It’s Pie Season

It’s almost the New Year, and nothing tops off a celebratory meal like a piece of pie. Need a hostess gift? How about a lovely dish filled with a home-made treat. An office get-together? Try a pie. Make-ahead meals for when the kids are all at home? Savory pies popped in the oven leave plenty of family time.

There’s no reason to be intimidated by making crust from scratch. Central Farm Markets customer Cathy Barrow, author of upcoming cookbook Pie Squared: Irresistibly Easy Sweet and Savory Slab Pies, shares her fool-proof recipe for:

Perfect Pie Dough

Makes a top and bottom crust for a 9-inch pie.

Ingredients:

  • 2 ½ cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 16 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced and frozen for 20 minutes
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • ½ cup ice water

Directions:

In the food processor, pulse flour, butter, and salt until the butter is in small pieces coated with flour, about 15 times. Add water all at once and turn the processor on until the mixture almost forms a ball. Form the dough into two six-inch disks using plastic wrap and a scraper to firmly press the dough into a cohesive form. Wrap tightly and refrigerate a minimum of 4 hours. (May be frozen for one month. Defrost overnight in refrigerator). Remove the dough from the refrigerator and allow to warm slightly. Roll out each piece to an 11-inch disk, draping one of the pie pan and placing the other on a piece of parchment. Refrigerate while making the filling.

Speaking of filling…here’s where you can bake with confidence with Central Farm Markets fruit vendors offering jarred fruits and even pre-made pie fillings. There are also plenty of fresh ingredients for pie – apples, pears, pumpkin, sweet potato, ricotta…and ingredients for savory dishes, such as Shepherd’s Pie abounds!

Speaking of…here’s my basic recipe for Farmer’s Pie. Flavors and ingredients are of your choosing of whatever is available at the markets. The combinations are endless. They are easy to make ahead and freeze well.

Farmer’s Savory Pie

Ingredients:

  • 2 9-inch pie crusts
  • 1 pound ground meat or loose sausage
  • 4 cups diced assorted winter vegetables (carrots, beets, turnips, parsnips, kale, fennel bulb, mushrooms)
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 medium potato (white or sweet), cubed
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • ½ cup grated/crumbled cheese
  • 1 teaspoon fresh herbs
  • Salt & Pepper

Directions:

Brown meat with onion and garlic in skillet. Add butter, vegetables and herbs, sauté until tender and most of liquid has cooked off.

Place one crust in pie dish.

Pour meat mixture in pie crust, add cheese and top with second crust and pinch closed.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

If all this seems like too much for you and you’re still craving pie, there are plenty of bakers at the markets offering several different varieties of pies that can meet your holiday needs.

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The Season for Giving

In addition to feasting, the year-end holiday season is traditionally the time for gifts. Family get-togethers, office parties, neighborly gatherings, whatever the occasion, Central Farm Markets has you covered. Check out the online Holiday Brochure, with over twenty pages of great ideas including detailed information about where and when vendors will be at the markets throughout the end of the year.

But there is far more at the markets than the ideas that make it into our Holiday Brochure. Consider putting together a basket (or reusable market bag) full of goodies such as sauces, salsas, and condiments made from fruits and vegetables from the vendors’ farms and orchards. Or how about a hand-crafted plate or cutting board from a market artisan to be filled with farmstead cheeses and hand-crafted cured meats? My favorite go-to gifts from the markets include knitting kits from Kiparoo Farm Studio, hand-made soaps and unique teas. For festive libations, consider regionally produced wine, cider, beer and distilled spirits. If you are unsure of what to get, market gift certificates that can be used at any of the Central Farm Markets locations and never expire cover your bases, or tuck one into the basket along with the goodies.

Shopping at the markets also comes in handy when having to cook larger amounts of food. Meat purveyors offer custom orders, larger cuts, and items such as fresh turkey not commonly found throughout the year. Seasonal desserts, pies and cakes abound with our bakers.

Cooking for a crowd doesn’t have to be a cause for panic. Here’s a simple, yet delicious idea for a seafood stew that can be made with all ingredients purchased at the markets and cooked within minutes, leaving you plenty of time to spend with family and friends instead of in the kitchen.

Market Cioppino

Ingredients:

  • 3 pounds of assorted seafood (clams, shrimp, mussels, fish, lobster, scallops)
  • 3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup finely chopped onion
  • ½ cup thinly sliced fennel bulb
  • 1 cup diced tomatoes (a box of cherry tomatoes will also do)
  • 1 bottle Bloody Mary mix (I use Toigo Orchards’ Birth of Pain)
  • 2 cups white wine (a craft IPA also works well)
  • 2 cups broth
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • Baguette or crusty bread

Directions:

  1. Clean and prepare all seafood items—scrubbing, de-veining, and cutting fish into 1” squares.
  2. In a stock pot, sauté olive oil, onion, fennel and tomato until onion becomes translucent.
  3. Add seafood and liquids. Bring to a simmer until clams and mussels open, fish, shrimp and scallops turn opaque. Serve with crusty bread.

Tomatoes in December?

Photo by Chef José Andrés

As the traditional market season begins to wind down along with the year, customers may be perplexed at the availability of fresh tomatoes.

Are they local?

Absolutely!

Given the demand for locally produced organic foods, long-time market producers are implementing a variety of year-round and season extending practices to offer their customers fruits and vegetables outside the confines of the traditional growing season. Hydroponics, high-tunnels, double floating row covers and greenhouse technologies imported from the Netherlands are some of the ways Central Farm Markets’ vendors are able to bring colorful tomatoes, fresh herbs, salad greens and tender cucumbers year round.

In addition to these extended season treats, there are plenty of vegetables that are readily available due to their ability to withstand frigid temperatures in the field and excellent storage capabilities. These include winter squash varieties and root vegetables like beets, turnips, parsnips, carrots, fennel, and celeriac. And then there are the cold weather loving veggies that actually improve in flavor after being exposed to frost such as kale, collards, Brussels sprouts and my personal favorite, kalettes—which are like tiny bunches of purple kale that grow on stalks like Brussels sprouts and can withstand freezing temperatures.

Other cool-season vegetables making a comeback after the summer and fall heat are cauliflower, broccoli and cabbages.

Recognizing that people shop for fresh food year-round, market growers have made significant investments to bring fresh produce to market throughout the winter months.

Speaking of winter months, remember that the market’s Winter hours will begin January 7. Bethesda Central will be open from 10m-1:30pm and Mosaic Central will be open from 10am-2pm on Sundays through March 25.