restaurants, caterers, groceries, farmers, farm markets, institutions, etc.) to donate their near expired and surplus food. Volunteer Food Runners then transport the donated food from the business to hunger relief agencies. These recipient organizations provide food (including shelf stable, frozen, fresh, or prepared) to people in need of emergency food supplies or meals. Food donors will be matched with food recipient organizations and volunteer food runners through a free, web-based app.

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There are three aspects to this equation: food businesses, volunteer food runners, and hunger relief  organizations. Central Farm Markets is helping to recruit the first two. The goal is to recruit participants now so that everyone can sign-on to the web-based app as soon as it’s ready in late summer.

In addition, CFR encourages participants to attend a FREE safe food handling training to learn how to handle and transport food safely.  The first training is scheduled for June 25th from 5-7pm. For more details and to register, click here.

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Volunteer food runner matches will be made based on proximity, size of vehicle to handle food, and your availability. This is an activity well suited for individuals, families, and groups with good driving records. You will help fill bellies instead of landfills. You can teach others the importance of empathy and compassion by giving us just a few free hours of your time. Do you work for a Montgomery County licensed food business, or know a food business that might be interested in donating food? We need those too!

Please email me if this is something that you would like to be a part of. There will also be information available at all Central Farm Markets info tents. I’m happy to answer your questions and we are excited to help Community Food Rescue in this amazing journey of food rescue in Montgomery County.

For more information about Community Food Rescue, visit their website and Facebook page.

Westmoreland Produce

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Westmoreland County, Virginia is a particularly beautiful county. Located between Washington, DC, and the Chesapeake Bay, Westmoreland County is an ideal place for farming. Arnulfo Medina came to here from Florida 27 years ago to pick berries and cantaloupes. Enamored with the beauty of the land, he decided to stay. He leased four acres of land and began farming in the most minimal way – no equipment, no trucks, just some hand tools.

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Over the years, through hard work and almost bare hands, Arnulfo was able to grow the farm, buy some equipment and today Arnulfo and his children, Christina and her husband Alfonso, Esther and Angelica, grandson, Arnulfo, Jr. and the young ones Nataly and Juan Pablo own about 120 acres of prime farmland in Westmoreland County.

IMG_0995As on most farms, the works starts in early February. Five large greenhouses are filled with “transplants” that will later go into the fields when the weather gets better. With the past two years of extreme cold, getting these plants out to the fields is no easy feat. The hope is for the first week of April.

Mitch and I toured the farm on a road trip through the northern neck of Virginia last summer. We are lucky to have farms from as far south as this area at our markets, as they are able to bring in produce and berries before the northern (Pennsylvania) crops are ready. This extends the growing season at the market and gives our patrons a longer season to enjoy fruits and vegetables early on.

The Medina farm is expansive, well kept and well run. Running eighteen trucks a week to farm markets in the DC area is complicated, but as you can see from the trucks lined up in the fields, the Medinas know exactly how to do this. Each day trucks are loaded under the guidance of the watchful eyes of whoever will be taking a particular truck to a particular market. Market patrons differ from farm market location to location and the Medinas know how to accommodate each market. They make sure that each truck is filled with produce and fruits that are specially selected for each market.

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Once the trucks are loaded, they head out at 4 am for a 2 1/2 hour ride to the Washington markets, where they are the first to set up expansive tents filled with plants, heirloom tomatoes like the purple cherokees, brandywines and german stripers. Westmoreland Produce also grows a vast array of hot peppers and tomatillos.

After a full day of touring we were treated to a barbecue with Esther’s fresh salsa with fresh roasted vegetables, complete with those hot peppers!

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In the coming weeks you will find the Westmoreland Produce tents bursting with spring and summer vegetables and the smiling faces of the Medina family working hard to make sure their customers leave happy.

Westmoreland Produce is located at all three Central Farm Markets.

Farm Market Cherry Gazpacho

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June is cherry season. The market is full of cherries in all different varieties – sweet cherries, tart cherries, and my personal favorite, Rainer cherries. These yellowish-pink cherries are very sweet, with a thicker skin and a yellow flesh. They are a favorite snack among birds, which is why they are so special and hard to find. Grab them whenever you see them! You won’t be disappointed.

Cherries are relatively high in dietary fiber and vitamin C, although their high natural sugar content is one thing that people tend to remember when considering their nutritional value. But they are something you can feel good about treating yourself to. Westmoreland Berry Farm has had all three varieties available in the last few weeks and will continue to stock their tables with this delicious fruit as long as the season will allow.

CG 2Now’s really the time to stock up – put some in the freezer for the cold winter months when you are craving a delicious cherry pie. Make some cherry jam or chutney. Don’t forget to get a few pints for snacking – try them with Blue Ridge Dairy Co. yogurt and Oat My Goodness granola for an amazing treat! Or, you can make this unique recipe for cherry gazpacho-  a cool (no pun intended) way to take cherries to a new, savory level. Make sure you make the soup in advance – allowing the flavors to soak together makes this an amazing amalgamation of farm market veggies at their peak freshness.

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Farm Market Cherry Gazpacho

INGREDIENTS

*Use all but 12 cherries. Dice them very small and set aside for garnish.
**Chiffonade is a method of layering the leaves and cutting the basil into small ribbons.

DIRECTIONS

Fill a large pot halfway full of water, set over high heat and bring to a boil.

CG 4Using a pairing knife, make an “X” on the bottom of the tomatoes. Drop the tomatoes into the boiling water for about 30 seconds, remove them and transfer to an ice bath (a bowl of water and ice) and allow to cool until able to handle, approximately 1 minute. Remove and pat dry. Peel, core and seed the tomatoes. When seeding the tomatoes, place the seeds and pulp into a fine mesh strainer set over a bowl in order to catch the juice. Press as much of the juice through as possible and then add enough bottled tomato juice to bring the total to 1½ cups.

Place the tomatoes and juice into a large mixing bowl. Add the cherries, cucumber, bell pepper, red onion, jalapeño, garlic cloves, olive oil, lime juice, balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire, cumin, salt and pepper and stir to combine.

Transfer 1½ cups of the mixture to a blender and puree for 15 to 20 seconds on high speed. Return the pureed mixture to the bowl and stir to combine with other veggies. Cover and chill for at least 2 hours and up to overnight. Serve with chiffonade of basil and chopped cherries.

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Cibola Farms

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I’m back at the farms! I had the pleasure of visiting Cibola Farm in Culpeper, VA last week and it was a foray back into the world of farm visits! Driving out in the country is one of my favorite things to do, and it turned out to be a delightful day when I met with Rob Ferguson, owner of Cibola on his farm.

Rob went to school in California, where he studied wildlife management, communications and business. A farm in the area supplied a local Safeway with bison meat, and Rob became intrigued with the idea of starting his own farm. However, it was back to reality once he returned to the East Coast, and it would be 10 years before he decided to go after his dream and start a farm.

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The 500 acre farm started in 1999 with just 30 buffalo (I use the term “buffalo”, but it is interchangeable with the term “bison”). When Rob first took the meat to the market, people didn’t have much knowledge about or desire for bison meat. Things have really changed in the last decade, and the demand for bison meat has increased to the point where Rob felt just raising bison and hogs would be enough for him to sustain his farm.

Today the farm has about 350 bison and 120 hogs at any given time. The bison roam around in groups, about 40-60 per herd. My favorite heard was the breeding herd – my visit was right around the time that the calves were still with their mothers and I loved seeing all of the little bison rolling around and playing! One mama bison even had twins!

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Cibola 4Rob is very passionate about what he calls “Grass vs. Grain,” and my words cannot do his argument justice, so I’ll tell you what he has to say about the matter:

“Cibola Farms operates a grass-based rotational grazing system where grain is used on a supplemental basis through the year as dictated by nutritional requirements. The main component of grain is used to finish our bison just before processing for the last 3 months, but this is done while those bison are rotating ahead of the main herd on the best lush green grass that is available and only during the grass growing season.  We do not finish our bison on grain and hay.”

To read more about what Rob has to say about this subject, check out his blog.

Bison meat is considered healthier for a variety of reasons. It doesn’t marble – essentially, there is fat between the muscles, but no intramuscular fat. This changes the dynamic of the meat, making it less fatty, and cooking it is a bit different from cooking beef or pork for this reason. Also, research has shown that bison meat has a high nutrient density because of the proportion of protein, fat, and fatty acids to its caloric value. In fact, comparisons to other meat sources have shown that bison has a greater concentration of iron as well.

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Stop by the Cibola Farm tent at Mosaic Central Farm Market. The meat is delicious and there are so many different cuts of bison and pork; you’re sure to find something that strikes your fancy. And make sure to check out my recipe using bison short ribs here.

Strawberry Tomato Short Ribs

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When I’m not Dishing the Dirt, visiting farms, or creating recipes, I work for the Montgomery County Food Council. We are a network of people related to the food world, working together to examine the food system in Montgomery County and trying to find solutions to problems. One of our big projects this year is called the Eat Local Challenge. We provide home chefs the opportunity to create a recipe using a list of seasonal ingredients that can be found locally. Participants can win prizes from gift certificates and bragging rights, to their dish being offered at a local restaurant. Our Spring Challenge was great – we’re gearing up for an even better Summer Challenge, and I encourage you to check it out.  It’s a fun way to be creative with your farm market ingredients and you may even win one of the great prizes!

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In April, I wrote about the Food Council’s Spring Challenge. This month, I created a recipe using ingredients from our Summer Challenge Basket. These ingredients include ribs, strawberries, tomatoes, wine, spinach, and peas. Having just visited Cibola Farms, I was inspired to use bison meat for the ribs. I learned so much about the benefits of bison meat, and since it was a new meat for me to cook, I was excited to try it. You can read all about bison meat and my trip to Cibola Farms here.

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Strawberry Tomato Short Ribs

INGREDIENTS:

*Cibola Farms is only at Mosaic Central Farm Market. You can also use beef or pork ribs, which can be found at Liberty Delight Farms or Springfield Farm (both at all three Central Farm Markets).

DIRECTIONS:

Cut the tops off of the strawberries and cut the tomatoes in half. Set aside a few strawberries to add to the salad, if desired. Add strawberries and tomatoes to a medium pot with brown sugar, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, and ½ cup of the wine. Turn heat to high and boil for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. The mixture should reduce down to about half. Let cool for a few minutes then puree using a standard or immersion blender. Add salt and pepper to taste.

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Remove the ribs from their packaging. Cut ribs evenly to make them all the same size. Sprinkle the ribs with salt and pepper. Add 4 Tbsp. olive oil to a Dutch oven on your stove top. When the oil is hot, place the ribs on the bottom of the pan. Let the meat brown and turn over only when the meat easily releases from the pan, about 2-3 minutes. Repeat for all sides of the ribs.

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When the ribs have been browned on all edges, add ¾ of the puree mixture, the onions, and the other ½ cup of wine. Toss ingredients to coat the meat and onions. Place Dutch oven in the oven and cook until rib meat is tender and falling off the bone, about 4 hours. Make sure to baste the ribs every hour with more of the puree mixture.

Remove the peas from their shell and drop into boiling water for 4 minutes. Have a bowl of ice water ready for you to drop them in after you drain the water – this will stop the cooking process quickly. Combine the minced onion with the olive oil, juice and zest from the lemon. Add salt and pepper to taste. Toss the spinach, cooled peas, and dressing.

Plate your dish with the short ribs and salad. Enjoy with a glass of wine! This week choose your wine from Thanksgiving Farm Winery at Pike Central, Rocklands Farm Winery at Bethesda Central, and Monroe Bay Winery at Mosaic Central!